Greatmats Incline Wedge Mats Helping Encore Dance Theatre Teach Tricks

Encore Dance Theatre in Sunrise, Florida, has been in business for 28 years and recently equipped the school with a Greatmats cheese mat its staff has been wanting for a long time. The development was due in large part to instructor Marlee Ramirez-Santana who has been a part of the organization since its beginning and a teacher there for the last 16 years.

Ramirez-Santana was the winner of the 2018 Greatmats National Dance Instructor of the Year Award, which recognizes instructors for their positive impact on their communities. She and Encore Dance Theatre have become well known for giving back to their community, particularly as ambassadors for Traveling Tutus, where they donate gently used dance attire to children in orphanages, children’s homes, title-one schools, foster care and hospitals.

Ramirez-Santana used her winnings from the contest to help the school’s owner/artistic director, Anne Brodsky, purchase a 60x84x18 inch incline wedge mat for the school to help with everything from forward rolls, to leg strengthening to hands springs and front and back walkovers.

Ramirez-Santana says the shape of the mat really helps with the progression of learning.

“When you’re flat (on the floor) you are either going to get it or you don’t get it,” she said. “Having the cheese mat provides a slight incline that aids in helping our students learn different tricks that if we only had the folding flat mats would make it harder for them to learn.”

While Ramirez-Santana teaches in nearly all aspects of the school, the majority of her classes are part of the Twinkle Star Program for kids ages 2 to 5.

Building leg strength for her “babies” now involves walking up and down the incline mats and jumping off of the top.

“Our older students have mastered hand springs because of the cheese mat,” she said. “It’s been a huge assist.”

As for earning the title of National Dance Instructor of the Year, Ramirez-Santana says it’s made her more confident in her teaching and growth as an instructor.

“It was special for me,” she said. “Something that I’m proud of and something I can share with my daughters - my family.”


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