Dads treated to ‘Legends and Fairy Tales’ performances on Father’s Day

The 41st Annual Dance Recital at Yvonne’s School of Dance was held in a parking lot on Vineyard Road in Edison on June 20.


Hundreds of fathers spent Father’s Day in a parking lot on Vineyard Road in Edison, beaming with joy – not at the cars in the lot, but rather at their children and grandchildren – over 160 dancers in all – moving across the stage with grace, precision, rhythm and Broadway-style pizazz. 


The occasion on June 20 was the 41st Annual Dance Recital at Yvonne’s School of Dance (YSOD). Mothers and grandmothers and other friends and relatives also joined the dads, thrilled by the artistic spectacle playing out before their eyes.

In a nod to the show’s Father’s Day performance, the recital made sure to celebrate the dads. The fathers of the youngest students starred in the first dance routine of the show in a father/daughter dance – the same way the recital has begun for 41 years.


And this year, the dance extravaganza ended with a particularly poignant honor for one special dad –  Joe Luistro, whose one daughter Jessica is a YSOD student and whose other daughter Hannah is a YSOD instructor and former student. Joe, who professionally has served the community for 21 years as a member of the Edison Police Department, was diagnosed with ALS in June 2020.


“We wanted to recognize how special he is and that we are on this uphill battle with him. He takes tremendous pride in being a YSOD Dance Dad, so I decided to present him with a Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Tracy McManus, the school’s owner and director.


Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the second year that the recital took place on a stage in a parking lot instead of on a stage in the State Theatre in New Brunswick.

“The change in venue required some mental and physical adjusting, needless to say, but the show had to go on – and it did. We were closed for a relatively short period of time, reopening for classes in June of 2020,” McManus said.


The 10 instructors, including McManus, five assistants, and one office manager were fiercely determined to work with the COVID-imposed challenges and resume teaching in the safest way possible, she said. They did it with Zoom, masks, social distancing, and the grit of “phenomenal students.”

The student body shrunk from 280 to 160 during COVID, but McManus reported a slow but steady increase in enrollment since more people have become vaccinated and restrictions on group gatherings have been lifted.


Each year, the recital has a creative theme that “just pops into my head,” she said. She then brainstorms with staff to construct the music and dance routines.

This year the theme was “Legends and Fairy Tales,” which somewhat reflects the career arc of 32-year old McManus.


She began taking YSOD lessons at age 3. When she was in fourth grade, she “had the honor and great fun” of being at the wedding of Yvonne Ambrosio, her dance instructor and the founding owner of YSOD. By the time she was 14 years old, McManus was an “assistant” to the dance instructors and then worked at YSOD throughout high school and college as an instructor.


A math and accounting major at Wagner College, she learned quickly that she appreciated the financial and business management skills she acquired in school, but never was drawn to an office job of being an accountant. She kept on dancing and taking on more and more responsibilities at YSOD, when six years ago, Ambrosio announced she was ready to retire.


“Yvonne had no children and none of her relatives wanted to take over the business – and there I was, ready and willing to take on the school as my profession. I became the school director and bought the business from Yvonne over a period of 3.5 years,” said McManus, who acknowledged the stress and most importantly the exhilaration of what she has accomplished.


The program book from the 2021 recital announced that the theme of the 2022 recital is “Concrete Jungle,” which McManus hopes will take place not in a concrete parking lot but rather on a highly polished wood floor at the State Theatre once again.


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