We are dedicated to teaching the discipline and dedication required in dance, which allows our students to feel pride in their personal accomplishments. This is developmental training that will last a lifetime.
Melba Huber: Educator
In 1958, Melba established Melba’s Inc. in McAllen, Texas. The original location at 1005 Sycamore was the first building in the area designed and built as a dance studio. A retail store location was bought on 10th Street for the sale of dance supplies and children’s clothes. Melba is the founder of McAllen Dance Theatre Company, a 50-year member and past president of the Texas Association Teachers of Dancing, and a 50-year member of Dance Masters of America. She is a member of the International Tap Association and has been named its first tap ambassador.
The original Sycamore dance studio moved to 2100 N. 10th Street in 1972. A studio was built upstairs over the back of Melba’s retail store, which was enlarged all the way back to 9th Street. Melba purchased a building next door and converted it into a preschool dance studio, a preschool gym and two other dance rooms plus a snack bar. Additional space includes rooms for staff, storage, costumes, offices and a dance supply store that is the largest in South Texas.
In 1970, acrobatic classes expanded into gymnastics classics. Two years later, Melba built a second story gym, located over the existing facility. Melba’s had the first competitive team in South Texas and was a member of the Trans Texas Gymnastics Federation. Twenty members were selected from the state of Texas and Melba’s was proud to be included. Some of the top teachers in this field received their training at Melba’s and now play an important role in the field. Tumbling, pre-tumbling and cheer tumbling continue at Melba’s.
Melba received her foundation and inspiration for dance from Judith Sproule of Beaumont, Texas, a dance pioneer who had studied dance in Europe and New York. She realized then and now that it was a privilege to study at the Sproule School of Dance. The school was large, and the training was superb. In today’s world, it would be called a classical ballet school, but Judith Sproule’s philosophy was that a dancer should be trained in all fields. She insisted that students learn various forms of dance: ballet, pointe, tap, character, modern, acrobatics and ballroom.
“We learned much more than steps,” said Melba. “We learned respect, discipline and good manners. I have tried to preserve those things in my school. Students still curtsy at the end of class, showing respect and appreciation for their class and teacher.”
Melba received an A.A. degree in liberal arts from Lamar College and established a campus dance group at the University of Texas in Austin, where she served on the talent committee, performed in and choreographed campus musicals. This led to the opening of a dance school in Austin.
During that time in the mid-forties, when the black community in Austin couldn’t find anyone to teach dancing lessons, Melba volunteered. “I believe every student deserves a teacher,” Melba said. She taught children and adults at Huston-Tillotson College on Saturdays – in addition to directing her other school – until she married and moved away. She has maintained and developed a love for the music and art of the black race and is well-known and recognized in that community for her tap columns in national dance magazines.
Melba held her first McAllen recital in 1959 at the old McAllen High School, which is the present site of the Neuhaus Tower on 10th Street. “The stage was small and there was no air conditioning,” said Melba. “When a train would go by, audiences strained to hear the music. The splintering stage floor didn’t help either.”
In 1960, Melba directed the opening variety shows for the new McAllen Civic Center. Jim Huber, her late husband, performed and conducted the live music. Both evenings were sold out, and the community was thrilled with the new facility. Melba has held a dance recital there every year on the second weekend in May.
Later, the McAllen Dance Theatre was established and presented a concert on the second weekend in February, which began in 1970. For many years Melba served on the Civic Center Committee and on the board of the McAllen Community Concert Association. “The facility has been wonderful for dance through many years and has afforded the children in the McAllen area an opportunity to dance on a large, professional stage,” Melba said.
Melba Huber: Writer
After Gregory Hines taught a master class at Melba’s as a gift to Melba and her daughter Laurin, Bill Grey from Dance Pages asked Melba to write a story about it. Hines and Laurin became friends when she studied dance at Jo Jo Smith’s Dance Factory in New York. Grey had taken photographs in New York of Laurin and knew of Hines’s visit. Melba wrote the story, and the magazine sold out. The story moved so many readers because it was the first time Gregory had seen Laurin since she received the head injury that nearly ended her life, and left her immobile and unable to speak.
When the publishers of Dance Pages asked Melba to write regularly for their publication, she agreed on the condition that she could write a tap column. The older tap dancers were dying and needed recognition. For the first ten years of writing the tap column, Melba took no money because she did not want the hoofers to feel that she was commercializing from their careers. “I gained their trust and friendship which I treasure,” Melba said. “The other reason I wanted to do it was because no one else was writing a tap column and very little was ever written about tap.”
Melba wrote Tap Talk for the New York Magazine Dance Pages/Dance and the Arts for ten years and served as tap editor from 1988-1998. After the magazine ceased publication, Melba resumed the column without missing a month for Dancer Publication in 1998 and continues to this day. The columns were renamed “Tappin’ In” and can be read on www.melbasdance.com “It was important to me to write about tap and the many artists who played important roles in tap history,” Melba said. “I started writing because I wanted tap artists to be honored while they were still alive, but I also wanted to include and encourage the new artists, and no one was doing it.”
Melba has written many articles for The International Tap Association’s Newsletter, On Tap, and was named their first Tap Ambassador. Other articles have been published in a German Tap Newsletter, a Canadian Arts Website, and various other publications.
As a result of her writings, she has conducted many tap history panels. In 2005, she was featured on the cover of the International Tap Newsletter, On Tap, and is on the cover of the June 2006 Dancer Magazine.
Melba Huber: Honors
In 1995, Oklahoma City University presented Melba an award for more than 50 years of contribution to the arts as a dance teacher.
Melba was the first person outside of New York City to be presented the New York Flo-Bert Award in 1996 at Lincoln Center for “life achievement in improving the art and skill of the tap dancer.”
The Texas Senate recognized Melba in 1997 for contributions to dance by presenting her the Texas state flag. In 1998, she received the Savion Glover Award in St. Louis, Missouri. Other credits include the National Health and Physical Education Association’s Plaudit Award and past president of the Texas Association Teachers of Dancing.
She served on a four-member panel for Texas Dance History for Houston’s Greater Tap Gathering. She received a member of the year award from the South Texas chapter of Dance Masters of America in 1989 and her 50-year award in 2005. In 1999, she received the OCU Preservation of Our Heritage, American Dance Award, and in 2000, the Woman of Distinction Award by the Detroit Tap Festival.
She is listed in the 2006 & 2007 Who’s Who in the World, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in American Women, and Who’s Who in Education.
Her most recent honors include the Tradition In Tap Award given in New York (2005). On May 25, 2006, Savion Glover honored her at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. “Let it be known on this National Tap Dance Day, May 25, 2006 that I, Savion Glover, am pleased to honor Mrs. Melba Huber. For your undying contribution to Tap Dance History in the spirit of togetherness, respect and love. Thank you.”
In addition to her titles of dancer, teacher, panelist and writer, her late friend Gregory Hines invited her to invest a small amount of money in his Broadway musical Jelly’s Last Jam so she could also put the title “producer” after her name. “It was such a thrill to attend the premiere, and read all the paper work associated with a Broadway show,” Melba recalled. “I saw the show numerous times and even got my money back. I loved the experience.”
Melba Huber is a conservator of American dance in the truest sense of the word.