IN MEMORIAM: 1927-2021
Melba Huber was founder and president of Melba’s Inc, a world-class dance studio in McAllen, Texas that houses seven dance studios and a retail dancewear store. Melba’s opened in 1958. Melba was the founder of McAllen Dance Theatre that performs every February and in many local events.
Melba was the first person outside of New York to receive the prestigious Flo Bert Award at Lincoln Center. She has been honored by Oklahoma City University on two occasions and in October of 2011 presented a three-day workshop for the dance department. OCU is considered to have the best dance training in the world. The Texas Senate recognized Melba in 1997 and presented her the Texas state flag. In l998, she was presented the Savion Glover Award at the St. Louis Tap Festival and in 2006 Savion honored Melba at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Other honors are from Tradition In Tap, Dallas Arts Council, Detroit Festival, Plaudit Award, and Who’s Who in the World, America, American Women and Education.
Melba was often introduced in New York as “the most published writer of tap in the world.” For twenty years she wrote a tap column for two major dance magazines. Her columns are available for reading at MelbasDance.com. She served as president of The Texas Association Teachers of Dancing and board member of Dance Masters of America. She introduced the first competitive gymnastics in south Texas.
Melba’s former students are everywhere in various forms of dance, gymnastics, exercise, ballroom and performing on Broadway. Melba conducts panels on tap history every year in New York and St. Louis. Melba is a conservator of American dance in the truest sense of the word. Her legacy lives on in all whose lives she touched.
Julie is on her 15th year as the director of Melba’s Dance School. She has been part of the Melba’s family for 35 years. She also serves as the artistic director for McAllen Dance Theatre.
She has been in charge of advanced programs for 19 years with specialties in ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, musical theatre and gymnastics. She was a dance major at Oklahoma City University where she was part of their American Spirit Company and selected for the international touring company. Julie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics. Her other certifications include: a 11-year member of the Texas Association of Teachers Dancing and the International Tap Association. In 2023, she earned her examiner's certificate from TATD. She has received annual merit scholarships to tap festivals across the country.
Julie’s choreographic talents match Broadway levels in the advanced classes and she is equally skilled in the preschool levels that she loves. She has been invited as a guest teacher to host master classes at Oklahoma City University. Other works include choreographing musicals for both local high schools and local theatre companies. Julie choreographed the children’s musicals “Annie” and “Babes in Toyland”, as well as adult summer theatre projects such as “Chicago” and “Pippin”. In addition, the has developed her own original Christmas productions and staged her own original ballet in 2009. Julie created and developed various community projects such as "Breakfast with Santa”, and she choreographed the opening show for the McAllen Performing Arts Center.
Julie has enjoyed creating and implementing new programs at Melba’s such as toddler classes, adult dance and fitness, folkloric, musical theatre and competitive dance programs. Under her direction, Melba’s Dance has grown into a new and modern school with a staff that rivals any world-renowned institution. She believes that Melba’s Dance is more of a community than a school, and she continues to follow her dreams to make a positive difference in the lives of our children and adolescents through dance education.
MELBA'S DANCE STAFF
Lauren Flores has taught dance at Melba’s since 2013, with specialties in hip hop, jazz, lyrical and musical theatre. She serves as the head teacher and choreographer for all developmental and advanced hip hop as well as Melba’s Junior 1 Jazz Company. In addition, she’s a teacher for our competitive teams, serving as choreographer for group and soloist pieces. Raised in McAllen, she started training at the age of 14, with numerous accomplishments as a competitive dancer. After graduating high school, she traveled to NYC to train at the American Musical & Dramatic Academy for musical theatre. Lauren is certified in jazz through the Texas Association of Teachers in Dancing.
Susan Tristan has served on the Melba's Dance faculty for nine years. She is the director for the developmental ballet programs. She is also the instructor and choreographer for Junior and Senior Ballet and the folklorico instructor. She graduated with degrees in Dance Performance and communications and danced at the collegiate level for flamenco, ballet and folklorico. Susan is certified in ballet through the Texas Association of Teachers Dancing.
Margaret Leal is an alumna of Melba’s Dance and grew up dancing like a Melba’s Girl for 15 years. During her senior year at Melba’s, she was a recipient of the Louise Longoria Scholarship, as well as a principal dancer in the ballet Paquita. Margaret graduated as valedictorian of the inaugural class of 2015 at Juan Diego Academy. In 2019, Margaret graduated from Southwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Music. During her time at Southwestern, she was a member of Delta Delta Delta and Beta Beta Beta, a biology organization. Margaret served as music chair for Delta Delta Delta, and produced a musical theater piece as well as a step ‘n’ stroll routine, which won first place at the step ‘n’ stroll event. Margaret has taught dance at Melba’s since 2019, and has served as a head teacher since 2020. Margaret has enjoyed every minute of teaching and hopes to continue to share her passion for dance with her students.
Veronica Leal has been a faculty member at Melba’s since 2017. Before this, she danced as a student at Melba’s for more than 10 years, studying various dance styles. She specializes in jazz, lyrical and ballet. Veronica is an advanced jazz choreographer for McAllen Dance Theater’s Senior Company. She is also a lyrical and jazz choreographer for Melba’s competitive teams. Veronica is now a recent graduate from The University of Texas at The Rio Grande Valley with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and a certification in teaching. She worked with and was mentored by Rachel Castillo-Ruiz, the dance director at McAllen High School this past fall. She looks forward to continuing her love of dance through teaching and iis excited for future endeavors.
Cassandra “Cassie” Femat has been a part of the Melba’s Dance staff since 2019, as an assistant and instructor. She specializes in hip hop and jazz, but teaches all genres to students between the ages of 18 months to eight years old. This is Cassie’s first year in charge of a mini hip hop competition team. Cassie is also currently a choreographer for our Melba’s Dance competition teams. This year, Cassie choreographed a high school musical “Rock of Ages” for Memorial High School. She looks forward to the years to come in her teaching career.
ANUSHI PARIKH BUXANI
Anushi Parikh Buxani was professionally trained in Bharatanatyam by Sri. Padmini Ramachandran and Kathak by Sri. Padma Khanna. She has been performing for the past 30 years and instructing for 20 years. Her passion for dance, affection towards kids and love for teaching have been the driving forces behind her commitment in ensuring that each and every student showcases their talent. She is a graduate of Drexel University with degrees in Business Marketing and Psychology. Having lived and taught in multiple cities, Anushi has been able to perform with some of Bollywood’s biggest names, including Sonu Nigam, Dino Morea, Sunidhi Chauhan and Anup Jalota. Having moved to the RGV after marriage, Anushi wishes to instill the culture her parents enforced in her early years to the youth in our community through the art of dance. In intertwining the discipline of classical dance with the trends of today’s Bollywood pop culture, she is able to appeal to students of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds. In her spare time, Anushi enjoys dancing, reading, traveling, practicing yoga and spending time with her family and friends.
Irais Rodriguez grew up dancing as a Melba’s Girl and has been teaching at Melba’s since 2016. She teaches jazz and tap, along with three competition teams. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Care and Education. This year she began her teaching career as a math teacher.
Gabriela Rios-Rodriguez is an instructor and choreographer for Melba's flamenco, bellydance, and preschool hip-hop. She also teaches Mommy & Me and Dancing Tots classes. Gabriela is a national award-winning professional belly dancer wih 20 years teaching experience. She holds a BFA in Graphic Design, a minor in Dance, and a MFA in Photography. She is also a TEA K-12 art teacher. Gabriela owns and directs a kids entertainment business names "Show Enchanged." She enjoys teaching and inspiring kids, and she's proud to be part of the Melba's team.
Saylor Donnelly has been part of the Melba's family for 18 years. She currently teaches adult ballet and Junior Company ballet classes at Melba's. She is trained in all styles of dance and served as the principal dancer in ballets such as Paquita and Stars and Stripes. In addition to teaching classes, Saylor serves as an assistant in a variety of dance styles with students of all ages. Saylor is currently studying biological science at UTRGV with hopes to attend pharmacy school upon graduation.
carmen medina solis
Carmen Medina Solis serves as an artist in residence with Melba's Dance and has been a part of the Melba's Dance faculty since 2010. Carmen specializes in ballet and trained under masters such as Nikita Talkin, Eric Gibson and Miriam Gonzalez. During her dance performance career, Carmen performed principal roles in ballets such as The Nutcracker, Giselle, Vivandiere and Paquita. Carmen currently practices medicine as a Physician's Assistant at Valley Medical Arts Clinic and also serves as a PA program preceptor for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.