Our Vision

"Dance is love. If you show children love as you teach them dance, they will love dance and they will succeed."  - Francina Mans –

 

Francina Mans School of Dance has a unique vision and creative approach to teaching youth dance in our community. We encourage self-expression, provide every student the opportunity to be a star and promote a positive message.

 

 

Dance is more than technique, it is art, it is love, it is expression. Here at FMSD we embrace these philosophies and recognize that dance is healing to the soul during the many stages of youth development. We encourage our dancers to explore emotion and learn to communicate through movement. While proper technique is a strong focus of ours, we know students benefit greatly by discovering the art of dance together in a safe, fun environment. We understand technique is a foundation, a tool that allows dancers to realize their full potential. What matters most is how a dancer moves, not only to the music, but through it, and how it makes them feel. This creative approach, combining proper technique training with the freedom to explore, allows young dancers to blossom.

 

Our family oriented, community based program ensures everyone can afford the chance to dance. We provide the same professional training as larger dance companies for a fraction of the cost. We believe every child should know how it feels to be a star. Here at FMSD each student receives the individual attention they deserve.

 

FMSD is a family where lasting relationships are built. We are more than just coaches, we are role models and we promote a positive message to developing young minds. We strive to preserve every child’s innocence. Our costume and music selection is always conservative, never provocative.

 

It takes all of us working together to create this beautiful space for children to explore learn and grow. “You know who’s stealin’ the show… F.M.S.D.!!!”

 

      Instructors      

Andréa Varkel

Director

Andréa Varkel was born in Orange County, CA. As the first grandchild, and first girl in Francina Mans’ lineage, it seemed destined that Andrea follow in her grandmothers footsteps. Andrea was practically dancing before she even took her first steps. At the young age of two Andrea began training with her grandmother, former prima ballerina and by the age of five Andrea was performing and competing regularly at local dance showcases. At age eight Andrea began working with various ensembles such as Children’s Theater Experience and Children’s Theater Productions, performing in musical theater productions. It quickly became clear Andrea had a natural talent for the arts.

 

In 2001, alongside 500 other dancers, Andrea auditioned with the highly competitive Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) and was one of 40 dancers accepted into their prestigious Commercial Dance Department. At the same time, Andrea was also receiving training from several professional dance companies, including EDGE Performing Arts Center and Millennium Dance Complex. All the while, she continued assisting her grandmother with classes at FMSD.

 

By the age of 16 Andrea was teaching her own classes at the at family studio. It was during this time that her passion for teaching began to blossom. Now a Grandmother and Granddaughter duo, FMSD was growing stronger. Andrea under the direction of her mentor, Francina Mans, began soaking up all of the information about instructing she could. Learning the Royal Academy of Dance, London curriculum, Andrea’s teaching abilities began to shine.

 

After graduating High School Andrea went on to study costume design at the respected Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles (FIDM). Even while earning her college degree she continued instructing at the family run FMSD. After earning her college degree in Apparel Manufacturing Andrea began teaching adult dance and movement workshops at music festivals all over California. Over her many years of teaching, Andrea has received numerous awards for her original and creative choreography and artistic concepts.

 

When Francina Mans made the decision to retire, Andrea’s vocation  was finally realized. In 2013, Andrea Varkel became sole owner and director of Francina Mans School of Dance and since has been determined to keep alive her grandmothers legacy.

Niomi Hayz

 

 

 

Hip Hop .  Jazz

At a young age Niomi Hayz loved to leap across the floor, and after years of dancing on her own she joined a jazz-based dance group her first year of high school. She became captain of not only that group, but also another a multi-genre dance team. She has since trained with numerous professional dancers and instructors, including the recent winner of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, Hannalei Cabanilla. 

 

More important than her passion to move is her passion to work with children. Niomi strives to be an excellent role model. While classroom focus is on dance and technique, there is so much more the kids are learning along the way; team building, encouragement, and problem solving, to name a few. Niomi is excited to inspire her students to rise to their full potential through dance.

Kristen Brownell

 

Contemporary . Acro . Jazz

Kristen has been dancing since the age of three and started competing not long after. When she began winning many awards and getting recognized out of her groups, her parents decided to bring her to Just Plain Dancin , where she spent most of her training and grew to be more competitive. She also competed on her high school dance team at Santiago High School was captain her last two years. During her senior year she was recognized out of more than 100 dancers and was awarded “The Magical Performer” of the weekend by LA Dance Magic, receiving a scholarship along with it. Performing for others has always been Kristen’s biggest passion and it shows when she dances. After High school, Kristen went on to compete with the Orange Coast College Dance Team and won two national titles in Orlando, FL.

While Kristen loves performing, she also loves teaching and choreographing. She has taught and choreographed for many studios and schools throughout Southern California. Her choreography has received many overall awards and has been recognized for special awards by judges. While she is trained in all styles, Kristen has a soft spot for lyrical and contemporary. She loves to encourage dancers to really use their emotions along with having great technique. Her ultimate goal is to make people feel something when they take class with her or watch her choreography.

Professionally, Kristen has been honored to work with many well-known choreographers such as Mandy Moore, Napoleon D’umo, D.J. Guthrie, Jackie Sleight, and Dan Karaty.  She has spent the last 8 years at The Disneyland Resort, performing in the Entertainment Department. She has been privileged to perform in many parades, shows, and media events. While teaching and Disney are a big part of Kristen’s life, she is also currently going to school to get her teaching credential. She loves working with children of all ages and is looking forward to sharing her love of dance with everyone. 

Mackenzie Shimon

 

 

 

Hip Hop

Mackenzie began competing in dance competitions across Southern California at the age of six, in jazz and tap, frequently placing in first. Before reaching her teens, Mackenzie had performed at Disneyland and many fairs and festivals across Southern California. In her teens, she trained with Emmy- nominated and American Choreography Award-nominated choreographer, Monie Adamson, known for her work with Warner Bros programs: Family Matters, Step by Step, and MAD TV. She worked with Tim Stevenson, known for his choreography of music videos and tours for Jennifer Lopez, Destiny’s Child, and Mandy Moore. While in high school, Mackenzie was asked to choreograph for her high school’s award-winning musicals and her former elementary school’s musicals, both of which both produced Broadway and Hollywood performers. Mackenzie was selected to serve as dance captain and main choreographer for her high school varsity dance team alongside Gigi Torres, who is now one of the industry’s leading hip hop teachers and choreographers. In college, Mackenzie began training and choreographing in contemporary and hip hop. After graduating from James Madison University with a Minor in Dance, Mackenzie began training solely in hip hop in Washington, DC. Since 2010, Mackenzie has performed at The Kennedy Center, The White House, The Verizon Center, and in concerts in NYC, NJ, and PA. Mackenzie has always felt passionate about dance and hopes to help her students of all ages and styles grow, both technically and in their love for dance. Mackenzie is the Company Director of Rhythmix, JOMDC’s youth hip hop company under the H.Y.P.E. Program.

Domenica Isola

 

 

 

Acro . Contemporary . Jazz

Domenica’s passion for dance started at the age of eight and her appreciation for the art and sport has only continued to grow. Her dance career started in community classes, such as this program, and she was a member of the FMSD family as a competitive dancer for 4 years. While a part of FMSD, she learned dance technique, built physical strength and developed into a humble competitor. Her training at FMSD earned her a spot on the San Clemente High School Dance Team, a 17-time national championship winning team, where she continued to expand her dance knowledge and improve her performance. Domenica brought strength in leaps, acro, and choreography to the high school team. During her three years on the SCHS dance team, she competed in a variety of genres including lyrical, jazz, hip hop and novelty. Her maturity and passion earned her several leadership roles including competition captain and team captain where she perfected time management, communication skills, and patience. She also played a major role in dance kids clinic fundraisers where kids in the community could experience the life of a high school dance team member. In those clinics she taught dance routines and organized performances for kids of all ages.  

 

After graduating high school, Domenica realized that she wanted dance to continue to be a prominent part of her life while also working on her second passion of child and family development. Domenica is excited to inspire the next generation of dance students at FMSD and implement a safe environment for kids to work on dancing abilities, team building, and confidence.

 

      History      

For more than 6 decades’ young dancers have enjoyed learning the art of dance at Francina Mans School of Dance. The studio was founded by Prima Ballerina Francina Mans who was trained at the Royal Academy of Dance, London. The studio has since been passed down to her granddaughter Andrea Varkel.

 

Born September of 1932 in Pretoria, South Africa, Francina Mans grew up on her family’s farm. At the age of 7 a friend invited Francina to join a ballet class, she instantly fell in love with the art. By age 10 her family could no longer afford her dance lessons at the largest accredited Dance School in South Africa, Seaborne Dance Academy. Luckily, Francina was a star pupil and her instructor offered to waive her tuition fees in exchange for assistance with instructing the younger dancers. Francina soon found herself at the dance studio every day.

In 1951 Francina, just 19 years old completed her training at the Royal Academy of Dance, London. It was during this time she decided to open her own dance studio “Francina Mans School of Dance”. Francina continued competing in dance showcases and in 1955 Cape Town Eisteddfod, a prestigious national art festival, awarded Francina “Best Acrobatic Dancer in South Africa”. In addition to growing her dance school and competing professionally, she also taught full time at an all-boys high school and entertained crowds during the evenings in her family’s popular cabaret show.

 

After many successful years of fast paced show business in her hometown, Francina, her husband and their three sons made the bold move across continents to the United States, first in Chicago, Illinois, then finally settling in Laguna Beach, California. Francina began rebuilding her community based dance program, by teaching at local recreation centers and schools, eventually finding her home here in Dana Point, California.

 

During her impressive 62-year career, Francina has trained thousands of dancers, many of whom have gone on to lead prestigious and successful careers in the dance industry. In 2013 Francina Mans took her final bow, proudly handing down her legacy to her granddaughter, Andrea Varkel.

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