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.

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Michelle
Dillard

Acro . Jazz . Hip Hop

Michelle was born in Irvine, California.  Her training began at age 4 with Irvine Dance Academy.  She is trained in Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Lyrical, Hip Hop, and Tap- as well as some time learning Irish clog.  In 2001 Michelle went straight to work at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.  She performed as a variety of characters in the park, parades, and stage shows.  In 2002 and 2003 she was given the opportunity to choreograph for the company’s annual charity show.  After a brief hiatus from dance she returned to her training through the dance department at Irvine Valley College- working with renowned choreographers including performing with Marie De La Palme’s MotionTribe Dance Company. She has appeared in TV specials for KCET and later Michelle would move on from IVC to Elle Vie Dance Company in San Juan Capistrano, CA as a principal performer and resident choreographer. From 2011 until 2018 she taught with Francina Mans School of Dance as assistant to the director and competition teacher. In early 2019 Michelle began and completed the 200 hour yoga instructor certification through the State of California.  She also joined Southern California based Tap Tribe in 2019 in their inaugural year as a principal performer.  Along with classes taught at Sol Dance Academy and currently at  Agape Dance Lab, today she loves to teach yoga and dance to all ages, and enjoys hikes with her family and creating original art. 

HISTORY

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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, Andréa Varkel.