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Remembering Miss Johanna 

Johanna Bruyn, known as "Miss Johanna" to the parents and pint-size, pirouetting children in her classes, was a cultural superstar among families of Indianapolis' Northside. She taught dance for decades, including classes at Broad Ripple Park, the Jordan YMCA and Broad Ripple High School. Before I was ever pregnant, I dreamed that my child -- boy or girl -- could learn from Bruyn, based solely on the glowing reports from both kids and mothers who knew her.

click to enlarge Photographer Emily Schwank captured Bluyn's class, where the little dancers included her twin son and daughter. - EMILY SCHWANK
  • Emily Schwank
  • Photographer Emily Schwank captured Bluyn's class, where the little dancers included her twin son and daughter.

Parents spoke about her poise, her inimitable style (lipstick, leopard prints, flowers in her hair), her use of Tic-Tacs as rewards, her kindness and her honest praise, and the kids mostly just said that they loved her. Those families are now taking time to honor her legacy, as she passed away July 12, 2014.

Laura Alvarado, Vice President of Programs and Community Outreach at School on Wheels, shared the following reflection on Bruyn's life and impact, as well as a drawing by her older daughter, Olivia.

Ms. Johanna Bruyn taught my daughters how to stand up tall with their heads held high while swirling about on the wood floors at Broad Ripple Park Family Center. My first born, Olivia, was fortunate to have taken three dance classes with Ms. Johanna, while my 3-year-old had just started her first pre-ballet class before we heard the news of her passing.

It is not everyday that you come across a teacher like Ms. Johanna. She was a dancer through and through, long and lean with a graceful presence. My daughters looked forward to her dance class; they loved the attention she gave them. Ms. Johanna did not overly praise, so when she complimented them on a ballet move it really meant something. I must admit, I loved hearing her call out my daughters' names, even if it was just to tell them to focus. I respected the way she taught children, true to form but with a twist of fun so every child felt loved, appreciated and just like a "real" dancer.

In this drawing 6-year-old Olivia Alvarado remembers Johanna Bruyn. - OLIVIA ALVARADO
  • Olivia Alvarado
  • In this drawing 6-year-old Olivia Alvarado remembers Johanna Bruyn.
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About The Author

Kirsten Eamon-Shine

Kirsten Eamon-Shine

Kirsten has written for a number of online outlets, a handful of nonprofits and a mighty little food truck. She was raised by a writer-photographer-editor and an engineer, both lovers of museums and books. In her spare time, she dances to vinyl records with her husband, son and two cats.

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