2019 National Dance Instructor of the Year Marianne Rieg

By Brett Hart Created: December, 2019 - Modified: November, 2022

Winning has a very different meaning for of Twirl Time Studio in Pittsburgh. It’s not about claiming titles for her. It’s about encouraging education through dance and teaching kids how to excel in a “pressure cooker” free environment. It’s about building confidence, standing tall and treating others with respect. That’s how she measures success.

And oddly enough, that philosophy is what led her to claim the title of National Dance Instructor of the Year.

A former director of social services, Marianne’s transition into being dance studio owner six years ago was a “project from the heart.”

In her younger years, Marianne knew what it was like to win dance competitions as a 3-time advanced baton twirling champion. Now she draws from that experience, as well as her previous profession, to use dance and twirling as a way to both give back to the community and pay it forward.

Focused on providing her students the opportunity to train comfortably, students must put their cell phones in a basket when they enter the studio and they train in athletic wear.
“I don’t want them to start comparing their bodies - no body shaming,” Marianne said.

From there, they discuss the importance of being both a good follower and a good leader.

“Older girls work with younger girls,” she says. “Everybody has a big sister. ... You’re competing with yourself, but have you stopped to help somebody? Have you been a good role model?”

Each year she does fundraisers for Cystic Fibrosis, a local family, transplant awareness and local schools as well as donating to a local high school drama club and doing free programs at schools and nursing homes - all in the name of her studio. She also makes dance affordable and feasible for her students, both in terms of tuition and costume expenses and accommodating other activities her students have, such as horseback riding, volleyball and soccer.

“We don’t want moms racking up Visa cards if they don’t have to, and we don’t want people dumping six costumes at the goodwill that they’re never going to use again,” Marianne said.
While she’s only been a studio owner for 6 years, Marianne, now 53 years old, has been teaching dance since the age of 16.

One common thing she hears from her former students has been quotes like “Pull up the strings!” and “Put your chin up.”

“Words do build up and they do tear down,” Marianne said. “Kids will remember bad things for a lifetime. It’s nice to know they’re also remembering the good things.”

That was especially true when she learned that her students and instructors had come together to nominate her for the Instructor of the Year award.

“At my age, it’s really cool to be acknowledged,” she said. “It means everything.”

In fact, that acknowledgement extended well beyond her students and their families as news of her nomination spread like wildfire across social media groups and boards.

Everywhere she went, people were congratulating her, whether it was a convenience store clerk or the manager of Macy’s.

“I felt like a star,” she said. “Sometimes, you think people like what you’re doing, but you don’t always hear it. Just to have everybody talking and excited - I almost felt like I had to get my hair and nails done. ... The days that I’m doubting or worrying - or the financial expenses are getting tight, or whatever, it (is nice to know it is) really is impacting people and people are noticing it for a positive offering that we have to kids in the community.”

Marianne Brash-Rieg
Twirl Time Studio
Pittsburgh PA 15084