West Side YMCA: Feldenkrais since 2003; Ballroom classes: 2007-2012
Feldenkrais Annual NY Regional Conference 2012: "Dancing with Moshe & Luigi"
West Side YMCA: "Feldenkrais Day Celebration" Workshops every year in May
Ken & Donna jumping, jiving & wailing
As an instructor in the Feldenkrais Method at the YMCA, or as a guest or private instructor of dance, Feldenkrais, or her own teaching, Donna Gianell has happily hung up her dance shoes professionally after decades of performing. Her first longterm engagement was as a showgirl with the Barnum & Bailey Circus where she met her future husband Ken Romo. Donna and Ken have a vast resume of performing and choreographing around the world including having their own niteclub show in Aruba called “A Romp Thru Time”.
Other highlights of Donna's performing career was when she and Ken were part of an American choreographic/performing five people team which made history in China with the first show of its kind that went on to break box office records. Other performing/choreographic accomplishments include choreographing and performing for the grand re-opening of the Oscar Hammerstein Opera House in New York City, and being featured performers in front of an audience of 40,000 at the RFK Stadium for an international festival of the arts. She and Ken, with their Elvis on stilts show, has been featured onEntertainment Tonight, The Jon Stewart Show, Good Morning America, Showbiz Today, as well as internationally. Then Donna literally "swung" into the new century with a jitterbug, swing dance number in which Ken is on stilts and Donna is not. The number, to Louis Prima's "Jump, Jive & Wail," literally was a “swing” number as Donna was swung around quite a bit by Ken who was nine feet tall.
Donna's dance teaching background started when she was a teenager in her hometown in California. She started dance class at Georgia's School of Dance when she was four years old. When she was ten years old, Donna started taking Irish dancing because the teacher lived across the street and was teaching in her garage. By the time Donna was thirteen she had captured many medals, including gold medals in every solo dance category in open competition and then the championship trophy the next day at the same competition in San Francisco. She quit after that and went back to Georgia's studio taking ballet, jazz, tap and acrobatics. By eighteen she started teaching seniors the Luigi technique at Parks & Recreation, ballet and Irish dance after school and in the summertime at the Girl's Club Center, and assisting at Georgia's studio. She also starting learning Hawaiian and Tahitian dance.
Donna would have started teaching sooner if she hadn't met with a near-death experience of being hit by a car when she was seventeen. The car was travelling over 50 miles an hour. Donna was in a crosswalk when the car hit her. She flew 54 feet, bounced off the car and down the street. Her injuries were countless including broken tibia, femor, pelvis, ribs, collarbone and skull. Other injuries included a blood clot to the lung and torn cartilege to the knee. She was comatose for days and then had amnesia for a month. Her will to live and to dance is what saved her life and gave her the determination, strength and courage to dance again. A year-and-a half later she won 2nd place at a competition held by the prestigious dance organization Dancemasters,
dancing a ballet number on pointe.
Two years after the accident, Donna was dancing with the Barnum & Bailey Circus. When Donna was with the Circus she would give ballet and Luigi jazz dance classes to the child performers and some of the adult performers.
After the Circus, Donna was given a scholarship with Jo-Jo's Dance Factory in New York City. She and Ken performed with the company and became a dance team in a show Jo-Jo choreographed which took them to Europe. A year later they were off to Asia with a show they helped choreograph. They performed in Asia for almost a year.
Donna sometimes had the opportunity to teach dance. She taught master classes and workshops in the Luigi technique in Hong Kong and years later, in Beijing, China. She and Ken had been instructors at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio before going on tour in Asia. They would teach the Hustle and other partnering dances while touring in Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan. Now they love teaching the Argentine Tango of which they have received extensive training in from Argentinian dancers from shows and Argentinian dance teachers. And the list goes on.
Donna with Bob Hope and Freddie Prinz at Hope's
"Circus of the Stars"