Joni Messler established the Joni Messler Studio of Dance in 1959 when she moved to the City of Gainesville with her husband, Clarke Messler. The school developed a reputation of excellence and in 1973 she founded the Gainesville Ballet Theatre. Marie-Jeanne, a former George Balanchine ballerina, taught at Joni Messler Studio of Dance for more than a decade, and continued to contribute her talents to the Gainesville Ballet Theatre for an additional ten years. Joni Messler Studio of Dance has the unique feature of training generational students, with former students who return to enroll their children at the School.
Joni Messler’s commitment to the art of dance has been clearly recognized. The City of Gainesville, Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Board recognized Joni Messler with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the arts in Gainesville and Alachua County. During the 30th Anniversary of “The Little Match Girl” Michael Blachly, Director of the University of Florida Performing Arts, presented Joni Messler with a plaque in honor and recognition of her attributions to the world of dance. Through the years the Gainesville City Commissioners have twice recognized Joni Messler for her outstanding dedication to dance in our community. Her history and impact with ballet stretches beyond the City of Gainesville. She was a recipient of The Nancy Smith Award from the Florida Dance Association for her outstanding leadership and excellence in dance in addition to her untiring efforts on behalf of dance students and professionals. She is also a former President of the Dance Masters of America for the State of Florida. Joni Messler has also received a letter of commendation from American Ballet Theatre II on New York City. Dance professions on local and national levels have been enriched by Joni Messler’s expertise and leadership.
The Gainesville Ballet Theatre is most known for Joni Messler’s original ballet “The Little Match Girl”. This ballet has been performed during the holiday season for more than 30 years. “The Little Match Girl” recently received copyright protection and is currently under consideration by the creator to “take it on the road” for future performances by well established ballet companies.
Throughout the past 35 years, the repertoire of story ballets that GBT has performed includes “Peter and the Wolf”, “Alice’s Adventures”, “Snow White”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Dancing Princesses”, “La Boutique Fantasque”. More recently GBT has revisited the Romantic Style of works in their collection, such as “Pas de Quatre” and “La Bijou”. “La Bijou” was choreographed especially for Joni Messler by Fiona Farrie, Royal Ballet of London.
Her never ending dedication to dance continues to enrich the lives of many, whether they train with her as a student, succeed in professional dance careers, or are spectators of the quality performances that she shares with the community. The Gainesville Ballet Theatre continues to thrive and our community is fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy the talents of our youth under the attentive eye of Joni Messler.