Melissa Turnage


As the Anacortes School District continues to discuss what schools will look like in the fall, other organizations around Anacortes are taking measures to make sure their students stay safe, too.

Fidalgo DanceWorks is working on a hybrid model, allowing some students to dance with their instructor in person and others to attend classes from home, according to new Development Director Melissa Turnage.

Turnage started with the organization in June, working for the month alongside former director Julie Wenzel, who is moving to Singapore with her family.

Though Turnage has only been with the organization as a staff member for a couple months, she is no stranger to Fidalgo DanceWorks. She started volunteering with the nonprofit school several years ago when her daughter started dancing there. Then, a couple springs ago, Turnage interned under Wenzel in her then-role of executive director.

Turnage said the experience gave her a good inside look at how the organization is run.

So, when Wenzel announced she would be leaving, Turnage knew the position would be a good fit.

She said she is ready to continue relationships with community partners and help make sure Fidalgo DanceWorks is successful.

“This is super-important programmng that the kids can’t get elsewhere,” she said.

Dance is important for so many reasons, including the positive changes it can make on a person’s mental health and the connections it allows young people to make with their peers, Turnage said.

“It helps bring people together,” she said.

The dance school, like many oganizations, has seen some challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It held its annual fundraising gala just days before the state shut down as a result of the pandemic. The event was one of the most successful gala in the school’s history, bringing in more than $60,000, with more than $12,000 set aside for the DanceWorks scholarship fund.

The scholarships are a vital part to making sure the children of Anacortes can connect to dance, even if their families have financial challenges, Turnage said.

The pandemic forced the dance school to shut down in March, and it is now going through technological upgrades that will help students connect with dance from home this summer and beyond, Turnage said.

Some small, private lessons are already going on, and there will be some small-group workshops later this summer, Turnage said. 

For the most part, students are meeting with teachers via Zoom, though a few can be in each classroom at the school at a time.

When classes resume this fall, only a few students will be actually at the dance studio practicing with an instructor. The others will follow remotely via Zoom. Each class period, the students who are learning in person will rotate, so everyone gets the chance to be at the studio, Turnage said.

“We are finding solutions,” Turnage said. “We will expand as it becomes safer.”

Registration for fall classes is available now at

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