The D in Dana

Dana Theil

You could certainly say that the D in Dana Theil stands for dance. Dana is co-director of the Pennsport School of Dance in South Philadelphia.  Her philosophy is straight forward: Have fun and, says Dana, “You’ve got to put on the best show that you can with what you have and that’s all I try to do.”  That just begins to describe the mother of 4 that so many Mummers appreciate.  Dana is the long-time choreographer of Fralinger String Band, which has won 8 First Prizes in a row. A piece of each of those prizes belongs to her.  While Fralinger is known for doing everything well, especially music, what often gets lost to observers is that while they are playing, they are often dancing.  In addition, the dancers and the captain must be among the best or first prize is out of reach for the band.  Current Fralinger Captain Thomas D’Amore won First Prize his first year as Captain under Dana’s guidance.  He says her personality, she easily gets along with everyone, helps her communicate with dozens of string band members.  Dana is also from a family of Mummers.  Many of those closest to her are connected to the Fancy Brigade, Jokers NYA.  Former Fralinger Captain Bill Bowen, Jr., says “I think she can look at a package and whatever production is being done that particular year, not only in dance but in band movement,” and help form the whole 4 and a half minute show.  Bill spotted Dana’s talent when she was a teenager.  In the first year he took her advice, he won First Prize.  Bill would go on to become the winningest captain on Broad Street.  This year Dana is once again offering her expertise to Fralinger, but she is also assisting Ferko String Band and Avalon String Band. Both bands know they are in great hands. Ferko Captain Anthony Celenza, for example, tells me, “”We’re hoping that she can be the good luck charm as she has with some of the groups she’s worked over the past.” Ms. Theil’s accomplishments are even more impressive when you realize that she is getting everyday working people, blue and white collar workers, not professional dancers, to dance well. Dana admits that is “the tricky part.” Her dedication and patience make it happen.  But that’s Dana, and not just with Mummers.  I also saw that genuine appreciation on display when I witnessed her working with little kids getting ready to put on a Christmas recital. Dana says, “Dancing to me is a release almost. I can be in the worst mood, sad, depressed about anything, but once I get into the studio and just start teaching and they (the kids) start making me laugh, it just brings a smile to my face. You know, that’s my whole life.”  The D in Dana can stand for dance.  But, it also stands for D-elightful, D-edicated, in D-emand, and D-ynamite.  Dana Theil is one more reason to love the Mummers.

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