Joan Harris Center for Gifted & Talented
Dance & Performance Arts - Northeastern Pennsylvania
1-855-802-1132
Toll Free
The Most Accelerated Professional Dance Program In North East Pennsylvania The Most Accelerated Professional Dance Program In North East Pennsylvania The Most Accelerated Professional Dance Program In North East Pennsylvania The Most Accelerated Professional Dance Program In North East Pennsylvania The Most Accelerated Professional Dance Program In North East Pennsylvania The Most Accelerated Professional Dance Program In North East Pennsylvania The Most Accelerated Professional Dance Program In North East Pennsylvania

Our History

Joan Harris, the founder of the studio, began performing professionally at the tender age of nine years old where she danced daily in a review that featured comedians Bud Abbot, Lou Costello and Pinky Lee. At the age of seventeen, she moved to New York City where she studied at the American Ballet Company under the direction of the great George Ballanchine. Soon she was performing in the nationally touring dance troupe 'The Wally Wanger Girls' and while on tour through Texas she received word of a 'cattle call' for a new show on Broadway. She quickly traveled back to Manhattan and won a role in her first Broadway Musical, Jerome Robbin's "Kiss Me Kate" and later was cast in a second Broadway Musical, Bob Fosse's "High Buttoned Shoes".

Additionally, Mrs. Harris worked as a dancer in the famed Copa Cabana Night Club and performed nightly with her friend, signer Joe Barry, who is now known throughout the world today as Tony Bennet. In the 1950's she owned and operated, along with her husband Joe, a string of seven dance schools located throughout New York City with two schools actually on the 'Great White Way'. The duo also had a weekly television show that ran for seven years on WWOR TV Channel 9 in New York.

Early in 1960, Joan moved back to the Wyoming Valley and opened a dance school in Plymouth. Eventually the studio evolved into a dance and music school called '20th Century Music Centre', moved to the Narrows Shopping Mall in Edwardsville and then opened a second facility in the Church Hill Mall in Hazleton. Unfortunately, in 1972, the great Agnes Flood devastated the Wyoming Valley and totally inundated the West Side studio.

While still involved with dance, but not operating her own studio, Joan Harris became an advocate for gifted children's education. She was named to the Pennsylvania Association of Gifted Education and was elected to the National Board for the Gifted/Talented. Mrs. Harris also created a publishing company called 'Creative Children's Publications', authoring and editing a series of children's books and collections of poetry. Mrs. Harris became the first Executive Director of College For Kids, a program that allowed middle school and high school students to attend non-credit college classes on seven area campuses.

She continued these efforts for over a decade and then Joan saw a need for an after-school curriculum for students who wanted to augment their studies in the performing arts. In 1982, she opened the Joan Harris Centre for Gifted/Talented on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre where the school achieved immediate success and quickly outgrew its facility. The Joan Harris Centre now occupies over 4000 square feet in the West Side Mall Edwardsville (coincidentally to old Narrows Shopping Mall very near to its 1960's location) and most recently opened a second campus in the Twin Stacks Complex in Dallas. The studio, is primarily focused on dance, but also holds workshops in other areas of the performing arts including theater.

Joan Harris had six children, all of whom made a career in the dance field and each of her four boys married dancers completing a circle of love for this art form. Her children tour the country giving dance seminars at national conventions, teach at Universities both locally and in Miami Florida, perform across the country and in Europe and currently operate three dance schools with an enrollment nearing 1,500 students. But it is the alumni of the Joan Harris Centre that is the true source of pride for the school.

Student's from the Centre have been given scholarships to Temple University's Dance Program, Cedar Crest College, the Hartt Conservatory, The Joffrey Ballet, PHILADANCO, New World School for the Arts, New York University's Tisch School for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts. Alumni of the school have performed on Broadway, at the Lincoln Centre in Manhattan, with the Miami Civic Ballet, the New York City Ballet, nationally and internationally touring professional dance troupes and in major motion pictures. The Joan Harris Centre has long been considered an innovator in the local arts community and has gained a national reputation for its excellence.