DELMAR — Barbara Gallager, the matriarch of Barbara’s School of the Dance, died on Christmas Day, Friday, Dec. 25.
The founder of the Delaware Avenue dance school was remembered for her genuine love for her students — some of whom were children of former students who started with her more than 45 years ago.
“To all who knew her, she can never be replaced,” stated an online message released by the school’s staff. “Her instruction of dance was more than that. It was a metaphor for personal development with commitment, perseverance, and dedication.”
Dan Sheehan, director of operations for Proctors, had known Gallager since 1992. The Schenectady theatre house would host her school’s annual recital there. He called her “a favorite of us backstage folks.”
“She was… a really sweet person,” said Sheehan. “All of her students clearly adored her as well. … She will be missed mightily.”
Members of the dance school described their teacher as caring and having a genuine love for the children in the studio. Many of them took to social media to share an outpouring of emotions of her passing.
“She always went above and beyond for her students inside and outside of the studio and I always felt like she genuinely loved and cared about all of her students,” said Billie Schinnerer. Schinnerer started dancing at Gallager’s first studio in Voorheesville, before graduating from the school in Delmar. “She was an amazing charismatic soul who definitely left this world a better place than she found it and she will be greatly missed by so many.”
Barbara’s School of the Dance celebrated its 45th anniversary in September 2019. Before opening the doors to its present location on Delaware Avenue, Gallager opened her first studio in Voorheesville. It was the beginning of her second career in dance. She initially pursued a stage career as a precision dancer with the NYC Rockettes and Roxyettes.
“Like every other person who entered her studio, Barbara and I had a special relationship. We both were born in Newark and “Newark” became her nickname for me,” said Alan Richer. “We talked about her early days when she grew up with Frankie Valli. We both shared a love for the Chairman of the Board.”
Students described Gallager as a person with a soft, compassionate demeanor who demanded commitment and dedication to the art. She would close each annual recital by sharing her motto: “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
“I danced a few years with Barbara and now send my youngest there. I may not have been a great dancer,” said Melissa Buckley Greenberg, “but I knew [Barbara’s School of the Dance] was where my son needed to be when he was ready to dance.”
The outpouring of condolences were shared by many locally and now far away. Emily Baker, a nurse practitioner in North Carolina, said it was hard to express how Gallager was to her as both a teacher and role model.
“She was strict in the best kind of way and instilled a sense of hard work, discipline, motivation, accountability, and self-confidence in her students,” said Baker. “She was an inspiration to all girls that passed through her doors. She would pause class to give us a lecture on one or another life lesson, many of which I took to heart and still remember today.
“I have no doubt that if it weren’t for covid, literally hundreds of people would show up to celebrate her life,” she said.
Ilyse Levine Weinstein called Gallager a “gift to our community,” and found it profound that her former teacher died on Christmas Day.
“Rather than wanting holiday or year-end gifts from students, she would pick charities for suggested donations to help others,” she said, “which was part of Mrs. G’s education beyond the studio about what is important in life. Mrs. G encouraged and included all who wanted to dance.”
Another former student shared how Gallager would drive her back home, and allowed her to continue dancing even when her family fell upon hard financial times.
“Barbara saw the wonder in every single person she met. She made everyone feel special,” added Richer. “Some of the greatest performances were by students who moved you with their grit, and determination. I thoroughly enjoyed every show she produced as well as the performance of every dancer, not just my daughter. The manner in which she encouraged all of her dancers brought tears of joy to me.
“Barbara Blozen Gallager,” he said, “you finished at the very top.”
Barbara S. Gallager, age 81, passed away surrounded by her loving family on December 25, 2020.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Barbara was the daughter of the late Anthony and Blanche Blozen.
Barbara was the founder and sole owner of Barbara’s School of the Dance from 1975-2017. Barbara’s love for dance began at the age of three when she took her first dance lesson. Her passion for dance continued through high school and eventually, Barbara pursued a career performing as a precision dancer with the NYC Rockettes and Roxyettes.
Barbara took a leave from her dance career to move to the Albany area with her husband, Doug, where they raised their loving family in Altamont. While home with her children, she and her friends created and choreographed many wonderful dance productions. In 1975, she opened “Barbara’s School of the Dance” in Voorheesville. After a few years of teaching, her school grew both in popularity and attendance. She eventually settled in Delmar where her studio continues to thrive. Barbara not only opened the doors of her studio for all students, she also opened her heart. Her mom, Blanche, was the welcoming receptionist for her studio and infamous “Cookie Lady” until her passing in 2008.
Barbara’s dance studio was a second home to thousands of children where she not only taught ballet, tap and jazz, but lessons of self-worth, confidence, kindness, and, particularly acceptance without judgement decades before it became a social standard.
Barbara valued and loved each and every one of her devoted teachers, student teachers and students. Barbara proudly supported her students in their extracurricular activities and would often be seen cheering at sporting events or attending school music performances and theater productions.
Families were always welcomed at Barbara’s School of the Dance and were treated with warmth and kindness in the dance school’s waiting room.
Barbara loved her family and especially enjoyed having her children and grandchildren come to her home every Sunday for a home-cooked meal. She especially loved traveling, vacationing at Sylvan Beach and taking cruises with her family. Her grandchildren were her absolute pride and joy.
Barbara was an avid gardener and was especially proud of her Butterfly Garden. A visit to her home in Altamont would reveal many beautiful gardens, blooms, birdhouses and deer feeding stations.
Elephants, domestic animals, pelicans and all birds, dolphins, whales, manatees, etc. were beneficiaries of her generosity . She loved all creatures great and small.
Barbara Gallager has been recognized for excellence in teaching and choreography by The Dance Educators of America. She and Blanche were honored for their dedication to the “Betterment of their Community,” where Senator Neil Breslin declared June 6, 2018, as “Barbara and Blanche Day.”
Barbara enriched the lives of every person who passed through her studio doors. Her message was always to respect each other and encouraged
her students to embrace differences in the dance class and in the world. She emphasized taking care of our planet, especially our trees. In Barbara’s honor, be kind and be thoughtful. If possible, plant a tree.
And most importantly, always remember… “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
Barbara is survived by her husband, Douglas Gallager Sr.; her children: Susan Cleary (Mike) and Douglas Gallager Jr. (Theresa); five grandchildren: Nicole, Kayla, Chrissy, Tommy and Willie; dearly beloved Aunt Mary, many cousins, nieces, nephews and very special friend, Lynn Horn.
Due to COVID, services will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to: Peppertree Rescue (www.Peppertree.org) or Proctors Theatre (www.proctors.org).