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Instructor Spotlight: Jackie Mercandetti

1. How long have you been teaching at Garden Street?

I have been a part of the Garden Street family since June! I jumped right into things by helping backstage with the dance recital, choreographing a production routine for Access Broadway’s National Dance Competition, and teaching at Garden Street’s Summer Musical Theater Camp.

2. What do you teach at Garden Street?

I teach tap, jazz and song & dance classes. I also choreograph for the competition teams and for some of the musical theater productions such as Aladdin and Hoboken Tale.

3. What is your favorite thing about Garden Street students?

There are so many things! I really appreciate their enthusiasm, work ethic, dedication and talent. I love that many of them are true triple threats and are working on all aspects of their craft – singing, dancing, and acting. Lastly, as a Hoboken resident, I really enjoy being able to teach students in the town that I live (and love so much!)

4. Where do you draw inspiration from when choreographing?

Everywhere! I am inspired from music, history, current events, Broadway, social media, TV, etc. I am always looking at the world around me with a choreographer's eyes. With my theater background, I am often motivated to choreograph routines that tell a story through movement.

5. What initially drew you to dance and theater?

I grew up watching Shirley Temple movies and have been performing for as long as I can remember! I began dancing when I was 3 years old and started singing and acting soon after. The stage was always my playground as a child!

6. What advice do you have for performers?

Work hard and stay focused on your goals and aspirations! I always loved the quote, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

7. What is your teaching philosophy?

My teaching philosophy focuses around differentiated instruction. With a Masters degree in Education, I have seen both in the classroom and in the studio that no two children learn the same. As a dance teacher, I try to accommodate different learning styles and levels in all my classes.

8. What would you do if you were not a teacher?

If I were not a teacher or performer I would be a casting agent. This way, I would still be involved in the theater and entertainment business – just on the other side of the table!

9. What is your favorite performance memory?

Lola in Damn Yankees or Ado Annie in Oklahoma. Ado Annie was the role that earned me my Actors Equity Association membership!

10. Do you have any dream roles?

Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie! I have always idolized Sutton Foster, the actress who originated the role on Broadway. I also love tap dancing and the 1920s, which is the time period of that musical.

11. What is an interesting or unexpected fact about you that most students do not know?

I was a former titleholder for Miss NJ in 2009! It was an amazing experience in which I earned scholarship money and was given many talent and community service opportunities. Currently, I am a pageant coach and work with many young girls with dreams of becoming the next Miss America!

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