Women of the Northwest

Jeannie Peterson-Dancing Through Dreams: The Artistry and Leadership - Maestro of Maddox Dance Studio and Director Extraordinaire of The Nutcracker

December 10, 2023 Jeanne Peterson Episode 81
Jeannie Peterson-Dancing Through Dreams: The Artistry and Leadership - Maestro of Maddox Dance Studio and Director Extraordinaire of The Nutcracker
Women of the Northwest
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Women of the Northwest
Jeannie Peterson-Dancing Through Dreams: The Artistry and Leadership - Maestro of Maddox Dance Studio and Director Extraordinaire of The Nutcracker
Dec 10, 2023 Episode 81
Jeanne Peterson

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Maddox Dance Studio
Liberty Theater

Our guest today is Jeanne Peterson owner of Maddox Dance Studio in Warrenton, Oregon, who started teaching dance in 1949 in her family’s basement at the age of 13. She danced at the Moulin Rouge in Hollywood, in Montreal and San Francisco among other places. 

Listen to her talk about how she started and the ins and outs of the Nutcracker production.

Subscribe to the Women of the Northwest podcast for inspiring stories and adventures.
Find me on my website: jan-johnson.com

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Maddox Dance Studio
Liberty Theater

Our guest today is Jeanne Peterson owner of Maddox Dance Studio in Warrenton, Oregon, who started teaching dance in 1949 in her family’s basement at the age of 13. She danced at the Moulin Rouge in Hollywood, in Montreal and San Francisco among other places. 

Listen to her talk about how she started and the ins and outs of the Nutcracker production.

Subscribe to the Women of the Northwest podcast for inspiring stories and adventures.
Find me on my website: jan-johnson.com

[00:02] Jan: Welcome to Women of the Northwest. Today, my guest is Jeannie Peterson. Who started Maddox dance studio how many years ago?

[00:15] Jeanne: In 1949.

[00:17] Jan: Really?

[00:18] Jeanne: Yes, really.

[00:19] Jan: I wasn't even born yet.

[00:21] Jeanne: Most people that I know haven't been born yet. Yes.

[00:26] Jan: What brought you to, inspired you to want to start that?

[00:31] Jeanne: Well, I started dancing when I was nine years old in Roseburg, Oregon. My first teacher was Mildred Jenkins. I remember her very, very well. And she taught in the old Armory in Roseburg. She didn't have a studio building. She was taught in the big armory. And I have vividly memories of the day that Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. Someone walked into the studio to tell her that that had happened. And I remember her just putting her hands over her face and just almost crying right there. Of course, I was nine. I didn't really know what was going on. But then she looked up at his picture, was hanging in the armory, and she said, our president has died. And I can still see that happening. So, it was just a big, strong memory of my first ballet classes, learning about that happening.

[01:28] Jan: That's the same for me, for President Kennedy. I was in fifth grade, and when I came over Intercom and the whole, like, yeah. You don't forget about something like that.

[01:42] Jeanne: So we lived in Roseburg. My grandfather owned a grocery store, Maddox grocery store on Main Street. Was that his library in Roseburg? Yes. I see.

[01:52] Jan: Okay.

[01:53] Jeanne: Benjamin Maddox, and his wife was Elizabeth. Mary Elizabeth, we called her. And so my dad then took over the store, the grocery store, after he came. Well, actually, let me backtrack. My grandfather became ill. My dad, Richard Maddox, Dick Maddox was in radio school in Chicago at that time. He wanted to be a radio announcer. And so, he came home. He gave up his career and came home to run the store. So then, a long story short, there was time when a lot of people were charging their groceries and you didn't have credit cards, you didn't have checks, you just charged

[02:34] Jan: you just wrote it down on a piece of paper.

[02:36] Jeanne: It was suffering because the charges were mounting up and people were not paying their grocery bill. So, then my dad decided he needed to downsize. And still he loved the grocery business. He wanted to stay in it. So, he bought a little store in Yonkala, which is 30 miles north of Roseburg. So, we moved to Yoncala, and when we got there, I was then about eleven, and there was no dancing there at all. No one was dancing there at all. A long story, again short, my dad then found a store or a restaurant and bar for sale in Astoria. And that was in ‘49. And so, he thought, well that's cash business, so no, get away from the charges. So, we came to Astoria and so that's how I started dancing with our dancing teaching because there was no teachers in Astoria at that time.

[03:35] Jan: And how old were you then?

[03:36] Jeanne: And I was almost 13.

[03:38] Jan: You started teaching when you were 13?

[03:40] Jeanne: Yes, I did.

[03:43] Jan: So you must have known enough to.

[03:44] Jeanne: Be able to teach. Well, I don't know. I don't think I really did. When I think about what I know now, I thought, my gosh, I knew first position probably, but not farther from that. But I was just very intent on being a dancer. You weren't there it is. So, I just loved teaching. So, the first teaching I did was in Yonkala, actually going back. I taught Baton twirling, and we were in the 4 July parade and then I carried that on. When I came to Astoria, the American Legion had a drum corps and so I became a majorette with two of my other friends and we led the parades around town. That was fun.

[04:28] Jan: Does anybody even do Baton anymore?

[04:30] Jeanne: Oh, it's big. Yeah, it's just not in our area. Not in our area, especially on the East Coast.

[04:34] Jan: It's very big.

[04:36] Jeanne: And there are some Baton twirlers. Actually, in Oregon there's an association of some teachers, but it's not well publicized.

[04:43] Jan: Yeah, because when I was in high school, band, marching band, of course you always had Baton Twirler.

[04:50] Jeanne: Yeah. Well, it was very big thing at that time.


[04:55] Jan: So, you did teaching, and then when did you establish this building here?

[05:01] Jeanne: Well, this building, well, I first started teaching in my mother's living room, my mother and dad's living room on Harrison Avenue in Astoria. And then we moved to an apartment on Grand Avenue. Then I started teaching in the basement of that house. And I taught in the basement until I graduated from high school. I went to Star of the Sea high school in a class of eleven seniors. Loved it, loved it. Took piano lessons there, taught twelve years of piano. 


And so then after graduation, then I moved downtown to above the old First Interstate or First National bank, which is now, I think it's another bank still right now, but on the corner of Twelveth Street. But then after that, then I decided I wanted to study more. I had been studying in Portland with Maria Dare. Wonderful, wonderful teacher, wonderful teacher. And I had been going on the Greyhound bus to Portland. My mother would put me on the bus to Portland and I would go take my ballet lesson by myself. Then I would come home. She sent me to Los Angeles that way, too. So, I could go to a dance convention. When I was 16, I went by myself to Los Angeles.

[06:22] Jan: Oh, my gosh.

[06:24] Jeanne: But lots of greyhound bus rides. But then we started teaching in the place downtown in the First National Bank. And then I wanted to try out to be. I wanted to be a professional dancer, do  musicals or so forth. So I went back to Los Angeles, and my teacher at the time, Catherine Etienne, was encouraging me to audition. But she said, there's one thing about it. So, you're short, and so you may not have lots of jobs available to you, because definitely in a musical or whatever, you have to be a certain height, like the Rockettes have to be a certain height. So, I went to Los Angeles, and I auditioned for a musical version of Our Town with Rosalind Russell. And so it was at the Greek Theater, a beautiful outdoor theater in Los Angeles. And so, we all went down into the basement of the Greek theater to get ready. It was like 300, 400 girls, I don't remember, but it was a huge amount of girls. So, we all ready. I went up on the stage, and the very first thing they said, anyone under 5’5” we're sorry, we cannot use you. So, I looked at myself and I thought, I'm 5’2”. There's no way I can get this job. And along of a lot of other girls, we all went back to the basement and shared tears, I know. Called my mother, who was in Astoria, and called her and said, mom, I just want to come home. She said, no, you're not coming home. So, she said, you're going to stay there and try again. So anyway, then I did try again, and that is when I got a job at the Moulin Rouge in Hollywood.

[08:09] Jan: Really?

[08:10] Jeanne: One of the Don Arden dancers. And so I followed that along for several years and then ended up dancing in Montreal and different places, San Francisco, for a long time.

[08:21] Jan: So, you gained all those more things to be able to teach.

[08:25] Jeanne: Yes. Right. So, then I came home and went back to the studio, and I've been there ever since.

[08:32] Jan: Oh, my word.

[08:33] Jeanne: Wow.

[08:34] Jan: Just that alone, just those experiences are so rich. Your parents must have been something.

[08:40] Jeanne: Well, they were wonderful, supportive. My mother and dad both were very supportive. Jan: One, they believed in you, 

Jeanne: whatever I wanted to do.

[08:47] Jan: And they gave you the experience?

[08:48] Jeanne: They did. And with lots of love along with it. It was wonderful. Very secure.

[08:53] Jan: So, when you started teaching here, what did you teach? Ballet.

[08:59] Jeanne: Ballet. Ballet and tap. I started with ballet only in the basement on Grand Avenue. And then I enlarged that up to tap and jazz and Hawaiian. Yes. And modern contemporary. Yes.

[09:18] Jan: And then boys and girls, right?

[09:22] Jeanne: Oh, yes.

[09:23] Jan: Always, whoever came.

[09:24] Jeanne: Yes. Always. Yes. We've had some wonderfully talented boys.

[09:27] Jeanne: So, one right now is still dancing professionally. He's at the Missouri Contemporary Theater, and he's from Seaside. And just a great Joel Hathaway. Oh, my very talented boy.

[09:39] Jeanne: He graduated from Cornish Music School in Seattle and School of the Arts, and then started his career in music.

[09:48] Jan: And he got his inspiration here.

[09:49] Jan: Really?

[09:49] Jeanne: Well, we've had quite a few dancers become professionals.

Elizabeth Minor from Warrenton was American Valley Theater, and we had one girl from Seaside who ended up on the London cast of Sunset Boulevard. Really, really great kids.

[10:07] Jan: That is so neat. So, when did you first do your Nutcracker?

[10:15] Jeanne: Well, it was 48 years ago. So that was in the. Whatever that is. I don't remember. One year just kind of goes up. But this was our 40 eigth annual, so 80 something.

[10:31] Jan: And what was that like for the first time?

[10:33] Jeanne: The very first one was very interesting. It was a 20 minutes version.

[10:38] Jan: Left out a lot of scenes.

[10:40] Jeanne: Yes. With a long play record player sitting on a little chair that no one dared get near it to bump it. Yes. So that was at the Riviera Theater, they called me. It's on the corner now of 11th on Marine Drive. It's a theater now. It was connected to a little cafe. I know you'll know, and I can't remember what it is. Colombian in Colombia. Oh, the Colombian, yes, it used to be the was. It was a vaudeville house down in the basement. I don't know if it's still there, but there were names of stars that had come to Astoria to perform and names on the walls that they had written. Just really cool. Really cool.

[11:32] Jan: So you did your first one there with your little record players?

[11:34] Jeanne : Yes.

[11:34] Jan: How many?

[11:35] Jeanne: And that was before there? Probably twelve, I would say. We had one little Clara who didn't dance. She sat in a little rocking chair and read a book about the Nutcracker. That was how we narrated it. But they invited us to do it there because they wanted something to entertain the children that came before the movies, before the free Saturday movies. So, we were the prologue to the free Saturday movies.

[12:06] Jan: Kind of like they do with concerts.

[12:08] Jeanne: Yes, the opener.

[12:11] Jan: So probably that first time, your mind is starting to go, oh, we could do this

[12:14] Jeanne: we could do well, it just kept growing. It just kept growing. Then we went to doing galas, and we invited dancers from all over the country to come in and be the guest artists, which we still do. But at that time, we were doing excerpts of the Nutcracker. It was growing. And then the DS artists would come in and perform. I have some posters that I can show you with who came. And a couple of our dancers that became professionals came back and were our guest artists, too, which they loved. Cassandra Green Gruner, now as her name, she is just retired from Oregon Ballet Theater as their ballet mistress. So, yeah, she's done beautifully. She was a little tiny girl. Her dad worked for the forestry department, and they lived in Astoria for a short time. Then he was transferred, and they moved to Portland. But we've had some great kids and.

[13:12] Jan: Something like the Nutcracker, I mean, because it's just so, well, seasonal and it becomes just, that's what we do every year we go to the Nutcracker and.

[13:22] Jeanne: It changes from year to year depending upon what our auditions are like, because our teachers, who are all my former students, I'm so proud of that they change the choreography according to who gets the parts.

[13:37] Jan: Okay.

[13:37] Jeanne: So, you'll see lots of different things going on, same music, same story. But the steps to the choreography are all different. Applying to the choreography or the skills of the dancers.

[13:52] Jan: How many dancers did you have?

[13:54] Jeanne: 75.

[13:55] Jan: 75. And managing that alone?

[13:58] Jeanne: Well, I have lots of help. I mean, this is not a one woman show, that's for sure.

[14:02] Jeanne: It couldn't be.

[14:03] Jeanne: No, I have lots of help. Wonderful people that help me. I have countless people, wonderful volunteers.

[14:10] Jan: Walk us through what the steps are to do a performance. So, to get to the end game, you've got a lot of things going on. I did theater for a while.

[14:20] Jeanne: Exactly.

[14:21] Jan: So, you've got your sets, you've got your sound, you got lights. You have somebody managing the crowd and tickets and all that kind of stuff.

[14:31] Jeanne: The dressing room.

[14:32] Jan: The whole dressing room.

[14:33] Jeanne: I know because I always say this. I've said this for years, and I announce this to the kids before we even start because they need to know who is in charge in that dressing room. And I'll tell them that the dressing room is what counts for all things. If I have no organization in the dressing room, I'll have nothing on stage.

[14:52] Jan: Right.

[14:52] Jeanne: It's all up to those who's coming.

[14:54] Jan: In when and what time and queue and all of that.

[14:57] Jeanne: So it's all right there in that dressing room. It's a very important place. It's all organized.

[15:01] Jan: Your backstage people.

[15:03] Jeanne: Exactly.

[15:03] Jan: All of that.

[15:04] Jeanne Exactly.

[15:04] Jan: How long does it take to practice from beginning to your.

[15:09] Jeanne: We start nine weeks ahead.

[15:11] Jan: That's all.

[15:12] Jeanne : That's it. And that's every Saturday when they audition. They know that they have to be here every Saturday. And we do several things during the week, but not that many. We only do the waltz of the flowers, usually, and the snow scene practice during the week. And then sometimes we bring in things that might need more work from Saturday, but it's basically nine to four on Saturday.

[15:39] Jan: So, it's a pool with.

[15:40] Jeanne: No, they've got to be there.

[15:43] Jan: You got to be there because you couldn't. And I imagine sometimes you have somebody that gets sick and can't be, and.

[15:50] Jeanne: Then you just have to work with that. We don't take them out. We just work around and pray that they'll get well fast because you don't want to penalize them for getting sick.

[16:01] Jeanne: Right.

[16:04] Jan: And you have all ages in there.

[16:07] Jeanne: They have to be seven.

[16:08] Jan: They need to be.

[16:08] Jeanne: They have to be seven. Yeah. In order to handle the long rehearsals and just the behavior, the focus and listening and not running around. We don't allow any running around. It just ought to be. Everybody's on there.

[16:23] Jan: The energy goes into the desk and they're quiet.

[16:25] Jeanne: They can't be talking. They have to be quiet. Sometimes in the morning when we start at 09:00 I'll say, and it's rehearsal, it's 2 hours. I'll say, it's okay. It's 09:00 you may not speak until 11:00 a.m.

[16:40] Jan: That's a lot of self-control.

[16:43] Jeanne: They do it. They do it.

[16:44] Jan: Because they want to be. And then you have your repeat kids that are year after year. So, they are moving into another position.

[16:52] Jeanne: Yes, they do.

[16:54] Jan: So they know the storyline, they know what to expect.

[16:57] Jeanne: Right. And then they help the younger ones, too. Lots of times you'll see that, which is wonderful. They really are a close-knit group.

[17:04] Jan: I'm sure that over the years they're all really.

[17:08] Jeanne: We say family. And it really is a family. Yeah, it is.

[17:12] Jan: And the parents as well.

[17:14] Jeanne: Oh, absolutely.

[17:16] Jan: Stepping right in.

[17:17] Jeanne: Because we know the girls can't drive themselves. The parents have got to be there doing all the things that they do.

[17:23] Jeanne: Right.

[17:23] Jeanne: And they're wonderful and love it. And they never complain. There's always there.

[17:27] Jeanne: Yeah.

[17:28] Jan: And just having that many kids involved just boosts all of your audience as well, because they're all to see somebody.

[17:37] : Yes, it is.

[17:39] Jan: What's it cost to put on a production like that?

[17:43] Jeanne: Well, I don't really pay attention. The finance people do, but I would say maybe $25,000 as a rough estimate.

[17:53] Jan: Because you've got costumes, you've got sets.

[17:57] Jeanne: We have orchestra.

[17:58] Jan: And that orchestra, which was amazing.

[18:00] Jeanne: Aren't they wonderful?

[18:02] Jan: That was so amazing.

[18:03] Jeanne: They are so good. And a lot of them come from out of town, too. There's about 15 of them that come from out of other symphony orchestras, and they love coming. And the hotels and motels gives us rooms for them. That is a huge, because we cannot afford to pay for them to be in a hotel, so they give them two nights free.

[18:27] Jan: Wow.

[18:27] Jeanne: And that's amazing.

[18:29] Jan: That is amazing.

[18:30] Jeanne: Oh, yeah. We could never do that.

[18:32] Jeanne: Yeah.

[18:32] Jan: Well, it's probably better, too. In the winter, they probably have more availability to be able to.

[18:37] Jeanne: Well, but at the same time, at the same time, they're having to clean up the room. And the whole thing is like, if they were being paid right, they treat them so well. They eat their breakfast and have their complimentary meals, little treats, and. Yeah, it's very important.

[18:52] Jeanne: Yeah.

[18:54] Jan: And my mind is going, yeah. Somebody had to organize those places.

[18:59] Jeanne: Our conductor, Cory Peterson. Cory Peterson. He evaluates all of it and organizes all of it for us.

[19:09] Jan: And all the other things he's doing. I just joined the Columbia River Symphony.

[19:14] : Oh, yeah.

[19:15] Jan: I'll be in that concert on Saturday night with him. He is amazing.

[19:18] Jeanne: Oh, he is. He's so talented. And then he's a superintendent of schools on top of it. I don't know how he does it.

[19:23] Jan: He does it all either. He is totally amazing. What are some of the obstacles that you face when you're doing a production?

[19:35] Jeanne: Well, the first thing that comes to my mind would be weather, because I know one year, we were rained out of our third performance, and the high school stage started leaking. It was like walking into a rainforest on Sunday morning. And my husband and I had just gone to have breakfast, and we got a phone call and they said, the school is leaking. And I said, oh, it can't be leaking. So, I went there and I was sick. I could not believe it. Our things did not get wet. Fortunately, none was wet. But we had to move it quickly out of the dressing room because that was leaking badly. And so, the dressing room things, we put all backstage behind the main stage. And then we honored the tickets for that performance in Seaside. We had to do the third performance in Seaside because the high school wasn't fixed yet. And we lost the orchestra because they could not come back. So, we did it with records, CDs. We did it in January 16, I think it was that year, and everybody came. We honored all the tickets and more people came. So, it was wonderful 

[20:56] Jan: cheering you on. We can get through. Oh, my gosh. Yeah, that would be.

[20:59] Jeanne: The weather is a big. And then the other thing was, and this is aside from one year, the Astoria High school football team was running or in the championships on a Saturday night and we thought, oh, my gosh. A lot of people bought tickets, so we honored them on the next day. So that was good. Yeah. But I think that's one of the things is just keeping people healthy during COVID. We did not get to do our show that year, but keeping people healthy and just praying everybody can be there. No wrecks or whatever on the way over. Just a lot of things that come into flying in guest artists. Sometimes we fly them in because they're coming from a long distance. Right.

[21:52] Jan: And if there's snow somewhere, they snow through.

[21:56] Jeanne: Yeah. There's just lots of things that we worried about that you just never know.

[22:01] Jan: Have you ever had a dancer be injured on the stage?

[22:05] Jeanne: Not during a performance. No, not during a performance. We've had little injuries here and there during practices, but usually nothing severe. This year we did have two that were injured both in rehearsal. And so, they could not perform. But they were there helping in the dressing room, of course. Yeah, they were right there with us the whole time.

[22:28] Jeanne: Yeah.

[22:29] Jan: So, do you do any other kind of performances that are equal to that?

[22:36] Jeanne: No, not equal to Nutcracker, but I would say big in its own way. We do the recital every year and we do other shows. We do a young choreographer show at the Liberty Theater every spring. So, the children make up their own dances and they're adjudicated by a panel of out-of-town judges that come in and evaluate them on them, and then they perform them at the theater. We do a tap dance festival every year, which now we've combining with a young choreographer. And then we do a show every year for the US Navy and the Coast Guard. The ships going upriver, they're going to the Rose Festival, and they invite us every year to do that.

[23:20] Jan: Oh, that's fun.

[23:21] Jeanne: We used to do the county fair, which we still miss doing the county fair. It was really fun. But we've enjoyed doing these other side things. And whenever someone needs an entertainment, we just say, let us know.

[23:34] Jan: Yeah, it just sounds like so fulfilling.

[23:38] Jeanne: You learn so many things from performing. So, they learn how to organize. Yes. That teamwork and the organization of getting them there. And just under new circumstances, different floors. We have our own floor for the Nutcracker. It's big rolls.

[23:58]Jan: Oh, really?

[23:58] Jeanne: 40Ft long, five, 6ft wide. And we have that. It's an injury prevention type of thing because this floor is this wood floor over cement. So, we have these special floors that we use.

[24:12] Jan: Interesting.

[24:14] Jeanne: Yeah. People don't realize that we have to bring that along with us. Well, these floors in here are portable floors too.

[24:22] Jan: How about that? And then you have to have a place to store things.

[24:25] Jeanne: All your wonderful storage place over here in Warrington. We love them. They're very good. We have two big storage units for costumes and for sets. So, everything goes back over there. Right after the show is over, the trucks arrive at the back door of the school and the crew puts it on. So, within 2 hours of the thing being over, we're already back to storage.

[24:50] Jan: And you probably have that fine tuned.

[24:52] Jeanne: Well, it's very orchestrated because you just have to have certain things in certain places so you can find it next year. And my new chairman of the wardrobe, they have it all mapped out so well that they'll never lose another thing. They'll know exactly where everything is.

[25:09] Jan: Are you a list maker?

[25:11] Jeanne: Very much so. But to the point where I forget where the lists are, so that's not good. So I have double lists.

[25:17] Jan: Do you have an assistant that takes your list?

[25:20] Jeanne: No, my assistants can't even read my list, so they don't want to even see them. That's written. On everything. Napkins, envelopes, whatever.

[25:32] Jan: I'm in the car, I'm always writing down something.

[25:36] Jeanne: And then I forget what I was going to write down. Oh, gosh

[25:42] Jan: Totally understand. So, do you think what you're doing now is kind of what you're just going to continue to do, or do you have a vision for anything else?

[25:49] Jeanne: Well, I think we're going to continue doing what we're doing and if some opportunity comes up to do something else, we will do it. So, we're just ready for anything that happens. We're interested. I still want to do more of a community-based class, and so we're just kind of working on that idea still.

[26:09] Jan: And are you mentoring someone to take your place eventually?

[26:13] Jeanne: Well, you sound like my daughters. My three daughters always say, mother, who's going to take over when you dock there? But I have wonderful, wonderful ladies right now that have been my students. They've been around, they know all the inside things and they would certainly be able to do that.

[26:31] Jeanne: And I would just sit by and love it

[26:33] Jan: and just enjoy them because they have been with you so long.

[26:39] Jeanne: They have been.

[26:40] Jan: And it would make your heart feel good, wouldn't it?

[26:41] Jeanne: Well, it makes my heart feel good right now because I know I could trust them to take over.

[26:48] Jan: Well, anything else you'd like to share?

[26:50] Jeanne: Well, I've just been renewing some more friendships back from, I used to produce the Miss Oregon pageant for 33 years. And so, I've had just some nice conversations with some of my former contestants and people that I've known through, and so I've been enjoying that part of it, too.

[27:12] Jan: Well, thank you, Jeannie. This has been really interesting.

[27:14] Jeanne: Well, thank you very much. It's been a pleasure to see you. Yeah.