Opened in 1929, Bernice's Starrstep Dance Studio is the oldest dance studio in Pensacola. Constantly renovating and evolving with time, the Starrstep staff works hard to not only provide the best possible training for students, but also strives to make the dancing experience fun and enjoyable. Starrstep Dance Studio has become a second home for many students. Most of which have grown up in the studio and consider themselves part of the studio family.
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In 1929, Bernice's Dance Studio was founded by Bernice Miller Burlingame. At age 7, Bernice contracted Typhoid Fever, and doctors suggested ballet classes to strengthen her legs. She loved dance and excelled, beginning a journey that would span a lifetime.
At an early age, Bernice started spending her summers in Chicago training with some of the most respected teachers and dancers. Opening her studio in 1929 she offered classes in ballet, tap, and acrobatics. World War II broke out, many soldiers were dispatched to the military bases located around Pensacola. Bernice quickly noticed a need to include ballroom classes. Her parents also reached out and opened their home to the military families, often inviting them for dinner and family festivities. During that time, the studio did many shows for the USO and military bases around the area. Bernice soon employed more teachers and added more classes to maintain the growing needs of the studio. She and her teachers continued to travel to Chicago in the summers taking from some of the most prestigious teachers.
The excellent training and family atmosphere of the studio resulted in an increasing growth. Bernice eventually lost her battle with cancer in 1989. She had taught dance for 60 years. Bernice's daughter Starr, following in her mother's footsteps, eagerly continued the legacy her mother started. Bernice's Starrstep Dance Studio is now in its 93nd year. Starr, along with her staff has continued high expectations for the future.
Starr Burlingame literally grew up dancing in her mother's studio, She became artistic director/owner of Bernice's Starrstep Dance Studio in 1989 after her mother's death. Starr is an exciting and versatile teacher with extensive experience as a performer, teacher, and choreographer. Starr has a BFA degree in dance from Florida State University. She holds a Master Dance Educator certificate from Chicago National Association of Dance Masters and has been a member of CNADM for over 45 years. Formally on the dance faculty at Pensacola State College (1981-2002) and Artistic Director PJC Dance Theatre (1996-2002). Starr was a dance educator for the Escambia County School District for over 20 years. She currently teaches at Dixon School of Arts and Sciences. She is an accomplished teacher and has studied with many of the masters, including Maria De Baroncelli, Richard Sias, Lynda Davis, Dindi Lidge, Gus Giordano, Al Gilbert, and Danny Hoctor. Starr is also the past president of the Gulfcoast Dance Alliance.
Dee Dee Dunn, a lifelong dancer, has been instructing dancers of all ages for fifty years. She studied ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, hip-hop and modern dance. Her dance education included her years as a dance major at Pensacola State College (formerly Pensacola Junior College). In addition to teaching, Dunn is a talented choreographer who created many pieces for PJC Dance Theatre concerts and taught continuing education dance classes for the college in tap, ballet, and jazz. For many years, she was an assistant to the director of the PJC Summer Dance Workshop and assisted the late Al Gilbert, the “Pied Piper of Dance” at many of the workshops in which he taught over the years. Continuing the legacy, both her son and daughter are dancers.
A native of Pensacola, LaRita Carter Brigham is an exceptional teacher and performer. She began dancing at Bernice’s Starrstep Studio at the age of 8 years old and started teaching for the studio in her college years. She formerly held the position of Dance & Cheer Coach for Pensacola State College and was also the Wellness/Fitness Coordinator for the college. With more than 30 years of experience as choreographer, dancer, instructor, and performer, Brigham has worked with a number of renowned dance instructors across the United States. Because of her proficiency in jazz, hip-hop, and tap, she has been a featured dancer and choreographer at many concerts and performances. Brigham is also is a Master Faculty instructor for workshops around the Pensacola area and currently choreographs for schools and dance students around the community. She is the former artistic director for Pensacola Junior College Dance Theatre and the University of West Florida Dance Team. Brigham is trained in Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, and Aerobics and holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of West Florida. She has always had a passion for dance and feels blessed to be able to teach and share her God given talent in life with others. Brigham also feels blessed to be able to teach at a dance studio where we are a “dance family” and we all genuinely care for each student that walks through the door.
Tiffany Carnley comes from a dancing family. Her grandmother, Joyce Wicke taught at Bernice's Dance Studio for over 30 years and then her mother, Robyn Wicke Hicks has been with the dance studio for over fifty years. She was born a dancer. She started at the age of three and started teaching at the age of fifteen. After graduating from Washington High School, she immediately went to dance at Hard Drive Productions in Orlando, Florida. She started working for Princess Cruise Lines at the age of nineteen and then became a dance instructor at the age of twenty-two. She has traveled all over the world teaching and installing production shows onboard ships based out of Los Angeles. She worked a total of twelve years for Princess Cruise Lines. She wanted to become a wife and mother, so she came back to Pensacola, Florida and married her high school sweetheart. She now has two beautiful girls, one of which is taking dance now, so she decided to start back at teaching. She is fun, hard working and determined to teach any body who wants to learn to dance.