Bonnii Gargano: Dance teacher steps up the fancy footwork for others

Bonnii Gargano
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

A peek into Bonnii Gargano’s dance studio on any given day might provide a snapshot into the legacy she has created in Brooklyn: “Sit still. Sit tall,” a mother might tell her daughter as she prepares for her first class. Many moms have already been students of Miss Bonnii themselves, and they know the drill.

“Dance is everything,” says Gargano, co-owner of Bonnii and Cathy’s Dance Showcase in Canarsie. “Dance gives children inner confidence that they cannot get anywhere else. Then they learn that they can do anything.”

As a child, she always loved to dance and her mother would take her to all the local television studios to perform live.

“We’d go from Channel 2 to Channel 7 to Channel 11,” Gargano says.

When she was 13 years old, her father created a dance studio for her in the family’s basement, complete with a raised wood dance floor. Gargano began taking neighborhood children as students, foreshadowing what would become a lifelong vocation.

Although known as one of the best dancers in her corner of Brooklyn, an audition at the High School of Performing Arts (now the Fiorello LaGuardia High School) in Manhattan left her flustered. Gargano realized she was unprepared for the stiff competition, but used her learning curve later to benefit her students.

“I promised myself I would always have my students ready,” she says. “I never want any of our kids to feel ill prepared.”

After high school Gargano danced on stage at Carnegie Hall, accompanied by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. Soon she met her future husband, Frank, and they had two boys. While married life and motherhood were wonderful, she felt that something was missing. In a near repeat of history, Frank soon converted their two-car garage into a dance studio and Gargano began teaching students once again.

In 1990 she joined forces with longtime friend and fellow dance instructor Cathy Consalvas to open Bonnii and Cathy’s Dance Showcase. Twenty-five years later, “Miss Bonnii” continues to bring joy and confidence to aspiring dancers, at least 10 of whom have opened their own studios, while several others have danced on Broadway.

The Woman of Distinction is a champion for parents, too, claims Simone Henry, mom to 14-year-old Amelia and 10 -year-old Kenya. Henry met Gargano 11 years ago, after the girls’ father passed away, and helped to bring peace to the devastated family.

“I became a single mom and Bonnii gave me the outlet to continue to keep going and get the best out of life for my girls,” says Henry. “I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t meet her.”

Her accomplishments are grounded in the joys of dancing, claims our honoree.

“I love how the children look when they are gliding through space and enjoying the movement,” says Gargano. “Dance helps kids blossom and become more than they can be without it — I love that and I give them all I have from the bottom of my heart.”

Neighborhood: Canarsie.

Occupation: Dance teacher and owner.

Company: Bonnii and Cathy’s Dance Showcase.

Claim To Fame: “Instilling confidence and a love for dance in children.”

Favorite Brooklyn Place: My studio.

Woman I Admire: “My mother, she was amazing, I could not admire anyone more.”

Motto: “Have integrity and respect for others.”

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