PUBLISHED: 5:24 PM on Wednesday, October 15, 2008
A lifetime of dance
JUNEAU - How many students has Janice D. Holst taught to dance over her career? Several thousand?

"At least," she says with a grin.

And the tireless dance teacher, now celebrating 30 years of teaching Juneauites ballet, tap and ballroom, shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

photos courtesy of Janice D. Holst
  Janice D. Holst has taught thousands to dance and organized countless performances over the past 30 years. The Gold Nugget Revue (top left) was the longest running tourism show in Juneau, and the Grumpsicle Extravaganza (bottom left) is still performed every December. From ballet to hip-hop , Holst has always taught every class herself.
Holst first came to Juneau with her family in 1978 when her Coast Guard husband was transferred. She had established strong dance programs on the East Coast and thought she was leaving behind her dance world for good.

Her retirement didn't last long. One day her husband dropped her off at the Juneau Douglas Little Theatre, saying little more than, "There's this thing going on."

The "thing" turned out to be a production of Cinderella. When the director realized who Holst was, she eagerly exclaimed, "Oh, the choreographer from the East Coast! Would you help us with the show?"

Holst agreed, the show turned into a musical, and afterwards she was beset by requests from mothers asking her to start a dance class for their children.

Just like that she was back in business.

Holst is quick to stress that there were certainly dancers and dance teachers in Juneau before she came to town, but it's hard to believe anyone else could have taught as many people to dance as she has in the last three decades.

"Every dancer I've had, I've taught personally," Holst said. "I have grandchildren of some of my dancers. I have grandmothers that are bringing their grandkids. We just call it our dance family and I call it my world."

Some of her dance shows have become household names in Juneau, such as the Grumpsicle Extravaganza performed every December. Over the years, she has worked on high school musicals, fashion shows and University ballet classes. She created the "Gold Nugget Revue," Juneau's longest running tourist show.

She also raised more than $300,000 for cancer research with a statewide televised dance-a-thon in 1980, after her fifteen-year-old son Caje was diagnosed with bone cancer.

"I wouldn't take 'no' for an answer," Holst said. "With that crazy dance teacher personality it just worked out."

When she was named Alaska's Mother of the Year in 1987, she was asked what her platform was. Off the top of her head she said she wanted to do something to keep young dancers off drugs.

Two decades later, Dancers Against Drugs is still going strong. They will be performing in honor of Red Ribbon Week Oct. 26 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Mendenhall Mall, then taking their show on the road to schools and the State Office Building Oct. 28.

Holst's former dance students have gone on to perform on Broadway, in the Joffrey Ballet and in the Hubbard Street Dance Company. One even became a Los Angeles Laker Girl. Many others go on to become dance teachers themselves. The Juneau Douglas High School drill team coaches are Janice D. Holst alumni as well.

"The training they get from me is very serious," Holst said. "When they leave me they are packed with very strong traditional ballet techniques and tap techniques.

"I think being a dancer is more than just sweat. Being a dancer is hard, hard work but the reward is the glamour and the glitz and a whole lot of fun."

And if she ever does retire, she hopes all of her students will return for one last grand performance.

"It's a great life," Holst said. "I love it, I love it. I should probably be turning in my tutu by now ... (but) there's still a lot of potential. I could live forever!"

This fall's dance classes are forming now for ages four through adult. After 30 years of teaching downtown, Holst has a new location in the Mendenhall Mall. Teen afterschool classes and adult noon classes will be taught at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. For more information or to sign up call Janice Holst at 586-1462 or e-mail