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About Us

How We Got Started
The Mommie Dearest School of Dance & Charm was born in late 1988 during the AIDS pandemic. Barbara had the privilege of being one of 38 cast members and over 80 creative technical professionals who gave of their time and talent for many months to create "Hooray for Hollywood," a lavish musical extravaganza that raised tens of thousands of dollars for the support of people living with AIDS and for research to end the terrible suffering that the government and much of the public at that time tried to ignore. One of the many characters that Barbara played in the two shows that were performed at the Paramount Theater and the DCPA was a larger-than-life Joan Crawford who menaced the lead character, Dorothy. Apparently Barbara was perfect for the part, and since she had no real name for her growing dance studio which was forging its own identity separate from a gymnastic school, Mommie Dearest was born!

About Our Teachers


Barbara Gabriel

Barbara is the owner/operator of the Mommie Dearest School of Dance & Charm and has danced, taught, and choreographed for over 60 years.  As a performer, she has probably played every hooker/stripper part in musical theater (she USED to be hot).  Choreographic credits include The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Oliver, Guys & Dolls, West Side Story, Fame, Closer Than Ever, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and the ever-popular Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.  As a teacher she has taught dance to students in public schools, dance studios, the occasional drag queen, and at her own studio, a refuge for the misfits of the performance world.

Now over 70 ( FABULOUS party- thanks my girls!) and equipped with 2 very cool titanium/plastic knees, she teaches radical History at Metropolitan State University of Denver where she continues to terrify, empower and inspire students to stand up, vote, and dare to change the world. Although she retired with (amazingly) Emeritus status in 2015 from Metro, she seems unable to stop corrupting the youth of America and/or the “powers that be,” and therefore continues to teach part-time.

Having survived the “Plague Year of 2020,” AND 4 years of Cheeto Satan, she is grateful to still be standing. Being of German/Scottish/Nordic stock, she is absurdly stubborn & refuses to stop dancing OR standing up to fascism.  She spends her “spare” time in Britain, her spiritual home, or in the gardens or amazing  conservatory that she built with the money she isn’t leaving to anyone, but spending on herself. She was assured by her surgeon (Dr. Cutie) that since her latest knee replacement she will be able to dance another 20 years.  EVERYONE wants to see a 90 year old dancer, don’t they???

She continues to annoy the public with ever-ruder political messages on her antique answering machine and often can be found quoting kick-ass broads in history.  As Emma Goldman would say, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”  Rage on, sister….

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Jennifer Petty

I have been dancing with “Mommie Dearest Dance” for 15 years, choreographing and teaching the last 7 years.  I have come to love choreographing and teaching the most, when you have students like we do at this studio you cannot help but love doing what we do.  I bring to this studio 15 years prior Ballet & Tap training which I instill into my students, but I have learned so much more jazz and musical theater from Barbara Gabriel that I bring into my own tap choreography.  

I love what I do here, and I love working with all the students at this studio, we have fun doing what we do and it show’s in our productions.  

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Lynda Kacvinski Cukale

Lynda has been a part of the Mommie Dearest School of Dance and Charm since 2009.  During that time, she has participated in jazz, tap, lyrical, ballet and musical theater.  In addition to dancing, she has been writing scripts as well as co-directing the musical theater portion of Mommie Dearest performances since 2010.  

While at Mommie Dearest, Lynda has had the pleasure of playing numerous roles in musical theater performances, including, a Roman Muse, Aretha, the Queen of the Britons, a Madonna Wannabe, the Grinch, Voldemort, an evil French bishop, and a Fairy Godmother.

Previously, Lynda’s experience has been primarily in song, as she has performed in several show choirs, chamber choirs, and jazz choirs.  In addition, she has performed in Li’l Abner, Rebel Without a Cause, 1984, and Sky Happy.

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