Meridian Star

November 1, 2012

Book signing set for relaunch of Mary Alpha Donnelly dance book

By Ida Brown /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     The legacy of beloved Meridian dance instructor Mary Alpha Johnson Donnelly continues through two of her proudest achievements.

    In 1987, Donnelly, former director and owner of Alpha School of Dance, published "The Magical Kingdom of Dance," a 215 page dance encyclopedia that she also illustrated with characters named after specific ballet moves. Donnelly also created and illustrated the accompanying Alphamat, a fun, interactive way for young ballerinas to learn classic ballet moves.

    The book, which has undergone several printings, has been updated – a new cover, pink pages and several other improvements – and is now being relaunched with Donnelly's daughter, Tonie Johnson Bense, at the helm.

    "She wanted to do all of this and she was so excited about the relaunch," said Bense, who owns a dance studio in Panama City, Fla.

    "An article about Johnson and the book was published in a national dance magazine in June and she wouldn't let go of it for two months; she kept it on her bed," Bense said of her mother, who died earlier this month.

    "This was her lifelong work and her lifelong dream. When I was in elementary school, she was working on this every day," she said.

    Bense will be in Meridian Friday for a book signing at Embellish Marketplace on North Hills Street.

    Although only several thousand copies of "The Magical Kingdom of Dance," were originally printed, the book – as well as the mat – has enjoyed a nationwide following; both teaching tools are used by dancers and studios all over the country.

    "I was at a show in Atlanta for the United Dance Merchants a couple of weeks ago and there were people who stopped by the booth and were like, 'I have your mother's book and I use it every day at my studio; I'm so excited to see this,'" Bense said. "Some have never seen the Alphamat, because she hasn't had those reproduced in a long time. So when they see the mat, they really get excited about it all."

    Bense said Donnelly knew about the Embellish book signing prior to her death, as well as an article about her published in the November/December issue of Mississippi Magazine.

    "She was really excited about all of it – the book signing, articles and everything involved with relaunching the book," Bense said.

    In addition to book signings and promotions for "The Magical Kingdom of Dance" and Alphamat, Bense will teach three classes at the 2013 DanceLife Teacher Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., in which she will use both the dance encyclopedia and dance mat.

Want to go?

    What: Book signing of the relaunching of "The Magical Kingdom of Dance," by Meridian dance instructor the late Mary Alpha Johnson Donnelly. Donnelly's daughter, Tonie Johnson Bense of Panama City, Fla., will conduct the signing.

    When: Friday, from 1-4 p.m.

    Where: Embellish Marketplace, 2626 North Hills St.

    Information: The book retails for $49.95 and accompanying Alphamat for $60; a discount will be applied when purchased together.