Throwback Thursday: Honoring the Green Bay Packers Cheerleaders Choreographer

Longtime area dance instructor Shirley Van (front center) will be honored at a tribute in Green Bay Saturday. Her body of work includes nine years working with Packers cheerleaders. / Submitted photo

Longtime Green Bay dance instructor Van to be honored at tribute

By Nathan Phelps
Green Bay Press Gazette
June 4, 2014

Thousands of people, including Green Bay Packers cheerleaders, have learned dance from veteran instructor Shirley Van for decades.

Now the 86-year-old is being honored for her work in the community. Her dance studio, Shirley Van’s Dance Studio, was founded in the 1950s and operates a location in Allouez and has plans to reopen a location on West Mason Street in Green Bay this summer.

“She’s one of those humble servants, not one who always needs a pat on the back for what she does or a standing ovation,” said Corrie Campbell, the business development manager for Shirley Van’s Studios. “It’s nice to be able to pay homage to her and at least give back a little bit to her for what she has done in the community.”

Among her local ties is a nine-year stint as a one of the founding choreographers and instructors with the Green Bay Packers cheerleaders in the 1970s and 1980s.

“She really kind of stepped it up a notch in terms of dance … and established a routine with them,” Campbell said. “She also had players in her classes at one time.”

Shirley Van and her husband, Frank Volm Jr., at a Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame display honoring her work with the Green Bay Packers cheerleaders in the 1970s and 1980s. Sumbitted photo
The team honored Van for her contributions last fall and are co-sponsoring part of Saturday’s tribute.

Van’s body of work includes the formation 40 years ago of the People’s Ballet Company, now the Dance Company, which puts on two major productions annually.

A graduate of St. Norbert College, Van spent six years as an instructor of dance and movement at the college and 16 years as the choreographer for St. Norbert College Music Theatre productions. She also worked with area schools, choreographing dozens of productions.

Van, who learned dance in Chicago, New York and California, considered a career as a professional dancer, but opted to teach.

“It is much more important to pass dance on to others and share what I know than to entertain,” Van said in a 1981 interview with the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Van is also a co-founder of the Green Bay Chapter of Adventures in Movement in 1970, a program aimed at teaching dance to people with disabilities. That program is expected to be reintroduced at the revamped Green Bay studio later this year.

“She brought dance back here. She studied with some of the greatest masters in jazz dance and traditional ballet,” said Campbell, a former student. “When she brought that back here, it really raised the level of dance in the community.”

Van’s studio is a non-competitive studio and focuses on dance company productions.

“Many of our students have gone on to dance professionally, or semi-professionally, and if they haven’t … (students) have a great ability to carry themselves well in public and in public speaking,” Campbell said.

Van, who still teaches in the studio, is passing the torch and legacy of the business to many of her students.

“It’s a good time, but it’s a bittersweet time, too,” Campbell said. “She’s done so much for our community.”