In 1979, founders Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz and Mary Lynn Taylor opened the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance in a small house in North Atlanta. Anticipating only a few students their first year, they were amazed to enroll many more than that at the grand opening. Those early years kept them both busy taking turns teaching and answering non-stop telephone calls to register new students.
From those humble beginnings grew a program that has trained thousands of young dancers. After 38 years, the studio has over 1000 students, a resident performing arts company, 25 faculty and 10 staff members and several affiliated musicians. The school offers over 130 classes each week taught by dedicated professional instructors who have experience teaching across the USA and abroad. Special events combine with training and performances to keep the dancers’ calendars full year-round.
In 1985 Tolbert Yilmaz founded a 501c3 resident performing company, the Roswell Dance Theatre. The purpose for the company was to provide training and performance opportunities to the school’s growing numbers of dedicated and gifted dancers. Acceptance is based on annual auditions. Successful dancers exhibit high levels of proficiency in ballet, pointe and modern dance.
In addition to an annual holiday performance of The Nutcracker, Roswell Dance Theatre produces a spring show each year, performing classical and original works including Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Peter and the Wolf, Frozen, Aladdin, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland and many others. Other favorite annual performances include a Modern Company concert performance and a dancer choreography showcase to benefit a local charity.
As the dance school begins its latest dance season, Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz and Mary Lynn Taylor are at the studio every day, teaching and overseeing classes and rehearsals. The school is now teaching the children of the children that began dancing with them in 1979. And the goal remains the same: to provide a positive nurturing environment for each dancer to excel to his or her potential in the dance disciplines offered.
Founders Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz
and Mary Lynn Taylor
An accomplished dancer and performer, Nancy has given the gift of dance to thousands of students. Nancy is incredibly driven and pours her heart into her hard work in everything she does at Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance. The school has grown, evolved and excelled under her leadership and passion for the education of young dancers.
Beyond the walls of our studio, Nancy has shared her expertise with thousands of other dancers and dance education professionals through her 5-year tenure as president of SERBA, the Southeast Regional Ballet Association. Upon completion of her term in the Southeast Region, Nancy stepped up to the National board of Regional Dance America. She is a true leader of today’s dance industry who has been honored many times for her contributions to the arts at the local, state, regional and national levels.
In her years on stage as a dancer, Nancy’s extensive dance training centered on Ballet, Tap, and Jazz. She studied with notable teachers such as Robert Joffrey of the Joffrey Ballet New York, David Howard, Pittman Corry, Igor Schwezoff, Gabriela Taub-Darvash, and many more.
Nancy has performed and worked with The Sid and Marty Krofft Productions, Walt Disney Productions, Southern Ballet of Atlanta, Cobb-Marietta Ballet as well as Donny and Marie Osmond, Peggy Fleming, Ernest Borgnine, Tina Turner and Tony Orlando – just to name a few. She was also featured performer in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, performing with Gloria Estefan, Little Richard, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Faith Hill, Celine Dion and Gladys Knight.
Nancy brings to the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance a vast knowledge of theater and dance, and a love for the performing arts which is surpassed only by her concern for the development of each individual student.
Mary Lynn Taylor, “Mrs. Mary,” is a gifted and inspiring teacher, beloved by the students at the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance. Teaching many classes of our youngest dancers, Mrs. Mary has truly influenced countless dancers who dance and choreograph professionally worldwide today. Her caring and consistent manner is the complete and perfect combination for students to learn and excel in their dance careers.
Mary Lynn has been teaching ballet for over 40 years, at The Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance for 38 years. She feels blessed to be part of the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance family and is grateful to have raised her three daughters in such a rich dance environment from when they were three years old until they graduated from high school. As with so many of her students, Mrs. Mary saw how much dance training enhanced her daughters’ poise, grace, memory skills, confidence and time management.
Mary Lynn Taylor began her dance training at the Atlanta School of Ballet. She then studied for ten years at the Decatur School of Ballet. She was chosen to be a member of the Decatur-Dekalb Civic Ballet Company for five years. Upon her high school graduation Mary Lynn enrolled at Texas Christian University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, majored in Ballet and minored in Theatre Arts. Her curriculum included special courses in dance teaching, modern technique, acting, pas de deux, choreography and pantomime.
She auditioned and was chosen to be a member of the Fort Worth Ballet Company. She performed in The Nutcracker Suite, Coppelia, Aurora’s Wedding and many other ballets. While residing in Texas, she taught at the Lena Pope Children’s Home, Texas Christian University Ballet Department, and was director of the ballet division of the Redon Cudney Performing Arts Academy. Before joining our teaching staff, she was invited to be a guest teacher at the Lilburn School of Ballet and Southern Ballet.
There is always something happening at the studio – early-morning beginner ballerinas, adult professional classes, evening master classes with a guest instructor, weekend rehearsals, planning for our next production, professional photo shoots, or the simple joy of a young dancer leaping across the floor in class. We operate year round with over 130 weekly classes, special events, camps, and lots and lots of rehearsals.
OPEN School Operations Highlights: Weekly Classes from September – May, Recitals and photos for all performing classes in May. Auditions for the Nutcracker in September and for Spring Concert in January. Holiday breaks follow most Fulton County School dates with some exceptions.
RDT Company Highlights: August Boot Camp, Weekly and Weekend Rehearsals, Weekly Classes Sept – May, the Nutcracker, HUGS, Spring Concert, Straight From the Heart, SERBA, Auditions in May for the following season.
Other events include summer camps and intensives, Girl Scout events, community outreach, studio rentals, and parent meetings.
To keep up, check the yearly calendar, the season performance schedule, weekly eblast, grid of weekly classes, the monthly newsletter or stop at the Front Desk. For more information or just for fun, follow us on Facebook (@Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance) or Instagram (@RoswellDanceTheatre_TYSOD).
Our current space, the second home of the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance since it was founded, has served our students and families for well over 20 years. We are near the intersection of Holcomb Bridge Road and Alpharetta Street (Hwy 9), convenient from North Fulton, East Cobb and Forsyth Counties.
Tour our current home during business hours and learn more about our new building as well. Sprung floors, high ceilings and state-of-the-art sound systems complete the 5 custom-built studio spaces where students train today. Safety and convenience are the benefits of our internal closed circuit television. Drop off and pick up through the car pool lane, or park in our ample lot, walk in, and relax comfortably while your dancer is in class.
HOWEVER, change is happening! We have broken ground on a spectacular new building that will open in 2019 at the corner of Houze Road and Houze Way in Roswell, just 1 mile north of our current location. We look forward to additional studio space, an in-house costume shop, props closet, physical therapy suite, rooftop lounge and more for our dancers, families and guests as we begin dancing in our new space next year.