• Gabriel Donio

Dance Magic’s Baldwin dies

Former school board member was 62


Dawn Baldwin

HAMMONTON—Dawn Baldwin, loving mother, wife and grandmother, volunteer, school board member and the longtime owner and director of locally-based Dance Magic Dance Studio, died on April 13 at the age of 62, peacefully and comfortably surrounded by her family that loved her very much, her obituary said.


Baldwin was the owner and director of the Dance Magic in Hammonton for 40 years. During that time she taught tap, jazz and ballet to two generations of the area’s children, her obituary said.


Michele Interlante Peterson started as Baldwin’s student at Dance Magic, then became a professional dancer, later returning as an instructor at Dance Magic. Her daughter, Juliet, 10, is now a student at the dance studio as well.


“I started as a student at 12 years old when she opened her doors. I was an original Dance Magic Company member. Dawn had a way of sharing her love for dance, and always expects everyone to work hard and reach their goals. She always taught the girls much more than that—responsibility and respect. She always said that wherever we went, we were representing Dance Magic, and that we had to behave in a certain way,” Peterson said.


Peterson said she continued as a dancer, thanks in large part to the instruction she received from Baldwin.


“I went on to become a professional dancer for 14 years. That’s when I was away from the studio, working down south and living in Las Vegas for 10 years working professionally. When I came back, I got in touch with her and returned to teach. I’ve been back 14 years,” Peterson said.


During their long relationship together, Baldwin became many things to Peterson, she said.


“For me personally, she was my teacher, and then my mentor, and then a best friend. To me, she taught me to be a professional dancer, because she expected a lot from us. You’ve seen her recitals—they are far above the level of the normal dance recitals,” Peterson said.


Now the grown-up former students are bringing their children to Dance Magic, she said.


“A testament to her is we have taught generations of dancers at Dance Magic. Right now in this current year, I feel there are so many parents who are former dancers that have their girls at the studio this year,” Peterson said.


In addition to the more traditional dance lessons provided by studios, Dance Magic is also home to the “Dancing Dads,” a local group of dancers’ fathers who danced themselves and became a favorite at parades and recitals.


“She just wanted to have the parents involved in a different way, and to have the dads involved instead of the moms just made it more fun. She knew it didn’t have to be serious. Later on, a bunch of them came back to a reunion during one of the anniversary years. It was a lot of fun,” Peterson said.


Peterson felt Baldwin’s legacy resides in the hearts, minds and feet of generations of dancers who also gained life lessons as they were learning their steps.


“Her love for dance is what started the studio. She wanted to pass that on to little girls. But it just became so much more than that. Multiple students have told me that Dawn taught them so much more: how to have confidence in themselves, how to believe in themselves. They carried what she taught them into any aspect of their lives. I’m the dancer and the teacher that I am today because of her,” Peterson said.


According to her obituary, Baldwin was originally from North Babylon, New York where she discovered her passion for dance at June Claire Studios studying with Lynda Gasche. She came to Atlantic City in 1980 when she was cast in The Brighton Hotel Casino production of “Hello Broadway.”


She married her husband, Dwight Baldwin, in 1982. In that same year they opened the Dance Magic Dance Studio, her obituary said.


Outside of her passion for dance, Baldwin dedicated her time to charity and her community. She choreographed the Hammonton High School musical for the past 30 years; organized the Hammonton Christmas tree lighting; and was the vice president of the Hammonton Cancer Foundation where she helped organize many fundraising events. She also served on the Hammonton Board of Education.


Former Hammonton Board of Education President Robert Capoferri served on the board with Baldwin when the referendum for the new Hammonton High School was passed in 1999.


“Dawn was always willing to learn. She came to all the committee meetings. She was an advocate for the kids. It’s a big loss,” Capoferri said.


Baldwin is predeceased by her father, John Alex and mother, Carol “Bo” Rueger. She is survived by her husband, Dwight; two sons, Max (Waldy) and Alex (Megan); a granddaughter, Hayleigh; and her brother, Scott Alex.


“The family would like to thank the community for the outpouring of love for Dawn,” her obituary said.


Family and friends were invited to attend her visitation on Tuesday, April 19 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Marinella Funeral Home, 102 N. Third St., Hammonton.


In addition, there will be a celebration of Dawn’s life held on Wednesday, April 20 starting at 7 p.m. at the Hammonton High School Performing Arts Center, 566 Old Forks Rd., Hammonton, NJ.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Hammonton Cancer Foundation, P.O. Box 1066, Hammonton, NJ 08037.


Arrangements were by Marinella Funeral Home.