Instructor changes lives through art of dance

Alumni dancers traveled to Mississippi to celebrate Jo Carlisle's 50th Dance/Gymnastics Recital on Saturday. (Photo Source: WDAM)
Alumni dancers traveled to Mississippi to celebrate Jo Carlisle's 50th Dance/Gymnastics Recital on Saturday. (Photo Source: WDAM)
Jo Carlisle hosted her 50th Dance/Gymnastics Recital on the campus of Jones Community Junior College on Saturday. (Photo Source: WDAM)
Jo Carlisle hosted her 50th Dance/Gymnastics Recital on the campus of Jones Community Junior College on Saturday. (Photo Source: WDAM)
Students performed various dance number during the recital including jazz and tap. (Photo Source: WDAM)
Students performed various dance number during the recital including jazz and tap. (Photo Source: WDAM)

ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - Jo Carlisle, who affectionately prefers to be called "Jo" has been changing lives through the art of dance for over 60 years. Students from as far as Georgia came to participate in her 50th Dance/Gymnastics Recital at Jones Community Junior College's M.P. Bush Fine Arts Building on Saturday.

"I'm just kind of numb, because I'm not ready to quit," she said of teaching.

Jo Carlisle and Blake Nagy's Performing Arts Center in Petal offers classes in cheer, tumbling, tap, jazz, ballet and lyrical for ages two and a half years old and up. And dancing isn't the only skills students can learn at her studio. Her pupils train in pageantry and modeling as well.

Raquel Davis enjoyed Miss Jo's dance classes so much that when she had a daughter she enrolled her in them, too.

"When she was three-years-old, I drove from Meridian, Mississippi to the Hattiesburg studio, because it was extremely important for my child to take her first year of dance from who I took all these years," Davis said. "She's the best and I didn't think there would be anybody that could give her that first year experience like Miss Jo could."

Davis says Carlisle means a lot to her students in and outside of the classroom.

"We always felt like we were her favorite," she said. "Everybody thought they were her favorite until we found out everybody is her favorite. She makes everybody feel like a somebody and she's just been a blessing to all of us."

Ever since she was three years old, Alexandra Barfield has taken tap, jazz, lyrical and ballet lessons from Carlisle.

"Tap was always Miss Jo's favorite and tap is my favorite, because of that," Barfield said.

And even after Barfield moved out of Mississippi, her passion for dance never stopped.

"I moved away to Louisiana and I continued dancing, because of that love of dance she instilled in all of our students," she said. "And we just love Miss Jo so much. So, I decided to come back."

Barfield along with other former students of Carlisle's dance program performed an alumni dance in honor of their beloved instructor.

"It just means the world to us and Miss Jo that we can actually show her how much we love her and how much we care for her and the impact that she's had on all of our lives," said Barfield of the importance of former students performing at the recital.

Even though Carlisle says she tired, she doesn't have any plans to stop sharing her love of dance with others.