Dance studio rallies around owner facing challenges


Roz Miller, owner of Synergy Performing Arts Academy, with former student turned choreographer Amy Russell. The two collaborated on a therapeutic dance number for Roz that represents her journey over the last year.

No matter what life throws at you, sometimes you just have to put your head down and keep charging, much like a rhinoceros.  The “rhino theory” as it’s often called is a favorite of Roz Miller, owner of Synergy Performing Arts Academy, whose drive to keep charging no matter what life throws at her has been nothing short of inspirational and moving over the past year.

It all began in the fall, shortly before the 2015-16 dance season started. While students were excited to return to the cozy studio on Pike Street – Synergy Dance by Roz – an announcement came that a new location had been found and a renovated studio would be ready in a few short months.

Parents were overjoyed. The Pike Street studio had grown so much in the last year the waiting room was overflowing with bodies, especially on busier nights when there was rarely a chair to be found. The new studio held a grand opening just before Christmas. Synergy’s musical program offerings were expanded. It was an exciting time for everyone in the Synergy family.

The holidays came and went but the new year was filled with challenges for the Miller family. Their 18 month  old son, Cruz, developed a fever and rash that lingered. After consulting with their pediatrician, test results revealed a heartbreaking diagnosis: Leukemia.

In the span of only a few terrible days, the Millers went from “average” to living through every parent’s worst nightmare. In spite of visits to doctors and a battery of tests, the family was unsure how to keep going. However, the Millers charged forward, and their indomitable spirit stayed strong.

Roz and Danny Miller focused their attention on Cruz, and were floored by the unexpected outpouring of love and support from across the country. When word spread of Cruz’s diagnosis, friends and family rushed to help. Cards, letters and gifts arrived at the studio. A GoFundMe campaign raised thousands of dollars in a week and everyone in pitched in to hold successful spaghetti dinner and meal train fundraisers.

“The outpouring of support has been unbelievable and continues daily for this special family,” said Janet Freeland, office manager for Synergy Performing Arts Academy. “They came together because of their love for Cruz, Mylia, Roz and Danny. The Millers have made the atmosphere at the dance studio one of family and through all of this the studio has drawn closer and stronger.”

Five months has passed since his official diagnosis, and Cruz has undergone two rounds of treatment. The Millers are thankful to report the last round of treatment left Cruz with no additional cancerous cells and he has been cleared to move on to chemotherapy. Through a wild, crazy, and emotional journey, the Miller have kept on charging.

At the studio, Roz has handled the entire experience with grace and composure. Truly, she has embodied the rhino. Still, she knows she needs a release.

In the beginning of her studio-owner career, Roz always danced at least once on stage at the recital, but last year she opted not to do so. The parents were not happy and have spent the season demanding her return to the  stage. She agreed, but doubted she’d have time to choreograph an original routine, so she decided to ask someone else to handle the choreography.

She asked former student Amy Russell, who at the time was attending Western Michigan University studying dance with a minor in entrepreneurship. Russell has a longstanding history with Synergy and trained at the studio for four years.

“Synergy was a great place for me to begin to develop my artistry,” said Russell. “The staff members were really motivational and encouraging in my development. They didn’t just want me to grow as a dancer, they wanted me to grow as an artist and a person too.”

Russell has been working closely with Roz to choreograph a therapeutic dance number for Roz that represents her journey over the last year for the June recital – appropriately titled “All You Need is Love”.

“I couldn’t understand why something like this would happen to such a loving, energetic child,” said Russell. “I talked to Roz about what she wanted and listened to the music to get an idea for the piece. I think my biggest inspiration for the choreography was the sense of strength and togetherness I seen with the Millers and Synergy.”

While the piece is only one of many planned for the June 5 recital, there likely won’t be a dry eye in the house when Roz performs Russell’s choreography. For Roz, the performance will double as therapy and is helping her to cope with the traumatic events of the past year.

“I think the audience will see the community and love this family and studio has while Roz is dancing the piece,” said Russell. “I just want Roz to feel comfortable in the choreography and movement so she can dance her heart out for Cruz.”

The entire studio and beyond has opened their hearts to help, support the Millers as they keep on charging. Cruz is an important member of the Synergy family. All the dancers and parents know him well as he’s always roaming the halls. For five months, everyone felt his absence while he was undergoing early treatments. When he returned in mid-May, he was welcomed with open arms.

Synergy Performing Arts Academy will host their 6th Annual Recital on June 5 at Fort Cherry High School in McDonald at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 aand the show will run about four hours.

Story by Hayley Lynn Martin for Pennsylvania Bridges