Jean Donnelly Cooke started dancing at the age of 9 at the Betty Jane Kemerer School of Dance. While attending Jeannette High School, she became a student assistant at the Nancy O’Hare Studio. After finishing high school, Jean began studying ballet and adagio at the Vera Leibau Studio in Pittsburgh. With a busy teaching schedule, Jean found time to attend the Victorian Modeling School of Pittsburgh and became a member of the Pittsburgh Models Club. It was during this time Jean met her future dance partner, Arthur Shearer. They opened a studio, “The Jean & Art Dance Studio” in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. Art decided to pursue his ballet career in New York and became a member of the New York City Ballet. Jean followed her true calling which was to be an exemplary, loving teacher.
Jean Donnelly Cooke
In 1958 Jean married Thomas Cooke and moved to New York for two years. In 1960 she returned to her home town of Jeannette and returned to the thing she loved most, teaching children to love music, dance and gain poise and self confidence.
Several of Jean’s former student’s have made successful careers in music, theatre and dance. Two former students moved to New York City and became members of the New York City Rockettes. Her two nieces were chosen to dance in a Bette Davis film entitled, “The Dark Secrets of the Harvest Home.” Many former students have opened successful studios of their own.
Jean then had two daughters Jeanne Cooke Stafford and Mary Jane Warner. Both girls decided to follow in their mother’s footsteps. Jeanne continue her Education at Penn State University. While taking jazz classes at the Central Pennsylvania Dance Workshop Jeanne earned a bachelor of science in Business Administration. Later she would continue her education at Seton Hill College where she received a teaching certificate in secondary mathematics. Jeanne has continued making the Jean Cooke Dance Studio successful. She believes that providing a nurturing atmosphere that is both fun and educational will help students to develop their physical and intellectual selves.
Jean’s youngest daughter Mary Jane Warner began dancing at the age of three and became an assistant to her mother at age fourteen. Besides her obvious love of dance, Mary loved the challenge of baton twirling. She became a majorette at Greensburg Central Catholic High School. She also competed in dance and baton through the Twirling Unlimited Association. Mary has been a choreographer for Penn Trafford and Southmoreland High School Majorettes. Her former students have competed and won numerous awards in dance, baton, pom pom’s and modeling. Mary has appeared in several summer stock productions such as “Footlights” and “South Pacific” featuring George Eisenhower of KDKA television. Today Mary is busy with advertising, fundraising, and managing retail operations for the studio.