Joanne DuBois performed in her first of three Broadway shows at the age of 18. She then went on to become the opening act for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis before performing across the east coast as a hit nightclub act. In 1955, she opened “Joanne DuBois School of Dance” in Philadelphia- and was an instant success. So successful that Joanne put an ad out for additional teachers. One of those teachers was Fred Knecht, and the two became a partnership, in and out of the studio. When they weren’t teaching dance, they were performing throughout Philadelphia as “DuBois and Kenny.” By 1959, the two were married and moved to Bristol, Pa. where they opened Knecht Dance Academy. Within years, their business expanded locations twice and in 1972 Joanne and Fred built their dream dance studio from the ground up in Levittown, Pa. This is where they won “Best of Bucks County” over twenty times, trained 1200 dancers a week, and became THE place to dance.
While owning and directing their dance studio, Joanne and Fred continued to rule the dance world. Joanne, the beauty and brains of the business, influenced the way most dance studios run today. Her self developed preschool curriculum is still integrated into our tiny tots program. Fred has been recognized with multiple lifetime achievement awards for his contribution to the arts and education. The two have been honored by national organizations across the United States and Canada, including: Dance Masters of America, Dance Educators of America, American Dance Awards, Dance Teachers Club of Boston, DanceLife Conference, and Bristol Borough arts and education Council. Before Miss Joanne passed away in 2022, The Knechts celebrated 63 years of marriage, raised three children and lived a love story that will live on forever.
Elise Knecht, the eldest of three Knecht children, grew up dancing at her parent’s dance studio. Immediately after graduating high school, Elise began her professional career, performing and choreographing for Six Flags Great Adventure. She went on to perform in New York City, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and the Bahamas, before returning home to teach at Knecht Dance Academy. While teaching and choreographing, Elise Knecht joined her parents as members of Dance Masters of America, ch. 26 New York City and was the First Vice President of ch.25 Pennsylvania Association of Dance Teachers. In 1996, Elise Knecht took over the ownership and artistic direction of Knecht Dance Academy. While directing the studio, Elise founded the Knecht Dance Company in 2003 and has been recognized both regionally and nationally for her choreographic excellence.
Ashlee Knecht, the eldest daughter of Elise, also followed in her family’s footsteps, dancing at the studio for her entire childhood. She won numerous national titles before furthering her dance education at Pace University in New York City as a commercial dance major. She completed a professional semester at Broadway Dance Center and 2 years at Dance Masters of America Teachers Training School. In 2015, Ashlee began teaching full time at the studio and in 2018, joined her mom as a co-owner and director of Knecht’s Danceworks. In 2018, Ashlee joined her family as a member of both Dance Masters of America chapters, New York City and Pennsylvania Association of Dance Teachers.
In 2019, the opportunity provided itself to expand the Knecht legacy to Mercer County and in 2020, Knecht’s Danceworks opened its doors. The Knecht family continues to provide the highest quality of dance education while also maintaining a positive, safe, and fun environment for all students to learn, grow, and thrive.
Of course, we pride ourselves on the caliber of talent we help to produce. To date, here are just SOME of our successful students:
-Christopher Gattelli (Tony Award winning choreographer for Newsies, Shmigadoon)
-Ryan McGinnis (iCarly, Ugly Betty, Law and Order, Mr. Dance of the United States)
-Aileen Quinn (Annie in "Annie" the movie)
Andrea McArdle (Annie in "Annie" on Broadway)
-Sarah Jayne Hughes (Miss Bucks County)
-Billy Larson (Mr. Dance of America, Tap World Champion)
-20 Miss Dance of America national title winners
-Master Dance of America national title winner
-Junior Mister Dance of the United States
Regardless of pursuing a career in the performing arts, all our students leave Knecht with the life lessons needed to live a successful and happy life. We’ve helped to raise great dancers but even greater humans.
For three generations, our family has been fortunate enough to share our love of dance with thousands of dancers. We’ve seen it all, done it all, and continue to be at the forefront of helping children grow through dance and movement. We thank all the families who have helped us to continue our legacy and look forward to remaining the future of dance education for generations to come.