Coming full circle: Dance teacher subs for former student, keeps team moving

Jessica Jane Mancini and Taylor Bradley. Bradley welcomed her first child, son Grayson Scott.
Jessica Jane Mancini and Taylor Bradley. Bradley welcomed her first child, son Grayson Scott.

Nearly two decades ago, elementary schooler Taylor Bradley began dance lessons with “Miss Jessica” at the latter’s Ridgefield Studio of Performing Arts. The experience ignited a lifelong love of dance, one that Taylor and Miss Jessica share to this day. They also share a love of teaching dance, especially to girls and young women.

Fast forward to 2019, Bradley is head coach of Ridgefield High School’s competitive dance team. "Miss Jessica" is Jessica Jane Mancini, former professional dancer, local business owner and elected member of the Ridgefield Board of Finance. While Bradley was her student, Mancini, then 26, taught through her first pregnancy and, after a brief leave, resumed teaching by bringing her newborn son into class. Now, Bradley, at age 26 (the same age as Mancini when her first child was born) has taken temporary leave from her RHS coaching duties to welcome her first child. As difficult as it was for Mancini to manage her dance studio during her pregnancies, it was impossible for the RHS dance team to pause during Coach Bradley’s maternity leave, owing to school year and competition schedules.

Bradley’s joyful life event coincided with a different kind of life event for Mancini. Last summer, Mancini sold her most recent local business, Ridgefield Dance & Fitness, and for the first time in years actually had free time during the day. In early November, anticipating her maternity leave and aware that Mancini was both available and passionate about dance instruction, Bradley suggested that RHS Athletic Director Dane Street consider Mancini to substitute. Street included Mancini in his search, ultimately hiring her for the late November-to-February stint.

The turn of events has worked out fabulously for everyone. Bradley was able to go on leave and prepare for the arrival of her first child without fear that her team would lose momentum, reduce practice rigor, or be subjected to a disruptive or unfamiliar change in style. And the RHS Dance Team has moved forward without missing a figurative or literal beat.

Likewise, knowing that she is helping a former student and keeping the RHS squad in competitive form has made the experience extremely satisfying for Mancini. Mancini’s sole reservation was whether the temporary position might conflict with her ability to serve on the Board of Finance. At Mancini’s request, the Ridgefield Board of Ethics examined the situation and voted unanimously that because the temporary position wasn’t contemplated until months after the current year budget was approved and would end before deliberations on next year’s budget, no conflict exists and the arrangement is permitted; the Board of Ethics codified its rationale in a written advisory opinion.

Bradley welcomed her first child, son Grayson Scott, on Dec. 20, 2018, and she has already begun attending practices, bringing her newborn with her just like Mancini did years ago. Bradley and Mancini marvel at the way their lives have come together again in circumstances so parallel to when they first danced together. They both wonder if, in years to come, one or both might similarly reconnect with members of the current RHS squad in their own dance line of life.