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Melanie Lewis-Yribar traces her success back to her roots in Buffalo

Jun 18, 2015 | Entertainment

It takes one person to change someone’s life forever. For Melanie Lewis-Yribar, that woman was Carol Blatner.

Melanie took her first dance class when she was three years old and started training at Blatner’s studio, Carol Joy’s School of Dance, when she was four.

“I danced non-stop,” Melanie said. “I wanted to keep doing the next thing and the next thing. I knew I loved it.”

She trained in the styles of tap, tumbling, contortion and jazz. Everything was going well, until she was around the age of eight.

Melanie’s dad left her and her mother and moved to California. Her mom worked hard to support Melanie’s love of dance, but struggled to keep up with the cost of multiple classes. “Miss Carol” saw something special in Melanie and decided to take away some of the stress, allowing her to take classes for free.

“Had she not, I definitely would not be where I am now,” Melanie said. “I have told her that probably a gazillion times.”

Melanie began teaching classes, assisting teachers at the studio and continued taking classes to improve her talent. “My mom worked her butt off to get me places we couldn’t afford to go to, and Miss Carol would drive me to competitions when my mom couldn’t take off work.”

After attending the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts for grades 5-8, Melanie decided to move to California for high school and live with her dad. She tried college for a year while continuing to dance and teach, but eventually got a dance agent and booked her first job as a dancer on a cruise ship.

“I ended up traveling the world for ten months,” she said. “It was a huge eye-opening experience. I knew I wasn’t ready to settle down and tried to focus on dancing professionally.”

When she was back on land, she realized her goal wasn’t as easy as it seemed and was rejected from numerous auditions over the next year and a half.

“There is a lot of rejection in this industry and a lot of reasons, sometimes out of your control,” she said. “It’s sad but you can’t torture yourself.”

Things finally clicked and she started down a professional dance career people dream of having.

Her resume includes dancing alongside pop stars Britney Spears, Beyonce, Backstreet Boys, Cher; performing on just about every awards show on television; and being part of hit movies “Along Came Polly,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Burlesque” and “We’re the Millers” to name a few.

“When I look at my dance career, I can say I did everything I wanted to do,” Melanie said.

“I got to be there with Beyonce during her first solo moment. She was cool but scared to death of how she would be perceived. It’s an amazing experience.”

Though Melanie is still dancing – she’ll be dancing with Cher next week in Monte Carlo – she has been transitioning into being a choreographer and a movement coach – most recently working on the hit Disney TV series “Girl Meets World” – while also being a wife to a fellow dancer and a mommy to her toddler son.

“If you tell the universe what you want, it comes to fruition. If I say it out loud and have a clear focus, things end up happening faster than when I’m unsure and wavering on what’s next,” she said.

“I was dancing with Catherine Zeta Jones on the Academy Awards and was three months pregnant,” she continued. “We were doing ‘All That Jazz,’ which is such an iconic number that I love, and the next phase of my life was about to happen. Dancer, mother, wife – all of these moments crash together. It was super cool.”

And none of these moments would have been possible if it wasn’t for Blatner and her daughter, Debbie.

“I feel like I wouldn’t have the life I have if Miss Carol would not have let me have a big presence in the studio when my dad left,” Melanie said, “and Debbie became my sister. She treated me like a star and gave me the strength to believe I could do it.

Though Carol Joy’s School of Dance is no longer around, Miss Carol and Debbie continue to show their unconditional support.

“Out of all my teachers and amazing experiences, Miss Carol gave me a gift,” she continued. “It was always so important to me to make sure she could see what she helped create. Every concert, every award, it means everything to me that she gets to see it.

“She is my second mom. I don’t think she’ll ever really understand the impact she has on my life.”

Lauren Kirchmyer is the entertainment reporter for BuffaloScoop.com. If you have a story idea, please email her at lk********@gm***.com.

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