Gail Harts, CEO/Director
It all started when…
Gail Harts, Native New Orleanian and Kindergarten Teacher migrated to New York to pursue her Dance career in 1974 where she landed in White Plains NY, where her Aunt Lois Bronze was Alderman. She directed her to the Greenburgh Community center where she became the performing Arts Director teaching Dance and Performing Arts. It was there she met her husband Preston Harts a native of Portsmouth, Virginia. She did some performing in some off Broadway shows where she realized that teaching and working with the community kids was her passion. Mr. Preston Harts a School Administrator was called back to Portsmouth due to the passing of his father and was needed by his mother who was confined to the bed. He decided to marry Ms. Brown when they arrived in Portsmouth. This was in December 1978. She decided to to work for the YMCA Outreach Program where she was a Community Program Director monitoring students who were missing school. She organized a program in Norfolk, Virginia, in Lamberts Point in a church through a Government Grant to help keep these kids in school. A group of 15 dropouts the program was a success and 12 of her students graduated high school and 9 of them enrolled in college. This being a government funded program was not funded the next year due to funds.Mrs. Harts moved on to work as an Occupational Therapist at the Norfolk Psychiatric Clinic, working with troubled teens and adolescents. She became pregnant with her first child and decided she wanted to be close to home when her child was born. She knew all she wanted to do was dance. This was her life from two years of age and it is what she loved. She decided to talk to someone in Parks and recreation about having a dance program in their facility, and Mr. Fred Bayersdoffer in the Cultural Arts Building downtown High Street gave her that opportunity to open her class upstairs in his building, and a portion of her fees rent to their program. This was the birth of The Gail Harts Dance Company, June 1979. Her son Derrick was born in September of 1979. One of her New York students she mentored moved to Portsmouth to help her until the baby was born. Her first Recital was at Willett Hall in June, with a total of 13 students. Some of those students went on to do great things in the Arts.
These young people were responsible for the wonderful years that GHDC. Ms. Harts later became housed in The Girls Club of Portsmouth on Race St. in 1988, where she became the Majorette Director of The Twirling Stars, where she taught Baton and Dance. The company grew to 150 students strong and moved to their own building in Churchland where her family lived. Ages 2 up, male and female students and their parents as well. The students spent much time at the studio because there was Discipline, Mentoring and Studying being done there, Parents supported these programs and trusted Mrs Harts with their children. Performances were done at Willett Hall every year and the students traveled all over this United States Competing in National Dance Competitions, and winning everywhere the went. Most of these students graduated from colleges and maintained honor grades. At this time many of the students have gone to Broadway to perform in shows such as The Color Purple, Dreamgirls, Alladin, Shuffle Along, The Lion King, Hamilton, Grease, and her student who began with the company at 3 years of age is playing Miss Tina Turner. Mrs. Harts was Magnet Dance Coordinator at Churchland High School and the first in school Dance director at I.C Norcom High where two students asked her to come; she taught for five years in both schools. Ms. Barbara Clark and Ms. Valerie Winborne both professionals in the Arts and Fashions.
Gail Harts has now been teaching in Portsmouth for more than 40 years as a non-profit organization. She is now back Downtown Portsmouth, where GHDC was first birthed and continuing the journey.