Francisco Gella. Courtesy image.


Ricky Maalouf. Courtesy image.

For Mill Valley native Annie Thistle, movement has been a constant over the seven years since she created the Performing Arts Academy of Marin (PAAM).

​That’s been true not only within the dance-laden programs and classes at PAAM, but for PAAM itself. To manage its constant growth, Thistle has regularly moved PAAM, first from her living room to a space at the Community Church of Mill Valley, then to a space in the Alto Plaza shopping center near where UPS and Starbucks are now, and then to the 2,800-square-foot storefront space above Balboa Cafe at Mill Creek Plaza. And in late 2015, as she was back to utilizing multiple venues because her space wasn’t big enough, Thistle moved PAAM to a 6,000-square-foot space at 60 Belvedere Drive in Strawberry, just behind the Strawberry Village shopping center.

“We’re really happy to get under one roof,” she said at the time.

Now Thistle is taking advantage of the extra leg room. She’s bringing on a pair of acclaimed dancers and teachers as artists-in-residence. Ricky Maalouf and Francisco Gella, who will strengthen PAAM’s hip-hop and ballet dance programs, respectively.

Thistle met Gella at the 24 Seven Dance Convention. His Francisco Gella Dance Works, which includes instructors Jeffrey Hoffman, Julie Schulman and Thang Dao, is doing a year-long residency “to further strengthen our ballet programs,” Thistle says.

Maalouf, meanwhile, will bolster PAAM’s hip-hop dance program. Maalouf began dancing with Arizona State University’s Hip Hop Coalition at the age of 19 and has danced professionally for years, including stints opening for Omarion, Fergie and My Chemical Romance, among others.

Thistle notes that while students are paying for the sessions with Maalouf, Thiustle herself is bearing the brunt of the cost to bring Gella and his team to PAAM. She says she’d like to develop a program through which students who wouldn’t be able to afford these classes could receive financial assistance via a scholarship or endowment-funded financial assistance program.
“These are both awesome opportunities for the kids here, and I want as many of them as possible to experience it,” Thistle says.

The 411: The Performing Arts Academy of Marin (PAAM) is at 60 Belvedere Drive. MORE INFO.

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