Former ballerina shares lessons learned while caring for dance teacher

Former ballerina shares lessons learned while caring for dance teacher

With help from a former dance student, a Lake Park ballet teacher is able to continue her aggressive battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Over the last 8 years, Carissa Kranz has been caring for Joan Miller, founder of the Palm Beach Ballet Center in Lake Park.

Miller established the studio in 1958 and spent 55 years training dancers to the highest caliber of excellence in her pre-professional dance program.

Ballet teacher Joan Miller and Carissa Kranz
Ballet teacher Joan Miller and Carissa Kranz

Over the decades, hundreds of students have graduated with many pursuing professional careers in the performing arts.

Today, several professional dancers who trained with Joan Miller continue to perform in the world’s greatest ballet, modern, and jazz dance companies.

However, the Palm Beach Ballet Center closed in 2013.

The iconic studio was unable to stay open without Joan Miller’s dedicated oversight after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“The studio was taken from her and was closing its doors because it wasn’t going to survive without her,” Kranz said. “Her home was in foreclosure. She had nothing.”

Carissa Kranz spent 20 years dancing with ‘Miss Joan’ on a scholarship through elementary, middle, and high school.

Ballet teacher and student.JPG
Ballet teacher and student.JPG

“Anyone who knows Joan Miller remembers that she was a tough cookie,” Kranz said. “She expected you to show up and do your best and reach your potential.”

Kranz said Joan Miller was a stickler for perfection but instilled the principles of discipline in her dancers.

Those lessons are a major component behind Kranz and her long list of accolades.

After graduating from Dreyfoos School of the Arts in 2002, she attended the University of Florida and UC Berkley School of Law.

Kranz also earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

“Dance teaches you how to be dedicated, how to problem-solve, how to be a perfectionist,” Kranz said.

However, when Kranz returned to Florida to practice law, she learned about her beloved dance teachers declining health condition.

“She was wearing an ankle monitor in a ward-room with five beds,” Kranz said after a visit to Joan Miller’s nursing facility. “I was shocked and devastated beyond belief. Her present reality was unacceptable. I was heartbroken.”

Miller did not have any living family members or an advocate at the time, so Kranz took over power of attorney and moved Miller into her home in 2013.

Kranz said her decision was met with words of discouragement and doubt from friends and family.

“Everyone thought I was crazy,” Kranz said.

However, Kranz moved forward with her plan to care for Joan Miller full-time and resigned from her full-time position at a Palm Beach County law firm.

Carissa Kranz.JPG
Carissa Kranz.JPG

Eight years later, Kranz now has her own law practice and is still managing Miller’s care.

She believes her success and support stems from the law of karma.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 50 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer's and other dementias.

Kranz continues to spread awareness about the disease and the lessons she's learned through her journey as a caretaker.

“Right now is all she understands,” Kranz said. “The past does not matter because she will not remember it. What just happened a minute ago does not matter anymore, let it go. It is over. She does not remember what is ‘real,’ as the only thing that is ‘real’ -- to us both -- is this present moment.”

She’s encouraging others to make the most of their life journey by wearing the NOW movement band she created.

The bracelet is shaped like a watch, but the silicone band reads “NOW” as a reminder to live in the present moment.

now.JPG
now.JPG

“What Alzheimer’s disease has taught me is that the only time that matters is now."

100% of profits support the continued care of Joan Miller and others affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about the NOW movement band, click here.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s free 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) is available 365 days a year, with confidential support available to caregivers, families, and the public.

WPTV is also the media sponsor of the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer's in Boca Raton on Sunday, Nov. 15.

Scripps Only Content 2020