Shining a spotlight on the performing arts community.

Premier Performing Arts: Perfection in Motion

  • May 29, 2020
Professional performers are used to “winging it.” So much can happen on stage – forgotten lines, misplaced props, lights going out – that improvising becomes a necessary skill.
But since the advent of COVID-19, winging it has become a way of life. For Premier Performing Arts in Monroeville, PA, the situation was further complicated by its being a proprietary establishment – not a non-profit.
Even so, the show must go on, and does. “The secret to our success has been our incredible staff. We could not be prouder of the professional and caring instructors,” said Jennifer (Jenn) Probola, co-owner with Kim Meyers-Merge of Premier Performing Arts. “They are the heart of our program!”
Before launching Premier Performing Arts, both Meyers-Merge and Probola were immersed in Pittsburgh’s rich arts scene. Meyers-Merge danced on Broadway in “The Tap Dance Kid” and with many touring companies, dinner theaters and summer stock shows across the United States; locally, she has danced with the Pittsburgh CLO, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the Pittsburgh Opera. Probola, on the other hand, concentrated on technique and choreography – which has been featured once in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and twice in the Tournament of Roses Parade. Both she and Meyers-Merge have worked with area high schools to develop dance programs.
If dance could be said to be in the blood, it is present in these ardent professionals. “Our students have been accepted into the most prestigious dance and musical theater collegiate programs in the country,” noted Probola. “We believe in artistry, creative expression, and the dedication it requires to achieve classical technique.”
One student, high school sophomore Emily Coles, has been with the school for seven years. “Premier has also taught me a lot about confidence in performing and how important that confidence is in pushing your dancing to the next level. I love that I can walk out of every class with new corrections to apply and new goals to reach.”
Originally the Larry Cervi School of Performing Arts, they changed the name to Premier Performing Arts after the 2017 retirement of their partner, Cervi, in 2017. “We offer instruction in dance, acting, voice, musical theater and piano classes,” said Probola. “All instruction at Premier Performing Arts is offered by professionals. Our staff discusses at the end of each school year the progress the students have made, then agrees on the proper placement for the upcoming school year.”

“The school does not participate in competitions but offers master classes with industry experts,” she explained. “Many of our staff members are involved with choreography and directing projects with middle and high school musicals, dance teams, show choirs and community projects. A few of our staff members perform in dance companies and performance ensembles.”

There are dance recitals and music showcases are scheduled throughout the year. While these are not mandatory, they offer experience for young performers who are taking PPA’s lessons in voice, acting, musical theater and piano. “Some of our past performances raised money for charities such as The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Our latest performance was ‘Frozen Jr.’ in December 2019,” Probola said, adding, “we’ve also taken our students to perform in Disney World and Hershey Park.
Into this busy environment of professional achievement, the coronavirus has introduced a new normal of school closures, quarantines, sheltering in place and more. Fortunately for PPA, its owners were already using technology to enhance aspects of operations. Email, online billing, group messaging and video conferencing technology for business communication, and access to online dance communities and live performances projected on studio TVs to broaden the student’s educational resources. “We also use social media outlets Facebook and Instagram for informational and fun activities,” said Probola. So when the physical business was shuttered, PPA began using Zoom “to teach and also post videos for our students to follow during quarantine.”
Speaking of technology, Probola learned about Ludus from Gateway High School, in whose beautiful, 1,005-seat auditorium PPA holds two dance recitals a year. “They used Ludus for their musical ticket sales and recommended your company.” Now, PPA uses Ludus for its annual dance recitals. “The staff has always answered our questions quickly and our clients find the site easy to navigate. And”, Probola noted, “I love that I can copy over the blueprint for the auditorium for each show. Online ticket sales made the recital season so much easier!”

As states begin to relax their pandemic restrictions, it’s still too early to make plans. Still, while virtual classes are not ideal, “We are so fortunate to have been able to teach Zoom classes,” said Probola. “Our students and staff look forward to being back in person as soon as it is safe for everyone.”

For more information on performances at Premier Performing Arts, visit their Ludus ticketing portal at