Obituary: Maryen Lorrain Miller / Dance instructor; mother of 'Dance Moms' star

Aug. 6, 1927 - Feb. 8, 2014

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Maryen Lorrain Miller, who created her own happiness by inspiring generations of children to find their passion for dance, had a motto:

"Happiness is not something you find; it's something you create."

She passed her passion for dance on to her only daughter, Abby Lee Miller, a reality television star featured in Lifetime's "Dance Moms" and "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition."

The studio formerly called Maryen Lorrain Studios is owned and operated by her daughter as Reign Dance Productions in Penn Hills.

On Feb. 8, Mrs. Miller died after a long battle with cancer. She was 86.

Mrs. Miller grew up in Greenfield, attended St. Rosalia Catholic School and, at 18, relocated to Florida, where she owned and operated several successful studios around Miami Beach for 20 years.

According to her family, she lived a glamorous life before returning to Pittsburgh to marry George L. "Salty" Miller and open another studio.

Her business grew, as she opened dance schools in Penn Hills, Squirrel Hill, Forest Hills, Eastmont and Plum.

She was a life member of Dance Masters of America and former president of Dance Masters of Pennsylvania, Chapter 10.

Some of the children who had the privilege to "swing and sway with Maryen McKay" went on to become successful performers or open dance schools.

"She had a wonderful heart and a gift for teaching children that she passed down for many years," said Jessica Ice, who taught at Reign Dance Productions.

Even though Mrs. Miller was not teaching at that time, everyone in the studio knew her, said Ms. Ice.

"She always made a point to support her students, even Abby's students, whom she never taught," Ms. Ice said.

Longtime Broadway performer Rachelle Rak learned how to dance at her own mother's dance studio, which was a contemporary of Mrs. Miller's.

Ms. Rak last fall became a judge during the second season of "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition."

"While I was teaching the Broadway dance audition challenge, she came in to watch. It's funny, even though so many years had passed, I felt her presence, and I felt like a kid again," Ms. Rak said. "I will miss her beautiful spirit, her sassy updo and her incredible respect for the art of dance."

In June, her daughter's studio will present "A Celebration of Life: Maryen Lorrain, One for the History Books," in conjunction with its annual dance concert.

Donations may be made to the Maryen Lorrain Children's Dance Foundation, 7123 Saltsburg Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15235.

Nikki Pena: npena@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1280.


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