Some teachers leave a lasting impression on their students. When asked to describe their former dance teacher, Melba Huber’s students described her as “a magnificent force,” “monolithic,” and “like Dumbledore in ‘Harry Potter.'” Huber’s life took her from Beaumont to Broadway to the Rio Grande Valley, where she founded her dance school in 1958.
Huber died last week at age 93. Her legacy, as Colleen DeGuzman wrote for the McAllen Monitor, lies in “the hundreds of students who have learned styles of dance at the school [and] carry ‘being a Melba’s Girl’ as part of their identity long after their last recital.”
DeGuzman says the building that houses Huber’s seven-studio dance school is iconic in the Valley.
“She started the biggest dance school in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, called Melba School of Dance,” DeGuzman told Texas Standard. “And everyone here can identify the building; it’s in huge, cursive letters on 10th street. And so everyone here who hears the word ‘Melba’ can associate it with dance.”
Huber knew dance world giants like Gregory Hines and Patrick Swayze. But for many, DeGuzman says Huber was like a fairy godmother who guided her students and taught them lessons and morals, in addition to the art of dance.
“She also wrote a lot of columns for national magazines for the dance community,” DeGuzman said. “And when she wrote about someone, that meant that person was really good. And so she made it a point to reach out to dancers who were not very well-recognized – mostly people of color – to give them a platform.”
Huber had two sons, Carey and Keith Kinsolving, and a daughter, Laurin Huber. Laurin followed in her mother’s footsteps: she had a budding dance career in New York until an a tragic car crash in 1980 left her paralyzed from the waist down.
“Laurin was on her way to becoming a very successful and beautiful and graceful dancer in New York City,” DeGuzman said. “I don’t know much about Lauren, but looking through the pictures, I could tell that this was a very dark time for Melba, seeing her own daughter unable to walk, even dance, and [not] have the career that she planned for her and trained her for it.”
Laurin outlived doctor’s original prognoses by decades, but she died in 2018 at the age of 56.
“Melba was a very strong woman,” DeGuzman said. “When I spoke to all her students, they said that she took her own advice and did not dwell on the negative and just continue to love, and love through dance.”
Melba Huber’s funeral was on May 3. Her school has chosen to dedicate its upcoming performance this weekend in her honor.
“They know that she would want them to continue on because, you know, the show must go on,” DeGuzman said.
Disclosure: Texas Standard producer/reporter Kristen Cabrera, who produced this segment, is a former student of Melba Huber.