Gaymarie Tomlinson, owner and artistic director of Studio 5D Dynasty Dance Centre in Winter Springs, spent more than three decades getting her dance students off on the right foot.
More than 5,000 students passed through the Lake Mary resident's dance studios in Missouri and Central Florida. Tomlinson's former students have gone on to become ballerinas for the American Ballet Theatre; members of the world-famous Radio City Rockettes and the Orlando Magic Dancers; and dance-studio owners.
"She touched so many of her students' lives," said her longtime friend Christy Graves, a Lake Mary resident whose daughter, Betsi Graves, was a student of Tomlinson's and in 1982 founded Urbanity Dance in Boston. "She helped me while I was battling breast cancer and took me to chemotherapy. She would have everybody laughing in the room. She was a creative artist who inspired everyone around her."
Tomlinson, 62, died June 16 from an esophageal rupture.
The mother of two, who was born in Sacramento, Calif., was an Air Force "brat" who moved often. Her family eventually settled in Orlando.
Tomlinson's mother, the late Odella Tschiedel, cultivated her daughter's appreciation for the arts, said Tomlinson's daughter Lisa Wardlaw, 40, of Atlanta. Tomlinson began studying the Cecchetti method of training in classical ballet, a disciplined system that prepares the dancer's body for the strains of public performance, with the late dance pioneer Edith Royal, who helped shape the cultural life of Central Florida.
The ballerina continued taking dance lessons and played leading roles while attending the University of Central Florida until she married and took an eight-year break to raise a family. One of her cherished lead roles was in "Swan Lake."
A turning point in her life came shortly after moving to Cape Girardeau, Mo., in 1982, where her husband opened a business.
"My mother was bored and decided to open her first dance studio in 1983," Wardlaw said.
To honor Royal, she had gotten permission from her to name her studio Royale Ballet and School of the Performing Arts. She moved back to Central Florida in the late 1990s, and within six months opened a small studio in Lake Mary. Her passion was ballet, but she rolled with the times and offered a variety of classes such as hip hop, improv and tumbling.
"She was very hard core about teaching ballet to her students," Wardlaw said. "She left the other instructors to teach the other styles of dancing."
"The '5' in the name of her studio signified the five basic ballet positions for arms and feet and the 'D' embodied the different characteristics of dancing — dance, dimension, dedication and drive," she said.
Tomlinson won numerous awards for her choreography and the studio's dance competitions.
"I can only imagine the countless lives that she touched in her lifetime and the legacy she has left behind," said a posting from an online tribute.
Tomlinson is also survived by her son, Phil Tomlinson of Cape Coral; a brother, Raymond Tschiedel of Winter Park; and five grandchildren.
Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, Goldenrod Chapel, Winter Park, handled arrangements.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-742-5932352-742-5932