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Turner Center for the Arts Active Arts Instructor Melissa Pihos teaches a free, weekly IMPROVment® class on Mondays, 5-6pm, at the Turner Center Galleries. She described the many physical and mental benefits of dance to be gained through IMPROVment® classes.

Pihos’ class incorporates a dynamic range of dance-based exercises designed to spark creativity, while also benefiting brain and body health. The beginner-friendly class begins with seated warm-ups, and gradually transitions to standing movements behind the chair and into the open space for further improvisation, then back to the chair for a cool-down.

Dance first captured Pihos at the age of two, from the very first class she took. She has been pursuing the art form ever since, through her education and then as her career. While in the process of earning her Master of Fine Arts in Dance, Pihos felt drawn to expand her knowledge of filmmaking and create a documentary about her father’s extraordinary life and battle with Alzheimer’s disease for her graduate thesis. Her finished multimedia work, titled “PIHOS A Moving Biography,” stands as a deeply personal and artistic accomplishment. It also serves as a living testament to his memory and a testament to the transformative power of art. Observing her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s also inspired Pihos to earn her IMPROVment® certification later in life, to equip herself with tools to support those facing challenges similar to his. 

Pihos is now a tenured Associate Professor of Dance at Valdosta State University, a Certified IMPROVment® Teacher, and an educator for Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Film camps. She credits her mother, a retired teacher, and her countless dance instructors for inspiring her to value education, ultimately giving her the passion to turn her love for dance and education into a lifelong career. Pihos strives to use her passion for dance to explore the diverse facets of artistic expression, as well as to inspire the next generation of artists.

Pihos described the unique synergy of physical and mental benefits offered through dance, saying that “Engaging in movement stimulates the brain, which promotes cognitive function, motor function and overall well-being.” She went on to say that “Beyond dance, fostering creativity through any artistic outlet, be it writing, cooking, drawing, or music, empowers individuals to express themselves authentically. This self-expression serves as a powerful tool for navigating life’s challenges and fostering resilience.”

To learn more about IMPROVment® and other beginner-friendly classes at the Turner Center, visit, or contact Turner Center Art Education Administrator at or 229.247.2787.

Melissa Pihos (far right) and students warming up during an IMPROVment® class at the Turner Center for the Arts.