In 1972 Dr. Alex Wanger, a lieutenant commander in the US Navy was stationed in Guam. A native of West Virginia the good doctor was half way round the world with his wife Linda Kogelschatz Wanger and five year old son, David. It was in Guam that their daughter, Emily, was born and Linda Wanger, who had been a medical technologist at GW University Hospital, became stay-at-home mom.
Lt. Cmdr. Dr. Alex left the Navy and came home. The family returned to West Virginia and settled on North Rosemont Avenue in Martinsburg.
"While my brother and I were growing up Mom stayed at home but she was always involved in something. Now she's an ultrasonographer at Shenandoah Valley Medical Center in Martinsburg and works in my father's office." Alex's parents, both doctors, lived and practiced at what is now the Thomas Shepherd Inn.
Little Emily showed early signs of an adventurous spirit and extraordinary talent as a dancer and at the age of nine was performing with the West Virginia Youth Ballet. "My parents always recognized the arts as a very important part of life. Especially my Dad, he loved classical music and I remember my grandfather being fascinated with Maria Tallchief. I grew up in a family filled with music and dance. "
"My father was a sentimental man and I sensed in him what I feel when listen to classical music. It gets in your veins. The Youth Ballet was at the Men's Club. Carolou Russell was my first teacher and she had the most wonderful sense of music and movement. Music and movement five days a week. I loved it. I feel blessed to have had that opportunity and that sense of direction. This sounds obvious but it's not. Many teachers just focus on technique. Carolou focused on technique and the music. I took lessons five days a week and wanted more. My parents never pushed me but they were always very supportive."
When Emily decided that she wanted to spend her sophomore year in high school at the Walnut Hill School for the performing arts in Natick, MA, her parents did what they did so well, they supported her decision. "In hindsight, it wasn't for meit was too focused. I realized that I always wanted to dance but I wanted to do more. I wanted to teach. I wanted to study art."
Emily returned to Martinsburg High and graduated in 1990. By then she had spent three summers in New York hanging out with her brother and studying at the School of American Ballet (the feeder school for the NYC Ballet.) "I loved New York. I was young and living in the moment and never batted an eye at traipsing around the city alone just listening to my Walkman.
New York is friendly and easy and I was like a kid in a candy store."
Emily and David also have two older step-sisters Sarah Wanger Davis, of Chicago and Brita Wanger Boyd who lives in Chapel Hill, NC. "Even though we never lived under the same roof, my sisters are very important to me."
Emily's first stop after graduation was Brazil where she was a Rotary International Exchange student and studied at Pitagoras, Belo Horizonte. She toured the country and laughs when recalling some of the accommodations: four stucco walls with a single light bulb and a mattress on the floor. There were free-range chickens around and a spirited horse that not only threw her, he stepped on her leg. All this is remembered with a fondness of someone who really enjoyed the experience. Of the horse incident she did admit, "It hurt."
In 1994, while a student at Whittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, majoring in French and Art History, Emily spent a semester at the Institute des Etudes Eruopeenes in Paris. "I chose Whittenberg because it had a huge international enrollment and an excellent international studies program. My friends were from Sweden, Chile, Brazil, all over, and I had a car so I was very popular.." Whittenberg had an excellent dance department and though Emily continually took lessons she remained firm in her decision not to focus strictly on dance. She lived in Paris through that summer as an intern at the Librarie Ernest Flammarion putting her Whittenberg course of study to use working in French and English creating indices and doing research.
"Technically I stopped dancing at this point but always took lessons wherever I went. You could say I was a "dance gypsy." With her parents advice as mantra "It doesn't matter what you do after dance but we want you to be able to walk anywhere in the world." Emily graduated, moved to Buenos Aires where she got a job teaching English.
From there it was back to the states and the Loudoun County public school system and then Country Day School in Kearneysville teaching French. Meanwhile Emily went back to college and earned a masters in education from Shenandoah U and then to Virginia Tech at the Intensive Second Language Institute.
Then one lovely summer day upon return from Argentina, while managing the pool at Cress Creek, Emily met CC's very handsome club manager, Brian Romine of Charles Town. It didn't take long to realize they'd met their match. Emily and Brian were married in '99, settled down in Shepherdstown and a year later started a family. "When I was pregnant I had every intention of going back to teaching in Loudon County. I really loved my job. But from the time Alex took his first breath, that was it. So I quit my job." That was eight years ago. Today Alex is in the 2nd grade at Country Day. Little brother Max is 2. Brian is a CPA with CoxHollidaPrice.
On a sunny morning last week I was sitting in the country kitchen of a spacious and wonderfully warm Romine home. The Colonial sits on Appomattox Lane in an obviously friendly neighborhood. I was watching Max put about five miles a minute on his sneakers and his mom enjoying every minute. The cheerful little blond guy was very busy running, climbing, stopping for a snack and then continuing his work of being two. "Brian's teaching Alex golf and tennis." Emily said with parental pride. "We took the boys to Canaan Valley over Christmas and Alex ran the Black Diamond." You're kidding! "No, really he did. "
In 2004 Emily saw a community need and with Mercedes Prohaska took the opportunity to fill it. The Shepherdstown School of Dance was born and for the past five years have taught and nurtured hundreds of students from age three to thirty. Mercedes is the managing director (also the owner of Encore) and Emily is the teacher and artistic director. Of this Emily said "I'm pretty certain there's never been a partnership that works better than ours."
The tagline reads: Shepherdstown School of Dance is committed to keeping the Art and Discipline of Classical Dance alive in our community. And alive it isfrom the weekly lessons to the Nutcracker at Christmas, Mothers Day performances at the Frank Center, at the WV Dance Festival in April, to the community outreach to the schools and the Canterbury Nursing Home, the dance continues.
It's a passion for choreography that has enticed Emily Romine to give her talent and time to Shepherd University Department of Music as artistic director of some of the most notable musical theater productions in recent years. In 2005 she was the artistic director of Company, (directed by Mark McCoy), in 2006 Pirates of Penzance (directed by Joe Yates,) and today the upcoming production of Big River (under the direction of Mark McCoy). Big River opens on February 5.
Emily continues to fine tune her talent with lessons at the Washington Ballet and Joy of Motion in DC. Music and movement is such a big part of her life. And loveso is love. She freely admits that she wouldn't be able to do this without Linda Wanger and Jean Romine. "My mother and Brian's mother are wonderful to me and great with the boys." Humility keeps this delightful force of nature from admitting that just maybe Linda and Jean appreciate her enormous talent and adventurous spirit. Maybe they just want to do what mothers do ... encourage it. And Alex and Max are their huge reward.