Teacher was ‘force to be reckoned with’

Published 1:05 am Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Say, “Mrs. Sellars,” and generations who grew up as students of the Dorothy Rainer Sellars School of Dance will stand up straighter and smile.

The woman who inspired that behavior through 57 years of dance classes died Monday morning. She was 86.


Mrs. Sellars was an Opp native who studied at Hunting-don College and later in New York City before opening a dance studio in Florala in 1953. She moved the school to Opp in 1974 and continued to teach until late spring of 2011.

Her twin sisters, Alice and Clarice Rainer, professional pianists known as “The Rainer Twins,” said Monday that Mrs. Sellars was recovering from a broken hip when she died.

Asked how three sisters reared in Opp grew up to be professional artists, they said in unison, “We just don’t know.”

Their parents encouraged their interests, they said.

“The Twins,” as they were called by their beloved older sister, came home every year before they retired to Opp to be a part of the school’s annual performance, the Dance Review.

“We got along great as long as we did what she said,” they recalled laughingly of those days. “She was something else.”

Trippy McGuire and his wife did cameo roles in those shows every year beginning in 1990.

“I’ve been a tour director, a lifeguard and a girl watcher,” he recalled.

McGuire called Mrs. Sellars “an Opp institution.”

“Dance was something my daughters started looking forward to as tiny girls,” he said.

Opp native Sean Sellers earns his living as a tour director in New York City. It’s a place he fell in love with when Mrs. Sellers took him there as a student in 1982.

“It changed my life,” he said.

Sean Sellers called his mentor “a pillar of the community” and “a force to be reckoned with.”

“We did not attend DRS School of Dance for dance alone,” he said. “She mentored each of us in a special way. What she gave me was a wonderful sense of pride of place, sense of culture, and support.”

Sellers said one of his fondest memories is of standing on top of the Empire State Building and seeing the stars below him.

“That is what DRS gave to me and as I said on the video of the 50th reunion I hosted. The constellation is huge but (you) DRS, you are one in a million!”

The Andalusia Ballet’s Meryane Martin-Murphy said Mrs. Sellars encouraged her even before she moved to Andalusia and started her own dance school.

“Dorothy was a dear friend and mentor to me from the very first time I came to visit Andalusia,” she said. “She did so many things for so many people in this area, and was very much an advocate for education and the arts.”

Mrs. Sellars produced nine television shows, was nationally recognized when Dance Magazine spotlighted her in an article, “Small Town Teacher;” wrote 23 articles for Dance Magazine; and was the author of “The Dance Teacher Today.”

She was listed in The National Register of Prominent Americans, honored as an Outstanding Alumna at Huntingdon College, and inducted into the Opp Hall of Fame; and

Her husband, William “Doc” Sellars, preceded her in death. In addition to her sisters, she is survived by her sons, Bill and Lee, a daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.

Family members said Monday they plan a memorial service in July.