Happy Feet Artistic Director
Years at Happy Feet: 41! Favorite Tap Dancer: Too many to name, but to name a few: Eleanor Powell, Gene Kelly, the Nicholas Brothers, Gregory Hines, and Dianne Walker
Cece Bechelli is the director of Happy Feet Dance School in Mill Valley, California. Cece founded the school in 1978 and has loved her years of teaching in the Mill Valley community. She is a member of The Step Sisters, a Marin-based rhythm tap trio, with her partners Sheri Bechelli and Patti Meagher. The Step Sisters had the honor and distinction of opening for the Smuin Ballet at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center in 2003, and for Gregory Hines at the Marin Center in 2000 and again at Mr. Hines’ final public performance in 2003. Recently, Cece and her daughter, Caitlin, performed with New York based tap dancer, Andrew Nemr and his company at a Ted Talk event in Carmel, California.
In 2003, Cece was honored to receive the Milley Award for her artistic contribution to the Mill Valley community and she is a featured instructor on Fred Strickler’s Masters of American Tap Dance website. Cece was a faculty member at the Cazadero Performing Arts Dance Camp from 2001 to 2005, and has been a guest teacher and choreographer at dance studios and colleges throughout California. Additionally, Cece has choreographed many full-length musicals for the Throckmorton Youth Performers and Mill Valley Middle School. Over the past 41 years, Cece has taught thousands of Marin County and Bay Area dancers. Many of her students continue their study of dance in college and beyond. Over the past few years, fifteen Happy Feet students auditioned and were accepted into the dance department at UCLA.
Cece is a native San Franciscan and a life-long dancer. After extensive dance training in Irish, tap, jazz, ballet, modern and acrobatics, Cece fell in love with tap and became a member of The Lorna Fordyce Professional Dancers. She performed extensively with the group throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. During these years, Cece became a faculty member at the Lorna Fordyce Dance School, won the title of Miss Dance of Northern California in 1979, and went on to perform and compete in a national competition in New York City.
Continuing with her own study of dance, Cece takes classes in New York and Los Angeles on a regular basis. Through the years, Cece has been lucky enough to study with Gregory Hines, Honi Coles, LaVaughn Robinson, Steve Condos, Harold Nicholas of the famed Nicholas Brothers, Savion Glover, Dianne Walker, Roxanne Butterfly, Harold Cromer, Arthur Duncan, Randy Skinner, Sam Weber, Mark Mendonca, Steve Zee, Barbara Duffy, Derrick Grant, Ayodelle Casel, Dormeshia Sumbrey-Edwards, Van Porter, Jason Samuels Smith, Chloe Arnold, Lynn Schwab, Lynn Dally, and Linda Sohl-Ellison. These tap masters, along with her teachers from her early years, Ann Healy, Gloria Debrunner and especially Lorna Fordyce have influenced Cece’s style.
Cece holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State University in Liberal Studies with a core emphasis in Humanities and Fine Arts. She recently completed a Master of Arts degree in the Humanities at San Francisco State University and was honored with the Humanities Department Distinguished Graduate Scholar Award (2017). During the 2016-17 school year Cece enjoyed teaching a humanities course titled Values in American Life at SFSU. Now (2019) Cece is excited to continue in her position as a lecturer in SFSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance where she is teaching a course called Dance in Cultural Context. Cece has researched and written extensively on the history of tap dance and has developed a film and lecture series on the topic.
Cece is married to Greg Bechelli, also a native San Franciscan. Their three adult children, Matt, Caitlin, and Kelsey, are all tap dancers as well! Her daughter Caitlin Bechelli is her co-director at Happy Feet!