Family, community mourning loss of beloved Richmond dance instructor: 'We were blessed to know her'

Posted at 11:00 PM, Feb 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-23 09:54:47-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- She taught dance to countless students in the Richmond-area for more than three decades.

Tristi Robinson was known by many in the dance community for her incredible talent and her love for sharing that with others.

She was a mother, wife, teacher, and friend who left behind a beautiful legacy, as she changed many lives on and off the stage.

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“She was like a great, great mother to me,” nine--year-old Ava Wyatt said.

“I just think how much she loved and cared for us,” said 18-year-old Olivia McGuigan, who danced with Tristi for over 10 years.

More than 100 dancers, co-workers, and friends gathered outside of Momentum Dance Center in Hanover on Wednesday to remember Tristi as a beautiful dancer, beloved teacher, and staple of the Richmond dance community for years.

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At just 58 years old, Tristi passed away unexpectedly after a sudden cardiac problem that her body couldn't recover from.

“My favorite memory is just, I think it's a more general memory. but just like every year or just every class, she would make it so much fun,” McGuigan said. “She made me feel so welcomed in class and like pushed me to work. And, it was just her passion for dance and her love for us just shines through everything she does."

The love she had for her students and the love they had for her was so obvious in pictures and the emotion shared at the vigil in her honor.

Tristi was an accomplished professional dancer who quickly turned her attention to teaching. She met her husband Norvell Robinson while they were both dancing for the Richmond Ballet.

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“She was amazing because she was one of those dancers that could do everything. She could turn, she could jump, you know, I mean, she could do it all,” Norvell said.

Mrs. Tristi, as her students lovingly call her, danced with the Washington Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, and Marin Ballet. She started teaching while she was a professional dancer.

“She believed in us, and so she gave us corrections, but she also made class fun,” 10-year-old dancer Juliet Rachel said.

However, Tristi was also known for being tough... to bring out the best in her dancers at places like Momentum and Prestige Dance Studio.

"If she's not hard on you, she doesn't believe in you at all. So the harder she is on you, the more that she believes you're going to be something,” 14-year-old dancer Sha’Myah Daniel said.

Dance was a family affair - Tristi, her husband, and her three children are all dancers and even started a non-profit called PDM Productions that has put on a production of the Nutcracker for 11 years - bringing together students from all over the area regardless of skill, experience or age.

Her family says they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.

“It is truly amazing. I was telling one of our daughters today... Wow, we didn't realize that mom is such a superstar!” Robinson said.

Teaching in Richmond for more than 30 years, Tristi touched so many lives and families, including myself, Julie Bragg. My niece Olivia was one of her students and loved her beyond words.

Tristi's husband knows her spirit will live on through her dancers, and that they will use what she taught them to continue to motivate each other.

"They will probably say now, you know, Mrs. Tristi doesn't want you to do that, you know Mrs. Tristi, you know is expecting you to do so, and so you know those kinds of things, you know, just to push each other, you know and keep that going,” Robinson said.

Her dancers are also making $10 bracelets to raise money for the family.

You can get one on Instagram by searching @beads4ballerinas.

A visitation will be held Thursday, March 5 from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Bliley’s Funeral Home on Staples Mill Road in Henrico.

A gala memorial performance for Tristi McMaster Robinson will also be held Thursday, March 7 at 6 p.m. at The Perkinson Center in Chester. The performance will be recorded and live streamed.

If anyone would like to share a picture, a comment, or a short story, you can record it and send it to 804-874-2196.

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For more information on PDM Productions and the group’s Nutcracker performances, you can click here.

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