Stephanie Bissonnette, a dancer, choreographer, and teacher, has passed away at 32. Ms. Bissonnette had openly documented her struggle with medulloblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer, since being diagnosed in 2019.
Ms. Bissonnette made her Broadway debut in the original Broadway company of Mean Girls the Musical, where she played Dawn Schweitzer. It was during an aerial tumbling pass within the choreography of the musical that Ms. Bissonnette first recognized what she described as a "twinge" in her brain; four days later, she was rushed into surgery.
While medulloblastoma typically presents in young children, it can manifest at any age; Ms. Bissonnette credited her body awareness as a dancer with her recognition of the tumor in its early stages, telling SurvivorNet “I don’t think we would have found [the tumor] if I worked a normal 9-to-5 job. Because I move so much and I do crazy things for a living—I’ve been doing it since I was 5—just [that] little moment in the show [made me go], ‘Why am I having trouble today? There’s got to be something else going on.'”
Ms. Bissonnette remained with Mean Girls the Musical until the COVID-19 pandemic closed its doors. She was one of the featured stars of Ensemble, a documentary about modern Broadway dancers grappling with the shutdown one year after March 12, 2020. The documentary is available to stream on Broadway on Demand.
She participated in When The Lights Are Bright Again, a book of letters that memorialized the moment of the shutdown across Broadway, which donates directly to the Entertainment Community Fund, and she was active in charity performance circles, including Broadway Bares. As a teacher, Ms. Bissonnette taught contemporary musical theatre dance in New York City for the better part of a decade, primarily at the Broadway Dance Center, which Ms. Bissonnette considered her second home.