Martha Myers, who influenced generations of dancers each because the founding father of the dance division at Connecticut College and because the longtime dean of the varsity of the American Dance Festival, died on May 24 at her dwelling in Manhattan. She was 97.
Her son, Curt Myers, confirmed her loss of life.
Ms. Myers joined the faculty in 1967, founding its dance division in 1971. In 1969, she grew to become dean of the pageant, which presents performances and provides academic packages. It was then based mostly in Connecticut and is now in North Carolina.
Charles L. Reinhart, the director emeritus of the pageant, mentioned in an announcement that Ms. Myers, who was with the group for greater than 30 years, “brought new dance ideas and techniques to the festival while respecting tradition.”
She was significantly considering dance medication and in somatics, which, as she described it to The News and Observer of Raleigh, N.C., in 1998, “is about how you can reorganize neuromuscular patterns so the execution of dance technique produces what you hope it’s going to produce, which is a wider range of movement qualities for the dancer.”
A companion discipline, centered on issues like bodily consciousness and stress discount, is named physique remedy, and Ms. Myers preached that its concepts have been helpful to others past dancers.
“Not everyone can jog, play tennis or golf,” she instructed The Herald-Sun of Durham, N.C., in 1981, when she was main one of many pageant’s physique remedy workshops at Duke University, “so we need many different types of movement for people. Many of the body therapies can be done prone on the floor and at one’s own speed.”
Ms. Myers was diminutive — the 1998 newspaper article mentioned she described herself as “5 feet 2 inches and shrinking” — however impactful. Gerri Houlihan, a dancer, choreographer and dance trainer who thought-about Ms. Myers a mentor, summed her up succinctly in 2006 when Ms. Myers was feted at Virginia Commonwealth University, the successor establishment to the Richmond Professional Institute, the place she earned her undergraduate diploma.
“She has mentored so many young dancers, teachers, choreographers,” Ms. Houlihan mentioned at the time. “She’s tiny and speaks in a very quiet voice, very poetic, but she persuades you to do things you never thought you would be able to do.”
Martha Coleman was born on May 23, 1925, in Napa, Calif. Her father died when she was a younger lady, and her mom moved the household to Virginia to be close to family.
When Martha was a young person, a neighbor heard her singing within the backyard, was impressed and related her to a voice trainer.
“During the rest of my teen years and beyond,” she wrote in “Don’t Sit Down: Reflections on Life and Work,” a 2020 memoir, “I practiced, studied and dreamt of singing at the Met.”
But when she was a sophomore at the Richmond Professional Institute, she auditioned for the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, the place the professor evaluating her gave her a discouraging evaluation that killed that individual dream. It was an expertise she carried along with her when she grew to become a trainer herself, resolving to have empathy when it got here to younger individuals’s aspirations.
“I have counseled and encouraged,” she wrote in her memoir, “reluctant ever to tell a hopeful candidate that their dream is impossible.”
“The challenge,” she continued, “is to find ways to open students’ minds to other possibilities, encourage them to find and shape for themselves the limits of their persistence, passion and abilities.”
She, herself, discovered one other risk after that disheartening audition, more and more turning her consideration to dance. She additionally began spending time in New York City every time she might.
In 1948, she enrolled in a two-year graduate program in bodily training with a focus in dance at Smith College in Massachusetts. (*97*), she first grew to become considering somatics. She additionally taught for about 18 hours every week, which she thought was extreme however, she wrote within the guide, “the administration argued that in physical education, and dance, there was no preparation.”
After incomes her grasp’s diploma, she stayed at Smith to educate. In 1959, although, she took a depart of absence to create “A Time to Dance,” a tv program produced by WGBH in Boston that includes reside dance performances. Its 9 episodes aired in 1960 and are actually seen as a kind of precursor to “Dance in America,” the long-running PBS sequence.
Soon, she added one other tv credit score to her résumé. She had married Gerald E. Myers, who, when he took a job at Kenyon College in Ohio, urged she write to a number of Ohio tv stations pitching a health-and-exercise present. To her shock, WBNS in Columbus invited her to audition.
“I demonstrated some of the stretching and strengthening exercises that might be appropriate for an 8 a.m. viewership, assumed to be largely housewives,” she recalled in her memoir. “I laced explanatory, cautionary and encouraging comments into stretches and quad sets, and ladled it out in inoffensive little patties with an icing of info on nutrition, weight control and health news.”
She was employed. And then, not lengthy after, she was supplied an opportunity to be a information anchor, a rarity for a lady within the early Nineteen Sixties.
She participated in some memorable characteristic segments, together with by becoming a member of some window washers 20 tales up and by using on the shoulders of Meadowlark Lemon, the Harlem Globetrotter, to dunk a basketball.
After a number of years, her husband took a job at C.W. Post College on Long Island, and earlier than lengthy Ms. Myers was working at Connecticut College, the place she taught for the subsequent 25 years. Late in her memoir, she talked about her method.
“Movement is hard-wired in the body, resistant to change, learned from infancy in the context of family and society,” she wrote. “When I urge freshness, newness and investigation, I am aware that I am asking for one of the more difficult feats of human behavior. In my teaching career I have compiled strategies which invite my dance students to find new possibilities.”
Ms. Myers’s husband, who finally held the bizarre title of thinker in residence of the dance pageant, died in 2009. In addition to her son, Ms. Myers is survived by three grandsons.
Ms. Myers usually took her experience to different international locations as a part of the pageant’s worldwide outreach, journeys that have been difficult but additionally yielded humorous moments, some ensuing from language boundaries.
“I have been surprised when a direction in a somatics class, such as ‘imagine your bones sinking into the floor,’ produced a perplexed look on some students’ faces, and giggles from those who knew English,” she wrote in an essay she contributed to “East Meets West in Dance: Voices in the Cross-Cultural Dialogue,” printed in 1995. “I was told later the translation was ‘imagine your bones disintegrating or decaying on the floor.’”