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 house in Manhattan. She was 97.
Her son, Curt Myers, confirmed her dying.
Ms. Myers joined the school in 1967, founding its dance division in 1971. In 1969, she turned dean of the competition, which presents performances and presents instructional packages. It was then primarily based in Connecticut and is now in North Carolina.
Charles L. Reinhart, the director emeritus of the competition, stated 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 notably involved in 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 area, centered on issues like bodily consciousness and stress discount, is called physique remedy, and Ms. Myers preached that its concepts had been helpful to others past dancers.
“Not everyone can jog, play tennis or golf,” she informed The Herald-Sun of Durham, N.C., in 1981, when she was main one of many competition’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 stated she described herself as “5 feet 2 inches and shrinking” — however impactful. Gerri Houlihan, a dancer, choreographer and dance trainer who thought of 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 stated 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 woman, and her mom moved the household to Virginia to be close to kinfolk.
When Martha was an adolescent, 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 turned 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 chance after that disheartening audition, more and more turning her consideration to dance. She additionally began spending time in New York City at any time when she might.
In 1948, she enrolled in a two-year graduate program in bodily schooling with a focus in dance at Smith College in Massachusetts. There, she first turned involved in 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 train. In 1959, although, she took a go away of absence to create “A Time to Dance,” a tv program produced by WGBH in Boston that includes stay dance performances. Its 9 episodes aired in 1960 and are actually considered as a form of precursor to “Dance in America,” the long-running PBS collection.
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, prompt 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 girl within the early 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 (*97*), 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 following 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 competition, died in 2009. In addition to her son, Ms. Myers is survived by three grandsons.
Ms. Myers usually took her experience to different nations as a part of the competition’s worldwide outreach, journeys that had been difficult but additionally yielded humorous moments, some ensuing from language limitations.
“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,” revealed in 1995. “I was told later the translation was ‘imagine your bones disintegrating or decaying on the floor.’”