Martha Myers, who taught dancers how to move and more, dies at 97

Martha Myers, who influenced generations of dancers both as the founder of Connecticut College’s famed dance department and as the longt...

Martha Myers, who influenced generations of dancers both as the founder of Connecticut College’s famed dance department and as the longtime dean of the school of American Dance Festival, died May 24 at her in Manhattan. She was 97 years old.

His son, Curt Myers, confirmed his death.

Ms. Myers joined the college in New London in 1967 and founded its dance department in 1971. In 1969 she became dean of the festival, which presents performances and offers educational programs. He was then in Connecticut and is now based in Durham, NC

Charles L. Reinhart, director emeritus of the festival, said in a statement that Ms. Myers, who had been with the organization for more than 30 years, “brought new ideas and dance techniques to the festival while respecting tradition.” .

She was particularly interested in dance medicine and somatics, which, as she described to The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1998, “is about how you can rearrange neuromuscular patterns so that performing the technique of the dance produces what you hope it does”. will produce, which is a wider range of movement qualities for the dancer.

A complementary field, focusing on things like physical awareness and stress reduction, is known as body therapy, and Ms Myers preached that her ideas were useful to others beyond dancers.

“Not everyone can run, play tennis or golf,” she told the Durham Herald-Sun in 1981, while leading one of the festival’s body therapy workshops at the Duke University, “So we need a lot of different types of movement for people. Many body therapies can be done while lying on the floor and at your own pace.

Ms Myers was tiny – the 1998 newspaper article said she described herself as “5ft 2″ and shrinking” – but impactful. Gerri Houlihana dancer, choreographer and dance teacher who considered Ms. Myers a mentor, summed it up succinctly in 2006 when Ms. Myers was celebrated at Virginia Commonwealth University, the successor institution to the Richmond Professional Institute, where she graduated his undergraduate degree.

“She mentored so many young dancers, teachers, choreographers,” Ms. Houlihan said at the time. “She’s small and speaks in a very quiet, very poetic voice, but she persuades you to do things you never thought you could do.”

Martha Coleman was born on May 23, 1925 in Napa, California. Her father, Herbert Rockwood Coleman, died when she was a young girl, and her mother, Odie Marie Coleman, moved the family to Virginia to be close to the family.

When Martha was a teenager, a neighbor heard her singing in the garden, was impressed, and put her in touch with a singing teacher.

“Throughout the rest of my teenage years and beyond,” she wrote in “Don’t Sit Down: Reflections on Life and Work,” a 2020 memoir, “I practiced, studied, and dreamed of singing at the Met”.

But when she was a sophomore at the Richmond Professional Institute, she auditioned for the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where the professor assessing her gave her a disheartening assessment that killed that particular dream. It’s an experience she took with her when she became a teacher herself, determined to empathize with the aspirations of young people.

“I have advised and encouraged,” she wrote in her memoir, “I hesitate to tell a hopeful candidate that his dream is impossible.”

“The challenge,” she continued, “is to find ways to open students’ minds to other possibilities, to encourage them to find and shape the limits of their perseverance on their own, their passion and abilities.”

She herself found another possibility after this disheartening singing audition: dancing. She also started spending time in New York whenever she could.

In 1948, she enrolled in a two-year graduate program in physical education with a concentration in dance at Smith College in Massachusetts. There, she first became interested in somatics. She also taught about 18 hours a week, which she considered excessive but, she writes in the book, “the administration argued that in physical education and dance there was no preparation” .

After earning her master’s degree, she stayed at Smith to teach. In 1959, however, she took time off to create “A Time to Dance” a television program produced by WGBH in Boston with live performances. Its nine episodes aired in 1960 and are now considered something of a precursor to “Dance in America,” the long-running PBS series.

Soon, she added another TV credit to her resume. she had married Gerald E. Myers, who, when he took a job at Kenyon College in Ohio, suggested he write to several Ohio television stations to host a show about health and exercise. To her surprise, WBNS in Columbus invited her to audition.

“I demonstrated some of the stretching and strengthening exercises that might work for an 8 a.m. audience, assumed to be largely housewives,” she recalled in her memoir. “I blended explanatory, cautionary, and encouraging commentary into stretches and quadsets, and poured them into harmless little patties with a cherry of information on nutrition, weight control, and news on health.”

She was hired. And then, soon after, she was offered a chance to be a news anchor, a rarity for a woman in the early 1960s.

She’s been in some memorable feature film segments, including joining 20-story window washers and riding on the shoulders of meadow lemonthe Harlem Globetrotter, to dive a basketball.

After a few years, her husband took a job at the CW Post College on Long Island, and soon after, Mrs. Myers was working at Connecticut College, where she taught for the next 25 years. Towards the end of her memoir, she talked about her approach.

“Movement is rooted in the body, resistant to change, learned from childhood in the context of family and society,” she writes. “When I urge freshness, novelty and investigation, I am aware that I am asking for one of the most difficult feats of human behavior. In my teaching career, I have compiled strategies that invite my dance students to find new possibilities.

Her husband, who eventually held the unusual title of philosopher-in-residence at the dance festival, died in 2009. Besides her son, Ms Myers is survived by three grandsons.

She often brought her expertise to other countries as part of the festival’s international reach, journeys that were challenging but also yielded moments of humour, some resulting from language barriers.

“I was surprised when a direction in a somatics class, such as ‘imagine your bones sinking into the ground,’ produced a puzzled look on some students’ faces and laughter from those who knew the English,” Ms. Myers wrote in an essay she contributed to “East Meets West in Dance: Voices in the Cross-Cultural Dialogue,” published in 1995. “I was later told the translation was ‘imagine your bones will disintegrate or break down on the “ground.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Martha Myers, who taught dancers how to move and more, dies at 97
Martha Myers, who taught dancers how to move and more, dies at 97
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