HONORARY MEMBER Mary Jane Wolbers
MARY JANE WOLBERS - Dancer, Choreographer, Teacher, Consultant in Liturgical and Sacred Dance
Mary Jane Wolbers is a Professor Emerita of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance at East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of New Hampshire and a M.S. degree in Dance from the University of Wisconsin; her training includes both academic and private dance study with outstanding professional artists. She especially values the creative influence and sound pedagogy of' her mentor, Margaret H'Doubler, at U. Wisconsin-Madison.
Her early dance training was with Kate McClafferty in Wilmington, DE, (ballet, folk, creative) and Marion Rice in Fitchburg, MA (Denishawn, creative, and ballroom). Her career goals took form in college courses and independent studies with Barbara Mettler, Jan Veen, Miriam Winslow and other New England artists during undergraduate years at the University of New Hampshire. Here, also, her life as a liturgical dancer flourished at the Community Church of Durham under the encouragement of the Rev. Emerson Hangen. She also studied with Fred Berk, Juana de Laban, Arthur Hall, Harold Kreutzberg, Jose Limon, Matteo, Charles Moore, Ralph Page, Pearl Primus, Maya Schade, and Helen Tamiris. She served as a member of the Society of Spiritual Arts, founded by Ruth St. Denis, and the Martha Graham Dance Council.
She is a member of Orchesis, American Dance Guild, Sacred Dance Guild, The International Association for Creative Dance, World Dance Alliance, dance and the Child international, National Dance Association (an affiliate of AAHPERD), and is a charter member of the American Dance Therapy Association. She was director of Physical Education and Dance at Vermont College and head of the Dance Department at West Virginia University. Before her tenure at East Stroudsburg University, she established the dance major curriculum at Jordan College of Butler University where she was Chairperson of the Dance Department.
As a liturgical dancer, teacher, and choreographer, she combines her expertise as a mentor and performing artist with a deep conviction in the power of dance as a medium of religious expression. In 1960, she was featured speaker at the first Conference on Religion and the Dance, sponsored by the National Council of Churches, and later the Conference on Liturgical Spaces for the Arts, sponsored by the National Council of Catholic Men. She is a frequent presenter at local, regional, and national dance conferences, Sacred Dance Guild annual Festivals and workshops. She has directed five Festivals, and served the committee for S.D.G. Festival 2002, at which she was also a presenter.
She is a charter member of the Sacred Dance Guild and has taken a pivotal role in its growth and development as an ecumenical organization devoted to dance in religious experience. Its program of events, education and publications serves an international membership. She has served numerous positions on the Guild's Executive Board and Board-at-Large, including two terms as President, four terms as Program Director and many years as Parliamentarian. She was elected to the office of Archivist in 1999.
While in London as presenter for the biennial conference of dance and the Child international in 1988, Mrs. Wolbers visited sacred dance leaders, choirs and soloists in England. She was the guest of honor at a performance by the Epiphany Dancers in Coventry Cathedral. The Epiphany Dancers are directed by John Brassington, Minister of Dance at Coventry Cathedral, whose members trained with Mrs. Wolbers when they toured the United States. She was also invited to a special performance by the Spring Dance Company at their church in Bethnal Green. It was followed by a sharing of ideas about dance as religious expression with the Company and the congregation.
Her three-year involvement serving a committee of five national dance leaders culminated in the Hong Kong International Dance Conference in 1990. At the conference she presided over meetings devoted to liturgical dance, presented at a general session and represented the Sacred Dance Guild at plenary sessions which set the stage for the World Dance Alliance that now brings the Guild and its members into a global forum. Her televised interview for "People Meet" in November 1995 highlighted her work in liturgical dance. She was featured in a program on "Liturgical Dance" which was televised in 1998 for the "Spirit of Dance" series, produced by Norah Dale Allen and Ken Glazebrook and aired in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
She collaborated as writer and editor of Religion and Dance for the National Dance Association's Focus on Dance series. As dance director and advisor of "The Liturgy of Worship in Dance," she danced in a commissioned service of worship at Salem United Church of Christ, Harrisburg, PA. Vaclav Nelhybel composed the music for this occasion. The service was subsequently televised by WITF-TV in Hershey, PA, under the sponsorship of the PA Council of Churches and Educational TV. The Constitution Chapter of the Sacred Dance Guild held "Mary Jane Wolbers Day" in 1996, in her honor, recognizing her contributions to the field of religious dance. On that day, she was awarded an Honorary Membership in the Guild. In 1998 she received The Distinguished Dance Service Award from the Monroe County Arts Council and The Pennsylvania Dance Network, and the Sacred Dance Guild's Honor Award for Outstanding Service.
In April 2008 Professor Wolbers received the National Dance Association Heritage Award during the AAHPERD National Convention held in Fort Worth Texas. This honor recognizes the recipient as having made outstanding contributions in the field of dance through education, publications, choreography and performance, theatre and other related arts. Her accomplishments as a professional dance educator with international notoriety bears witness to the criteria surpassed for accepting of this coveted award. In celebration of this award, the Chara Christian Dance Co. from Texas A & M University presented dance selections during the award program. Mrs. Wolbers has danced in services of worship of many different faiths. She has taught in religious education programs and served the faculty at Sacred Dance Guild Festivals. Her leadership training workshops are presented to theologians and to lay persons as well. She has taught theological students at Duke University, Andover Newton Theological School and other professional institutions. Her youth and adult choirs lead congregations in diverse worship experiences, principally in Eastern United States.
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