We mourn the passing of one of the central figures of my life, a giant on whose shoulders I have always stood, Joan Moyer Clark. She taught ballet and dance and brought culture and imagination to thousands in an area where little existed in the 60s and 70s, when I was growing up.
She lit the light inside many a child's heart, teaching them to believe in themselves, to master their bodies through a difficult art form, to discipline their minds to achieve that task, to be musical, to work hard, to be unafraid of shining, to communicate from an intelligence more authentic and more compelling than the intellect.
She plucked talented children from unsuspecting parents and took us to New York to study. She found scholarships for us. She created special classes for us at her Sunbury studio, The Moyer Institute of Dance. She created and produced a traveling ensemble, "The Sights & Sounds of the Seventies," in collaboration with local orchestras, giving us the opportunity to perform on university and other stages, on public television. She opened her home to us and was the aunt or second mother we needed, to become the people we were capable of becoming. She packed us up on Friday mornings, skipping school, to do lecture demonstrations in the middle and high schools of central Pennsylvania, educating and exposing the masses to art, to beauty, to the miracle of human achievement that is ballet.
She made us part of her mission to install dance programs in universities like Bucknell and Susquehanna, giving us leadership opportunities as we modeled technique and led the college kids in her choreographies, though we were all of 10, 12, 15 at best. Many of us went on to dance with the world's great dance companies, performing on the celebrated stages and opera houses of the United States and Europe, on every continent (save Antarctica), on Broadway.
So many, many thousands of Susquehanna Valley residents are richer in body (how they walk, stand, play sports, catch a beat) and in spirit (how they hear, see, conjure presence, enjoy, and connect deep within to that which is greater) because they were lucky enough to be taught by Joan.
Joan, you cannot know the measure of what you have given the world. Your legacy is varied and consequential.
From the kid who learned to love dance, and passed her musicality on to her children, to the parent who learned to appreciate their child little more, the community is better for your participation in it.
Your artistic impact has been exponential as your students went on to influence the choreographers, companies and repertories they served in, and the audiences they played to, the world over. Those dancers that then retired to become teachers themselves, paid it forward, passing your legacy and love of dance, on yet again. You helped set in motion the passion, courage and stamina these dancers would need to pursue and succeed in their dream. And so you have touched and changed the landscape of dance along with the hearts, minds and souls of your personal students.
Always the servant, never the braggart, shining your bright light to blaze the trail, to give refuge, to inspire. Who would so very many of us be, had you not been there to find us and "see" us, encourage us and teach us?
Our gratitude will never cover it. Thank you.
Elizabeth Carpenter grew up dancing in Joan Moyer's studio. She went on to be a principal dancer for the Joe Goode Performance Group in San Francisco and the legendary Trisha Brown Company in New York. She taught master classes around the world, and served on the faculties of Oberlin College and Hobart & William Smith Colleges.