Carleton College has named the Dance Studios in the Weitz Center for Creativity in honor of Mary Easter, Rae Schupack Professor of Dance and the Performing Arts, Emerita. The naming will be celebrated on Friday, May 13, at 6:00 p.m. at the Weitz Center for Creativity. The program will feature remarks from President Alison Byerly, Mary Easter herself, and a short performance by Semaphore, the College’s repertory dance company. A reception will follow.
Mary Easter—a celebrated artist and much beloved professor—was hired to teach modern dance at Carleton in 1972, when the discipline was considered little more than a plank in the physical education program. Easter’s vision, however, was expansive; she eventually developed the first dance courses for academic credit at Carleton, as well as a special major in dance. During her tenure, she served as an advisor to Carleton’s Black dance troupe, and established Kalochoros and the Carleton Dance Ensemble, groups which made Semaphore, Carleton’s repertory dance company, possible. In addition, she directed Carleton’s African/African-American Studies Program, served on numerous campus committees, helmed the Committee on Diversity and Campus Climate, and helped establish the Department of Theater and Dance.
As an artist, Easter embodied grace, poise, fluidity, and versatility; as a teacher, she encouraged her students to find inspiration outside of traditional influences, to absorb even the visual rhythms of Minnesota’s landscape. She was named Carleton’s first Rae Schupack Nathan Professor of Dance and the Performing Arts, a professorship created to recognize excellence in cultivating student passion and talent in the performing arts.
Easter’s career beyond and after Carleton likewise demonstrated tremendous creative range. She penned essays, memoirs and poems; acted on the stage; and choreographed, scored, and performed dances. Her retirement after 40 years of teaching saw the publication of a collection of poetry, solo dance performances, collaborations with visual artists, and more. She continues to create work in the Twin Cities and beyond.