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Summer reading — Margret Deitz: A Dancer’s Legacy

July 27th, 2010 · 7 Comments · Tags: ·

In 1972, Margret Dietz died, and my path veered. I wasn’t the only one pulled into new directions by her magnetism. This year, 38 years after her death, three of my fellow pathfinders from that time have published a book about Margret’s remarkable life and gifts — and influence. By gathering interviews, photographs, documents, & remembrances, they’ve pieced together a narrative that captures who she was: a powerful choreographer, a vivid woman, a lifelong explorer, a spell-binding dancer & a master teacher, spinning the silk threads of her dance classes just so — in order to capture us all in the web of dance.

Margret Dietz: A Dancer’s Legacy, by Elizabeth Freeman, Marie Nickell, and Linda Lee Soderstrom, follows Margret’s time under her mentor Mary Wigman… her passion for justice as a survivor of World War II… her years teaching in higher education at the University of Illiinois, University of California, DePauw University, and University of Minnesota, with stops along the way at the American Dance Festival and Connecticut College… her final years of building her own studio & company in Minneapolis.  Her story is interesting, the story of any artist, finding a way to pursue passion throughout a lifetime.

But Margret was a teacher, and this is a book to inspire any teacher.  Her classes were performances, but not just for her.  Within the course of a class, Margret swept & coaxed & nudged & transformed her students from wherever they started to the soaring level of fully committed dancers. A Dancer’s Legacy succeeds best in its descriptions of Margret’s teaching style, and it’s invaluable as a signpost pointing the way to good teaching. I’m glad to be reminded so vividly why I teach dance. It’s all been coming back to me this summer, reading Margret Dietz: A Dancer’s Legacy.

Back to June of 1972. Having just graduated from college, I was working as a summer intern in Washington, D.C. when news came of Margret’s death — so early, so young, as she was finally working with her own company. I finished the summer & returned to Minneapolis to capture what I could of Margret’s influence from those who’d worked most closely with her, among others whose lives changed directions when they met her.

I love summer reading …what more could I ask than a return to where I came from & a reminder of why I’m here? But I think this is summer reading for others too, even if meeting Margret for the first time. The photographs are fabulous, and the descriptions of excellent teaching work for any subject, where you can arrive as a novice & experience the joy of success.

Thanks to my sister, for finding the book & bringing it to me!

7 Comments so far ↓

  • Deborah Robson

    You’re most welcome! So glad I found it, and that you’re enjoying it. I’m glad I didn’t wait for your birthday to give it to you.

  • megrm

    Me too. I wouldn’t have had time then!

  • Joseph allan Schneider

    I must know you I studied with Terry Marie and Paula

  • John Jack Leckel

    I was a theatre major at University of Illinois in the 1950’s and had the good fortune to study dance for three years with Margret Dietz. Her telling of being a dancer in the opera PARSIFAL with the Mary Wigman company in Germany and fallng asleep while on stage posing during one of the stirring arias and her charming laughter which accompanied the story is one of my most vivid memories of her.

  • megrm

    What a great story! She certainly left vivid memories with those who met & worked with her!

  • Elizabeth Freeman

    I am one of the authors of the book about Margret Dietz – I would love to speak further with John Jack Leckel and Joseph Allan Schneider about your memories of her! If you see this, please respond to

  • Virginia Gaines

    Like Jack Leckel, I was a student at the University of Illinois during Miss Dietz’s time. I only had one class with her in 1954, but I will never forget her. One day a girl who was quite tall and rather heavy was doing the learning-to-fall exercise and was the last one across the floor. Miss Dietz had already turned to start the next exercise when that girl fell with a crash. Miss Dietz’s eyes screwed up and her shoulders rose to her ears in horror. When the girl appeared none the worse, Miss Dietz said with relief, “I thought she was broken from up to down.”