Students dedicated the annual theater and dance reception to Myra Daleng, who will retire from the University of Richmond after 32 years, but plans to continue teaching dance elsewhere.
Provost Stephen Allred recognized Daleng's contributions to the university and named her director emerita of dance at the banquet on Friday, April 26.
Daleng said that she had not expected the honor, which had been a unanimous decision made by the board of directors.
Junior Jordyn Luks performed a tap dance to "Brown Eyed Girl" in Daleng's honor. Other students spoke about their relationships with Daleng and praised the dance program that she has developed at Richmond.
"I was very moved and humbled," Daleng said. "They spoke from the heart and I was honored. It was very emotional for me as each one spoke."
Daleng said that she had been considering retiring for a while.
"Everybody said you'd know when it's time," she said. "It's time. I want to do other things. I'm really excited about another path I'm moving into."
Daleng plans to teach Sherry Zunker's technique, BeMoved, which is a dance fitness program for everyone, including people who have never danced before. BeMoved includes disco, swing, Bollywood and many kinds of Latin dance.
Daleng has started studying online and will train with Zunker in Chicago this summer. Once certified, she would love to teach somewhere in Richmond, she said.
She has also been studying yoga for the past five or six years and said there was a possibility that she would begin teaching yoga to an older demographic.
Daleng also plans to spend her time traveling to visit her husband's family in Norway and her niece in India.
Although Daleng created the University Dancers, as well as the dance major at Richmond, she said that she was most proud of the opportunities that she had given students.
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"The one thing I have loved and will cherish is the warm and personal relationships I have been able to foster over these years," she said. "And I will miss that most of all."
Junior Nicole Pradas said that Daleng had been more of a friend than a teacher.
"I think her biggest achievement in general is just having all of her students feel welcome and comfortable around her," Pradas said.
Keely Naughton and Emma Sullivan, both 2012 graduates, said that they had kept in contact with Daleng and that Sullivan had visited her in Richmond. On Daleng's 25th anniversary with the University Dancers, students gave her a scrapbook that included letters from alumni who graduated more than 20 years ago.
When Daleng came to the university, she worked part-time in the department of health and sports science. She taught ballet, a dance exercise class required for all students.
After four years of employment, the university offered her a full-time position as the director of dance. Because Daleng only had her bachelor's degree, she completed her graduate work at James Madison University while teaching at Richmond and managing her studio, the Richmond Dance Center.
When she started the University Dancers in 1985, her mission was to create a diverse company that performed all genres, Daleng said.
She choreographed each piece and created the costumes herself until the school began to provide funding.
Daleng began to bring in major national and international choreographers to work with the company. The students developed personal relationships with some very influential dancers including Robert Battle, the artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Sullivan said.
Daleng said that her last big contribution to the school was the company's Jazzed Concert last year. She brought in seven major choreographers from different genres to work with the students.
Daleng handed over directorship after 25 years. She created the dance major four years ago and continues to teach classes, including dance history and kinetics, which she also created. For the past two years, Daleng has taught one of the Sophomore Scholars in Residence programs, which includes a trip to Cuba with her students.
Students chose glitter as the theme of the banquet because Daleng continues to wear glitter eyeliner and tells her students to "sparkle and shine" when they dance.
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