Profile By: Laura Jaros
Mary Waugh Taylor was born on October 13, 1956 in Okoboji, Iowa, a young girl in love with ballet. In many ways, Mary exemplifies the qualities of a true feminist hero by “doing it all,” and fighting against societal restrictions that might have hampered her passions. While in high school, Mary was offered a scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Ballet in London, which she couldn’t accept due to a bad car accident. Eventually, she earned her BFA in dance at the University of Utah and danced with Ballet West, Utah’s premier ballet company. In 1986, Taylor and her family moved to Omaha where she taught classes in ballet, jazz, and modern at UNO as well as at the Omaha Academy of Ballet. Within the last few years, Mary served as choreographer in residence at The Moving Company at UNO. On June 25, 2010, Mary passed away after a battle with cancer.
So many young girls dream of growing up to be ballerinas. There is something inspiring about watching the beauty and grace of a ballet dancer’s body move across the floor. I can still remember going to the Ballet with my mom when I was six years old and living in Austin Texas. Sitting on the edge of my chair, I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage. Every two minutes I turned to my mom to say, “I can do that.” Being six years old and in only my third year of dance, I clearly could not do any of what those professional ballet dancers were doing. However, they gave me a dream and motivated me to pursue my fascination with the art form. After the show, my mom and I went to look at the merchandise that was being
Mary Waugh Taylor was born on October 13, 1956 in Okoboji Iowa, a young girl in love with ballet. Mary didn’t know it at the time, but she would become an inspiration to hundreds of young girls just like her one day. In many ways, Mary exemplifies the qualities of a true feminist hero by “doing it all,” and fighting against the odds. According to her oldest daughter Maya, Mary was offered a scholarship while in high school to attend the Royal Academy of Ballet in London. Unfortunately, because of bad car accident, Mary was unable to go. However, following her graduation, Mary chose to pursue a career in dance. According to Annette van de Kamp-Wright in “Mary Waugh-Taylor: Much More than a Fabulous Teacher,” Mary moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where she earned her BFA in dance at
The couple moved back to Utah after a few years where they had their first daughter Maya in 1984. Two years later, in 1986, the Taylor’s moved to Omaha, Nebraska, once again for Ed’s job with the Sidal Company. Shortly after their move to Omaha, Mary gave birth to her second daughter, Halley. It was at that time that Mary entered the Omaha dance scene and met Professor Josie Metal-Corbin. “I met her on stage,” Metal-Corbin states, “in an OMDC (Omaha Modern Dance Collective) piece that was being performed in the black room of the Arts and Sciences building at UNO; that performance area no longer exists” (Interview). Being the assistant director of The Moving Company, UNO’s modern dance ensemble, and a professor at the University, Metal-Corbin encouraged Mary to teach dance classes at UNO. “This was Mary’s first entry
Mary’s daughter Maya remembers the years when her mom owned the studio: “We were studio kids, we were always there,” she said. “She taught us about the importance of having good work ethic.” There were times when money was tight for their family, yet Mary continued doing what she loved despite the fact that dance instructors do not make a fortune. “She loved dancing so much,” Maya stated, “but she loved teaching dance more then anything; she really loved to see the progress that her students were making.” The picture below, taken in 1987 at the old Creighton dance studio, is of Mary and her daughter Halley during a rehearsal for a Dalienne Majors concert. Even as babies, the Taylor girls were exposed to the dance world that Mary was engulfed in on a daily basis.
In 1993, Professor Metal-Corbin replaced Dr. Lundahl as the director of The Moving Company at UNO. By 2001, Metal-Corbin had asked Mary to come join the company as resident choreographer. This meant that Mary would run the company class and set choreography for the company. It was through The Moving Company that I first met Mary in September of 2009 when I auditioned for the ensemble.
The first thing that I remember noticing about Mary was her feet. Only dancers can sit through an entire dance performance and spend more time looking at a dancers feet rather than his or her face. After spending four months taking company class with Mary, I decided that I wanted to take her modern and ballet classes through UNO as well. During the ballet class I talked to Mary about starting to dance on pointe
It wasn’t until February of 2010 that I found out Mary was ill. One day during company class, Metal-Corbin announced to the group that Mary was not feeling well and that she was receiving chemotherapy every Friday. I was shocked. I honestly could not believe what I was hearing. How could it be that this strong, confident, upbeat woman could be battling such a horrible illness? There was not a single day that Mary ever seemed weak or scared. It turns out that Mary had been diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia in the late 1990s. After twelve years of being in remission, the cancer came back. This time, though, it was attacking her liver and pancreas. In “Mary Waugh Taylor: Much More than a Fabulous Teacher,” Esther Katz, dance director of the JCC states, “The fact that many