Professor Emerita Gay E. Cheney passed away last Wednesday, November 29, 2023. Dr. Cheney was a UNC Greensboro dance faculty member for twenty years from 1976 to 1996. She also served as Head of the Dance Department, now the School of Dance, from 1978 to 1982. While at UNC Greensboro, Dr. Cheney taught improvisation, the creative process, choreography, philosophy of dance, aesthetics and criticism of dance, twentieth-century dance, and courses on “Art as Human Experience,” “Body Wisdom and Art,” and “Ceremony for the Earth.” In 1995 Dr. Cheney was honored with the North Carolina Dance Alliance Annual Award, which recognized her years of service to dance in the state. The School of Health and Human Sciences named her an honorary alumna and presented her with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998.
Dr. Cheney was president of the North Carolina Dance Alliance from 1984 to 1985 and its vice-president from 1983 to 1984. From 1976 to 1989, she was a consultant for the State Department of Public Instruction, Creative Arts Division. Her textbook, Basic Concepts in Modern Dance: A Creative Approach, was published in 1969. In addition, Dr. Cheney published in several professional journals, choreographed dances for UNCG students, and performed with several companies and individuals from 1956 to 1990. She was a former student of Alwin Nikolais, Deborah Hay, and Bella Lewitzsky. Her research focused on dance as healing and anthropological dance, with particular emphasis on Native American dance ceremony and ritual.
A native of New Jersey, Dr. Cheney completed her undergraduate degree at Tufts University. She received a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1964, and her PhD from the University of Southern California in 1970. Her teaching experience prior to UNC Greensboro included Newton High School in Newton, Massachusetts; George Washington University; American University; and California State University-Hayward.
A service for Dr. Cheney will be held in January, and there may be an event at the School of Dance to remember Dr. Cheney in the future.
Photo credit: Lynn Hey, Greensboro News & Record