Vera Blaine, teacher, choreographer, dancer, and department chair, passed away peacefully on December 26, 2016. A celebration of her life will be held on Sunday, January 15, 2017, 1:00 p.m., at the Department of Dance, Sullivant Hall, 1813 North High Street, Columbus, OH.
By Marissa Ajamian
Vera Blaine, affectionately known as Vickie, had an extremely prolific career in the arts and in the Department of Dance at Ohio State. She received both her BS and MA at The Ohio State University and she returned to the University as a professor of dance. She was also the chairperson of the Department of Dance for twelve years. While she was teaching at the Department of Dance, she changed how composition was being taught by introducing the study of weight. These weight studies that Blaine created continue to be taught in the Department of Dance.
Blaine was born in 1934 in Barberton, OH. In her junior year of high school, Blaine joined the Actors Guild of Variety Artists which allowed her to perform in working class clubs in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. After high school, Blaine wanted to become a professional tap dancer. However, her father felt that Blaine should go to college. This led Blaine to study dance at The Ohio State University.
When she registered for classes, Blaine enrolled in modern dance with Helen Alkire who became one of Blaine’s mentors. While Blaine was a student, Alkire took the dancers to the American Dance Festival. At the festival, Blaine took her first composition course with Louis Horst, composition teacher and musical director for Martha Graham. After receiving her Masters at Ohio State, Blaine moved to New York City to study under Horst at the Martha Graham School of Dance. While in New York, she also studied at the Cunningham studio to learn the Cunningham technique and repertory. Her classmates included Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown.
In the late 1960s, Blaine was offered a teaching position at Ohio State where she was influenced by the work Lucy Venable and Odette Blum were doing with Labanotation. The Laban effort and space work intrigued Blaine which led her to create her composition class around weight studies. She became the leading choreographer and director of the University Dance Company for 15 years. In 1977 she received the Ohio State University Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award. In 1983, Blaine became Chair for the Department of Dance which she remained until 1995. In 1988, she was the first recipient of the Chairperson Recognition Award. In 1996, Blaine received the OhioDance award. In 2005, she became Professor Emerita and taught Composition part-time in the department. In 2006, she received the University’s Distinguished Service Award. Her choreography has been performed by professional dance companies including HARRY, The Bill Evans 2nd Dance Company and the Kinetics Company.
Vera Blaine had a major impact on The Ohio State University’s Department of Dance. She was a mentor for many of the students of the department and helped to shape their ideas on composition. Her weight studies class continues to be used to help students become aware of these weight qualities within their own dancing. Blaine dedicated much of her life to building the Department of Dance and helping to maintain its status as one of the top dance departments in the country.
Marissa Ajamian is an undergraduate in the OSU Department of Dance. This blogpost is excerpted from a major research project she conducted as part of the Second-year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) during summer 2016 on OSU’s Women of Dance. Her research was supervised by Nena Couch and Karen Eliot.