Former chair of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts dance department Linda Tarnay died on Tuesday, November 6. Her wish was to have her ashes interred in the columbarium at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery—the site of Danspace Project and just a few blocks away from the Tisch dance building.
Before her 35 years of teaching at NYU, Tarnay was a founding member of Dance Theater Workshop. She performed with choreographers like Anna Sokolow, Phyllis Lamhut and Jamie Cunningham. She also started her own company, Linda Tarnay and Dancers, and was an artist-in-residence at The Yard.
In addition to NYU, she also taught at Bennington College and Princeton University, plus 16 summers at American Dance Festival, where she was honored with the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching in 2007. Though she suffered from Parkinson's disease, she continued teaching composition classes until retiring in 2010.
As an undergrad at Tisch from 2003-2006, I was assigned Tarnay as my advisor. What I remember most was the way she encouraged each of us to find our own path, and figure out what made us tick. When I told her I hated a William Forsythe concert, she didn't judge me for it or tell me I was wrong; she asked me to describe why—and by listening completely openly to my sophomoric critiques, she helped me realize what I had been missing about the work.
Later, right after I became editor in chief of Dance Magazine, I saw her at the Dance Magazine Awards. She congratulated me on the new position, and I smiled and thanked her, and babbled something about how I was just trying to fill my old boss Wendy Perron's shoes. She said to me, "You fill your own shoes just fine."
Linda, you had a sixth sense about exactly what your students needed, exactly what words you could say to inspire them. You will be dearly missed.