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Using a passion for dance to teach

February 22, 2014
By Tim MacVean - Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

ELKINS - For Davis & Elkins College adjunct professor of dance Laurie Goux, dancing is more than just a hobby, it's a lifestyle.

Goux, who was born in Harvey, Ill., in 1962, started her dance career in the sixth grade.

"I remember dancing to entertain my family," Goux said. "However, I began performing in sixth grade with a woman named Jacqueline Jackson who danced in the companies of Darlene Blackburn African Dance and Joel Hall Dance Co. Joel, who is still a mentor today, allowed me to be a backstage brat and I caught the theater bug for life."

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Laurie Goux, left, considers dance legend Katherine Dunham one of her mentors.

Goux pursued dance through her high school career and by college she already had several performances under her belt, including working with her sixth-grade instructor, Jacqueline Jackson.

"I pursued dance in high school because I knew I wanted to dance in college," Goux said.

Goux is an alumna of Columbia College in Chicago, where she majored in dance. She studied there for three years under the founding chairperson Shirley Mordine, who also was the artistic director of Mordine and Company Dance Theater.

While Goux was a student at Columbia College, she taught dance courses and also performed in the Mordine & Co. Dance Theater alongside her instructor, Shirley Mordine.

Some of the pieces that Goux was involved in included "Memorials," "Raw Deal," "Subject To Change," "Woman Question" and "Haiku."

"'Memorials' was one of the pieces we did," Goux said. "It was an original piece and one of the first where I gave creative input instead of being the underling."

"I was a working professional in the field and this prestigious institution honored my work and hired me as a faculty member in the dance department and principle of the dance company in residence," Goux said.

Throughout college, Goux had to take a train to get to the dance center, which was located off the main campus. One day on her trip to the center, she found the Institute of Cultural Affairs that was located near the dance center in the Chicago uptown area.

"I would see people from different countries in their native dress," Goux said. "I offered to teach children's dance in exchange for a room."

Goux's first performances outside Columbia College included "The Hiroshima Trilogy," where her section was the "American Sing-a-long," along with many other performances that included working with choreographers from New York and Los Angeles.

"These were pretty big performances and launched my modern dance career in Chicago," Goux said.

In 1988, Goux met the "great lady of dance," Katherine Dunham, who incorporates modern dance and ballet techniques, but is rooted in primary rhythms.

"That (meeting Dunham) was life-changing for me," she said. "Even though she was a Hollywood star and choreographed major Broadway musicals, she brought her teaching to impoverished areas, took people off the streets and taught them to dance."

Goux ended up coming to West Virginia, with her children, to visit friends who had a large farm in the area to learn farming, blacksmithing and jewelry-making skills. In December 2009, she came back for another visit and never left.

Once in West Virginia, Goux was instrumental in the West Virginia Department of Education Dance Pilot Program. This was a program that worked to integrate dance into the curriculum as a core subject that would enhance learning.

Goux worked in Randolph and Harrison county schools, more specifically Beverly Elementary School and Nutter Fort Intermediate School, with children in kindergarten through fifth grade. She developed lessons through programs that she created with gold and platinum recording artist Max-A-Million.

The curriculum taught about social studies, manners and allowed the students to learn about culture and geography by letting them "visit" islands from around the world using an album of childrens songs called "Smilin' Islands," created by Max-A-Million.

"These were projects that were very beneficial for the kids in the schools because a lot of them are kinesthetic learners," Goux said. "It was successful because they were able to retain the lessons. I believe the arts are core curriculum."

Goux also is on the board of directors for the Riverside School Association in Elkins and offers dance lessons for free to children in the community. She also served as the president for the Barbour County Arts Council for two years.

Goux said modern dance is her favorite style because it allows the dancer or artist to create their own style and movements.

"Modern dance (is my favorite) in terms of concert dance because it gives the choreographer/dancer the license to be creative," Goux said. "I like to invent movement and like seeing an artist create something that is unique to that person."

Goux said two pieces stick out in her memory.

The first being the first time she danced in the piece "Memorials," choreographed by Shirley Mordine, that was in two sections, being "A terrible beauty" and "A desolate reality," and was inspired by the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"It was a really powerful dance piece within itself and an important step in my professional career," she said.

The second memorable dance was "On the Wings of Yemonja," choreographed by Goux, when Katherine Dunham was present and asked, by Goux, to bless the performance.

Goux also was the artistic director and a co-presenter of "Keep the Legacy Alive: Tribute to Katherine Dunham" and the Katherine Dunham Awards 1996-1998.

Goux said the people who made her a dancer were Jacqueline Jackson, her sixth grade instructor who introduced her to Joel Hall; Shirley Mordine, who gave her a strong, firm foundation in modern dance; and Katherine Dunham, who taught her that dance is a way of life.

Goux has been a working professional in the field for more than 30 years and has affected dance as much, or more, than it has affected her.

"Dance brings people together, it's the perfect ground for peacemaking." Goux said. "As an artist, I see the artistic skills in my family and learned from them, not only dance and music, but the art of being a warrior, a nurturer and a creative problem solver."



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