During a poignant brunch reception in May, master teacher Linda Tarnay retired from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts after 35 years of teaching, which included four years as chair of the dance department. About 100 students, radiant in her presence, stood to pay tribute in a Tisch studio. “Thirty-five years. I never expected to stay here that long,” said Tarnay. “But the teaching just got more and more interesting.”
A founding member of Dance Theater Workshop in 1965, Tarnay has performed with Anna Sokolow, Lotte Goslar, Phyllis Lamhut and Jamie Cunningham, as well as in her own choreography. She has also been artist-in-residence at the Yard and director of Transitions Dance Company in London. She taught at ADF for 16 summers and was honored with its Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching in 2007. At Tisch, she taught technique and composition.
Although Tarnay has Parkinson’s disease, she joked easily with the students. When James Sutton presented her with a gift of a photo of her dancing with Jamie Cunningham on the steps of Federal Hall in 1972 (pictured), she said, “Oh yes, I was impersonating Isadora Duncan, dancing to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”
Kay Cummings, associate arts professor at Tisch, said later, “Linda’s not just a teacher, she’s a great teacher. She’s funny, incisive, truthful and encouraging.” When asked what the students will miss about Tarnay, she replied, “Her obvious caring and affection for them and her desire to expand their world. We’ll all miss her.”
Photo courtesy of Dance Magazine archives.