UNCG Dance alumna chases a dream to the stage

Posted on April 03, 2023

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As an undergrad, Daria “Toni” Clarke ’21 set aside ambitions to be a dermatologist or veterinarian for her first love, dance. Upon graduation, she set her sights on the Garth Fagan Dance company, based in upstate New York. Her professor and mentor, Dr. Janet Lilly, had sent her a flier on tryouts.

When the Garth Fagan Dance called her to come audition for three days, she was elated. But it was a trial by fire. On the third day, legendary founder Garth Fagan was on hand to make a decision. She was hired!

The past three years as a member of the company have been a fantastic experience. “This is a modern dance company with African, Caribbean, ballet, and post-modern aesthetics!” Clarke explains.

The company’s founder, Garth Fagan, is the Tony award-winning choreographer who brought Disney’s “The Lion King” to life on the Broadway stage through dance and puppetry. That musical swept the Tony Awards in 1998, winning for best musical, direction, scenery, costumes and lighting design. As the company’s website notes, he began his dance company “in the 1970s when the country was just beginning to emerge from a tumultuous decade of riots and widespread unrest. As part of his recent appointment to the faculty at the State University of New York in Brockport, Garth Fagan began teaching dance classes at the SUNY Educational Opportunity Center in downtown Rochester. Many of his students had no previous training. Most came from inner city, economically disadvantaged backgrounds. But Fagan was so inspired by their raw talent and tenacity that he decided to transform this highly unconventional group of dancers into a professional company, based not in one of the world’s cultural capitals but in upstate New York.”

It is now one of the most acclaimed contemporary American dance companies.

Clarke will perform with Garth Fagan Dance as part of the UNC Greensboro Concert & Lecture Series, and will participate in a masterclass on the “Fagan Technique” with School of Dance students. It will be her first time back to UNCG since graduation, she tells us.

On the day before the concert, a Garth Fagan Masterclass will be held for selected dance majors, but it is open to all UNCG students who want to attend. The masterclass will be April 4 at 2 p.m., Room 201A, Coleman Building.

Garth Fagan Dance UCLS performance:

April 5 at 8 p.m., UNCG Auditorium – Tickets can be purchased at ucls.uncg.edu

By Mike Harris ’93 MA and Terri Relos
Photography by Steven Pisano

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