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Former Dance Faculty June Dunbar Dies

Former Dance faculty member June Dunbar, who was also the assistant director of the division from 1957 to 1967, died on August 15 after a series of strokes. She was 84 and lived in Washington, Conn. Dunbar also helped found the Lincoln Center Institute and served as its associate director.

June Dunbar teaching modern dance technique (José Limón) at Juilliard.

(Photo by Radford Bascome)

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Born August 2, 1927, in Kashmir, India (her father worked for the Y.M.C.A. in Hyderabad and Lahore), Dunbar grew up in Princeton, N.J., and at age 8 persuaded her parents to let her switch from violin to dance lessons. After graduating from Vassar in 1948, she studied at Martha Hill′s Connecticut College School of the Dance as well as with Juilliard faculty members Doris Humphrey, Louis Horst, and José Limón. In the following excerpt from José Limón: The Artist Revisited (Harwood Academic Publishers, 2000), which she edited, Dunbar wrote:

“José Limón probably was responsible for the path of my career. … It was he who entrusted me with my first teaching assignments in the newly created dance department at The Juilliard School and at [his studio]. All of this was an enormous amount of trust to invest in a 23-year-old and it was the foundation of a close and lasting relationship that survived until his death in 1972.”

She also wrote about how Limón could only remember the names of the very good dancers, which was challenging when it was time to grade students. “The problem was that he blurred all the gray, undistinguished, adequate dancers whose names, faces and bodies he could not recall. Routinely his first suggestion was that every student be given a C but [he] quickly realized that this would be a terrible disservice to the really outstanding students.” Dunbar would “try to jog his memory with physical descriptions [but] he wanted to be reminded of the quality of the dancer, not simply their physical attributes.” Eventually she devised an unorthodox but effective mnemonic by which she would describe each student as an orchestral instrument. 

Dunbar was on the Juilliard faculty from 1953 to 1967 and then ran Lincoln Center’s national touring program and helped found what would become Lincoln Center Institute with former Juilliard Dean Mark Schubart, starting in 1972. She served as the educational entity’s associate director, often hiring Juilliard students as teaching artists.

Dunbar is survived by her husband, Jack Dunbar, as well as by her four siblings and their spouses and children.

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