West Virginia University’s “First Lady of Dance,” Mary Kathryne “Kacy” Wiedebusch passed away on July 5.
A Clarksburg native, Wiedebusch earned her bachelor’s and master’s of arts from WVU and continued her professional studies in New York City. She returned to West Virginia and started teaching at Morgantown High School as a physical education teacher in the late 1940s, starting the Junior Orchesis Dance program there.
Wiedebusch joined the WVU faculty in 1955 and served as Professor of Dance in the School of Physical Education and then continued as it moved to the College of Creative Arts, Division of Theatre and Dance in 1993.
“We can all be grateful to this amazing woman who without her vision, grit, perseverance, passion and love for Dance, we would all not be here,” said Yoav Kaddar, professor and coordinator of Dance at WVU. “It's thanks to Kacy that we had and have a thriving Dance program at WVU. E. Moore Hall dance studio will forever resonate with her charm, determination and passion for dance education and its important and rightful place with in Academia.”
Wiedebusch was an innovative curriculum designer for dance development in higher education and was instrumental in the creation of the Dance Minor Program initiated in 2000 at WVU. She worked with President Elvis Stahr, Jr. in the construction of the Elizabeth Moore Hall Dance studio in 1960. Today, the studio is named and dedicated in her honor.
Wiedebusch founded an “Artistry in Residency” program in 1978 bringing in more than 30 nationally known artists such as Dan Wagoner, Bob Durkin and Joann Woodbury to help expose her students to new and progressive styles of dance techniques. She also worked with Eric Hawkins, the Alvin Ailey Co., Philadanco and the Joffrey Ballet Co. throughout her years at WVU.
During her tenure as artistic director of the WVU Orchesis Dance Ensemble, Wiedebusch choreographed and produced more than 150 theatrically staged concerts and eight original story ballets all while working with the University Choir, the Percussion Ensemble, Tom Canning, Phil Faini and others.
Wiedebusch was a founding member of the American College Dance Festival Association first held at the University of Pittsburgh in 1973. She was instrumental in the development of the West Virginia State Dance Festival. Her Orchesis modern dance ensemble was one of the first to perform on the stage of the Cultural Complex in Charleston.
Wiedebusch received two national awards for her commitment to dance at the collegiate and national level. In 1992 and 1994, Wiedebusch was appointed West Virginia Dance Educator of the Year. Her other honors includ being inducted into the WVU Physical Education Hall of Fame in 1994; appointed and served the state steering committee for the West Virginia National Standards of the Arts in 2000; and received the Paul “Buck” Martin Alumni Service Award in 2006. Wiedebusch was honored as a “Woman of Distinction” by her national sorority, Alpha Xi Delta. In 2007, Kacy was inducted into WVU’s Order of Vandalia, the University’s highest honor and recognition for extraordinary service to West Virginia University. Wiedebusch retired from WVU in 2006.
Wiedebusch’s love for dance education extended into the community with her countless concerts for children, outreach programs in the public schools and the development of the Community Arts Dance Program for children and adults.
A memorial service will be held at the Erickson Alumni Center on Sunday, August 7, at 2 p.m.