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Faculty Spotlight: Margi Cole

May 20, 2013

By Megan Kirby

Dance has a lot to do with balance—and for Margi Cole, part-time faculty member in the dance department, the pursuit of equilibrium extends to the rest of her life, too. Whether she’s teaching, performing, running the 17-year-old Dance COLEctive (TDC), or involving herself with the Columbia Alumni Association & Network (CAAN), the philosophy behind her balancing act is surprisingly simple: “I do it because I want to, and I make it work.” 

Cole has a long history with Columbia College Chicago. As an undergrad at Columbia, she worked both as a theater technician and an employee in the dance center, where she learned the “ins and outs of administration” as well as working the box office, writing grants, and helping run dance festivals. 

She remains grateful for the opportunities she found at Columbia. “I came to the dance program because of the open admissions policy. I was one of the lucky folks that had a passion but didn’t have a good track record in high school,” Cole says. “I don’t think I would have succeeded in the field as much if I hadn’t had the opportunity to go to Columbia.” 

Cole has witnessed a lot of positive development in her 25-year involvement with the Chicago dance community. “Chicago is a go-to place for dance,” she says. “The dance community has definitely grown, and evolved, and strengthened. We’re all working hard to make things happen.” 

She cites Shirley Mordine, founder of the Columbia dance department, as a major mentor and influence (plus, Mordine hired her at Columbia in the first place). She also recognizes the benefit of working with a wide variety of dancers, from her own teachers and students to the performers at TDC. “Having relationships with people over a long period of time is certainly an inspiration, “ she says. 

Her own choreography explores poignancy and intimacy. Her current piece, Moving Stories, was inspired by three weeks of traveling in the UK and living out of a suitcase. “It made me really think about how I define home,” she says. 

One of the changes Cole has witnessed is a new focus on partnerships—including TDC’s recent collaboration with Flyspace. “One of the things that’s happening is people are looking to each other to build strength and partner up in the community,” she says. “We’re all strong and vibrant and trying to make it all work.” 

Now, Cole gives back to her alma mater through active involvement with CAAN. She cofounded the Alumni Scholarship Fund, with Columbia agreeing on a 2-1 match of all collected donations.  Cole hopes the scholarship, which is open to juniors and seniors, can help students focus more fully on academics. 

“Having the support of the scholarship may help them ease the burden of finances so they can really focus on the last phase of their trajectory,” she says. 

In the end, Cole’s balancing act all hinges on passion. “I do it because I have to, because I want to, because I’m passionate about teaching, and performing, and running the collective,” she says. “It’s not hard if it’s satisfying.”

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