Dancing queen: She teaches all the right moves

It's Thursday night. Anne Megibow is teaching her dance production and choreography class at Piedmont Virginia Community College. "I want you to move across the stage as though you were a dot," she tells her students.

Nine pairs of eyes stare at her. "A dot?" one student asks. "What do you mean?" demands another.

"Well," Megibow counters, "what's it mean to you?"

In the world of dance improvisation, there's no right or wrong. There is only you, your body, and your unique way of moving. It's a concept that Megibow sometimes has trouble getting across to her students.

"If you're a technically experienced dancer, you have expectations about how things are going to look," Megibow said. "To toss all those teachings out can be difficult."

As a teacher, her challenge is to "not explain too much... to let people feel uncomfortable," Megibow says. It's a role she doesn't find easy. "I'm a person who likes to fix things and make everyone feel comfortable."

A veteran dancer and choreographer, Megibow knows first-hand about challenging oneself through dance. A founding member of McGuffey Art Center, she has been dancing, teaching and choreographing in the Charlottesville area for 34 years.

A part-time instructor at PVCC since 1974, her efforts to introduce dance choreography and improvisation began four years ago, after PVCC finished the V. Earl Dickinson Building with its sprung-wood floor stage. Now she had access to a performance venue. She also had a group of long-time students who were ready for such a class. "You reach a point where you want to dance your own voice, you want to jump off from a technical background and create your own movement."

With a grant from the Piedmont Foundation, Megibow spent a summer planning the new class and the annual PVCC Student/Faculty Dance Recital in early spring. Individual classes have also presented their own recitals .

"It was a really awesome experience for me to be able to do my own work," said choreographer Laura Purvis, 17, a Western Albemarle High senior. "Anne's great. She doesn't put so much pressure on you that you feel watched, but when you need help, she's there."

The daughter of Jimmy Maxwell, the great jazz trumpeter who played with Benny Goodman, Megibow grew up in New York dancing in Julliard School's Preparatory Division and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. She began choreographing as a student at Grinnell College in Iowa where she majored in romance languages and performed in the school's dance company.

In January Megibow and another local dance teacher, Cat Maguire, will combine their love of dance and language in a new class at PVCC, Dance Talk, which will explore the relationship of language, sound and movement.

Anne Megibow