June Finch, dancer, choreographer and veteran Cunningham teacher, passed away on June 18 at age 81 from lung cancer. A founding member of the Viola Farber Dance Company, she taught Cunningham technique for decades at studios including SoHo loft 100 Grand Dance and the Merce Cunningham Studio at Westbeth, where, on March 30, 2012, as the most senior member of the Cunningham faculty, Finch gave the final class at the beloved studio. Students, colleagues and friends remember the master teacher here.
Kyle Gerry, dancer
“I came under June’s concentration like a spell: Her laser focus on the base of our spines, her careful crafting of rhythm, her great and percussive voice counting us in, summoning all of the joy and beauty of movement for a simple rond de jambe. June embodied all of the spirit and generosity of dance for me, and the love I came to have for her as a teacher and friend will be forever inextricable from my love of the art form itself.”
Pat Catterson, dancer, choreographer, teacher and writer
“When you saw that June was teaching on the sign-up sheet at Merce’s, you breathed a sigh of relief because you knew you were going to get a good, well-structured class, learn something and feel good about yourself at the end. She was a consummate teacher, not only because of her masterful pacing, rhythmic acuity, great corrections, deep understanding of the Cunningham technique and fun steps, but because the atmosphere she set up was warm, welcoming, focused, upbeat and generous.
“June didn’t only correct and guide those who were seen as ‘company material,’ but was there to teach everyone. She met you where you were. No one was irrelevant. Her sense of humor and whimsy were interlaced with her laser focus on the work and the art of dance. Generations of dancers, like me, dance better because of her.”
Janet Charleston, dancer, choreographer and teacher
“I met June around 1984. She remained my teacher always. A few weeks ago when I was visiting June at home, she noticed something about the way I was standing (‘You don’t do it when you dance!’). And though she was feeling very unwell by then, she hopped up and demonstrated it, and then corrected it on her own body to show what she meant. June herself had beautiful posture—those square shoulders and clavicles, and the way she carried her alert head.
“When June was teaching, you knew you were in good hands. Her expertise and knowledge, kindness and respect, generosity and passion, rigor and focus on the work (she never brought ego or attitude to the class) were all elements of the wonderful space she created. She knew how to pull out the best in us, and we worked hard while sharing the joy of dancing.”
Elizabeth Streb, choreographer
“June Finch was the reservoir of movement intelligence and grace for thousands of dancers over the course of her life. They flooded her doorstep to learn what she shared of her codes to the lines of the blood, the skeleton and the heart and where they reside, so that everybody would understand what is the rhythm of movement. How do you purvey that, how do you pass on the rhythm of movement?
“Where do the blood trails go? Where do they come from? And when do they turn and what does that mean?
“They go back to the source…the secret elixir that IS June Finch…
“We traveled that road to June over and over and over.
“And people, dancers, just feeling the life force of June returned again and again.…not just to feel it but to learn about it.
“And to know—were their elbows in the wrong place?…or their shoulders? Were they staying or residing in the shoulder joint…or in their respective sockets? And the legs and the feet and the toes….and ALL parts of the human being that’s physical but that has to ascend into the exceptional space that June Finch inhabited and how she was able so articulately to pass it on.
“And so graciously to pass it on to all those who decided to return.”