Marin Dance Theater’s new artistic director conveys love of ballet

Lynn Cox’s adventure in ballet was a bit unconventional. After being stung when she was a baby and having hip problems, her doctor recommended that she try performative dance for her ailments. From the age of 3, the Novato resident did not expect this to be the impetus for her long career in ballet.

After dancing professionally with the Atlanta Ballet for several years, she became ballet mistress for regional companies and pre-professional division leader for Marin Ballet before landing at the Marin Dance Theater in its debut in 1996. Now artistic director of the non-profit dance school, she continues to motivate and inspire the students of the school.

After navigating the ever-changing pandemic – organizing shows and outdoor classes, and working on opening a future second studio in Corte Madera – the non-profit dance school will set up her first major indoor production since the start of COVID-19, “Sophie and the Enchanted Toysshop,” next weekend at the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael, which she choreographed.

Q How did “Sophie” start?

A I had taught at a school in New Mexico and they had costume scraps – a Raggedy Ann and Andy, a toy soldier, and a wind-up doll – so I started to think, we need to create a holiday ballet on a toy store. That first year, we called it “The Enchanted Toy Store”, and we started to add to the ballet and it took on a life of its own. It’s a very special environment and this year we care more than most. Just as COVID arrived, we were getting ready for another show in the spring and it was canceled. So I think there was special care while the children were getting ready for this production. They don’t take it for granted.

Courtesy of Marin Dance Theater

After a pandemic hiatus, the Marin Dance Theater will present its holiday ballet, “Sophie and the Enchanted Toysshop,” next weekend at the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium.

Q As a choreographer, how do you approach the show?

A Every year I adapt to who we have. Sometimes that means making new parts, like this year there are more junior cadets. Every year my role is to make sure the steps are the right ones to show this dancer and make sure he can get up there confident and ready. It keeps it fresh and new because we’re always tweaking it to make it work for the community that we have.

Q How did you meet your predecessor, Margaret Swarthout, and join MDT?

A Margaret had known the director of the Atlanta Ballet, Robert Barnett. I moved to the Bay Area and sent my resume to Margaret. She was then at the Marin Ballet. She called me right away and told me they were looking for a teacher. I taught there, I went to a few different places, but I continued to teach for Margaret. When she started MDT, she told me to start with it. I look back and it’s remarkable where we are now. Founding director and artistic director for 25 years, she shaped me a work ethic and a humanity that I strive to perpetuate on a daily basis. His passion for MDT and the art of dance was a fundamental strength, and the school culture that we have created together over the past 25 years I remain extremely proud.

Q What made you want to work with young people?

A I have always loved teaching and children. Actually, I love teaching more than performing as a dancer, but I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to have this career on stage. You learn in all of these areas, but I am very happy to impart information and help a child be successful in something he loves.

Q When did you teach your first class?

A When I was 15, training at a small school in New Mexico, I watched my teacher, learned a lot about classroom management and what you can expect from kids. I had a teacher who really marked me, Françoise Martinet. I studied with her for a few summers. She had an infectious energy and she also had an expectation from you that you weren’t afraid of but you knew she was there. This is kind of what I based my teaching style on.


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