The world of dance is a beautiful, fast-paced, exciting, competitive, and ultimately very difficult place in which to live. Becoming successful as a dancer requires an intense amount of dedication and love for the art- and it doesn’t hurt to have a little help. For countless dancers inside and outside Chicago, Margi Cole is that help. She is the guide, the teacher, and most of all, the mentor to all kinds of dancers trying to find success in the field that they love.
From childhood Margi Cole knew that she was meant to perform. “At a very young age,” she tells us, “I would create and perform my own dances in my garage at home, entertaining my family with my love of the art.”
As Margi grew up her creativity and talent flourished, taking her to Columbia College in Chicago and gaining her a new mentor- Laura Dean. From that moment on Chicago was Margi’s home, a place in which she would flourish as a dancer, choreographer, entrepreneur, teacher, and mentor.
From Dancing to Teaching
From dancing to teaching… Margi describes this journey- “I didn’t realize that I was meant to be a teacher until I got a job at the University of Illinois, hoping to make a livable wage while still doing what I love. Eventually I moved back home to Columbia College, and approached Shirley Mordine hoping to become a part-time faculty member in 1995. Back where I belonged, I realized that I had developed a passion for teaching that I’d never expected before. Teaching became an integral part of my identity.”
The Dance COLEctive: Born of Passion
One year later came Margi’s ultimate passion project- The Dance COLEctive.
Margi and her friends became tired of using the money out of their own pockets to create dance. As Margi had the skills to balance a budget, create a marketing plan, and write a grant, she took the reins on creating a group that would support her fellow dancers’ careers through a system that used money cooperatively. The Dance COLEctive eventually evolved to an ensemble with Margi as the central choreographer, and placed a focus on supporting the voices of emerging artists. As Margi explains, “The Dance COLEctive brought me further knowledge and experience as a dancer and choreographer, becoming one of the most important contributors to who I am now.”
Emphasis on collaborative efforts
“My work with my dance ensemble has always been a collaborative effort. I often come up with a point of departure, curiosity, or interest that I then share with my ensemble to form a collective idea. I see my role as instigator, editor, and architect, rather than the creator of every single move in the dance. My central interest when choreographing is in the puzzle that arises in putting together a dance, and the effort to challenge people with their idiosyncratic moves to move in a different way. I always hope to evoke equality, curiosity, and a compelling sense in the work I do.”
Throughout the years Margi Cole has choreographed and danced in countless pieces, both through solo and ensemble work. While unable to spend time on a lot of solo work while running the The Dance COLEctive, she is particularly proud of the solos that she has created- including Supergirl, a piece crafted in partnership with Liz Birch. Some of her more substantial works include the 25-minute Reel to Real and her piece Written on the Body, created to embody her interest in the Bronte sisters and their masculine alter egos.
Margi comments, “I have created so much work that it has become difficult to keep track of every one of them. Each piece is significant in some way, whether because of the people in them, the process that went into creating them, or their subject matter. Now I have a new challenge to face, as the ensemble has dissolved and I have to navigate moving the company forward from that particular structure— finding a way to evolve.”
Margi Cole as Mentor and Entrepreneur
If The Dance COLEctive was the passion project, becoming a mentor was perhaps Margi’s fate. Ever since she began teaching dance Margi Cole has served as a mentor to countless aspiring artists in the dance community. Margi describes her present experience as a mentor: “Right now I am working with a young dancer who helps me with administrative work while I coach her on how to elevate her visibility in the dance community. My mentor experience is always based in creating a two-sided relationship- which is a reason why I love the mentorship role so much. Mentoring has become a privilege in my life.”
Margi sums up her experience as a dancer, teacher, and mentor with these words: “I believe that dance and artistry have become my central identity. My artistic self and personal self are so closely intertwined that I cannot separate them- and often the artistic self wins out over the personal. I have spent almost all of my time, energy, and life on dance.”
Indeed, Margi’s love of dance as a child, The Dance COLEctive, her teaching job at Columbia College, her mentorship of young dancers- have created the Margi Cole that Chicago dance lovers have come to know and admire.
Meet Margi—a Chicago dance world force.
Visit the Margi Cole website for more info.