Rockford Dance Company was established by a group of dedicated moms lead by Carolyn Bailey. These ladies had the desire to provide performance opportunities for young dancers beyond the classroom and recitals. They approached Jayne Poor, professor of dance at Rockford College, with their idea. She accepted the challenge with her longtime friend, dancer, and choreographer, Chuck Hoenes. In January of 1973, founding Co-Artistic Directors Ms. Poor and Mr. Hoenes accepted 86 charter members into the newly formed Rockford Dance Company.
By February 1974, the first concert was performed to a sold out audience in Maddox Theater at Rockford College. At the outset the company presented an eclectic style including ballet, modern dance, and jazz. By 1976, RDC hired Deborah Tennant (McDonald) as their first ballet mistress and weekly company class began.
In 1979, Chuck Hoenes choreographed an original version of A Christmas Carol with original music composed by Alexander Korkolis (Constantine). It was performed for four consecutive years. Adding a holiday performance to the schedule gave the company a solid performance structure. In 1982, Board co-presidents Eleanor Turbyville and Marilyn dougherty relocated RDC to the Old Post Office, where they were able to launch classes for the public and give RDC dancers the opportunity for more unified study. By 1984, both Chuck and Jayne had retired, but their dedication and creativity ensured Rockford Dance Company a solid foundation for its performance adventure.
Kenneth Von Heidecke was hired in 1985. He choreographed the first RDC production of The Nutcracker in 1986, established a solid corps de ballet, and expanded the repertoire of the Company.
In 1987, Ms. Joy Xu was hired to take over as Artistic Director. A former principal with the Shanghai Ballet, Ms. Xu brought a wealth of knowledge for both teaching and choreography. Although classically trained, she encouraged the dancers to pursue learning other styles of dance.
After an early nomadic existence of dancing wherever there was space, from church halls, schools, and vacant office buildings, RDC found a home at the Old Post Office. However, when the Sears building was given to Rockford Art Museum, a new idea was born. Six area not-for- profit organizations created a coalition to build a unique space. Riverfront Museum Park became part of the Rockford Park District’s domain and the six original organizations, Rockford Dance Company, Rockford Art Museum, Discovery Center, Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Northern Public Radio, and Storefront Cinema, found a new home.
In 1996, Ms. Margaret Faust was hired as Artistic Director. Ms. Faust’s storytelling ability help Rockford Dance Company land the Mayor’s Arts Award in 2004 for Midsummer Night’s Dream and in 2009 for Sleeping Beauty.
She was joined by the first full time School Director, Maria Castello, who wrote a structured syllabus for the school, solidified summer classes and workshop, and initiated Dance Reach, a performance group of young dancers.
Matthew Keefe assumed the reins of Artistic Director in 2012 and lead the company into new areas of collaboration. He instilled a renewed energy and enthusiasm for the potential of the organization. Mr. Keefe directed the 40th Anniversary Ruby Jubilee Gala with a unique blend of the new while honoring the history of the organization.
In 2014, Rockford Dance Company hired Wayland Anderson to lead the organization into a new era. In his first year, Mr. Anderson staged a new production of The Nutcracker that attracted RDC and RSO’s largest audience in 7 years. With the support of the Board and community, Mr. Anderson took RDC to Chicago to perform with him and Columbia City Ballet in William Starrett's Off the Wall & Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green. Mr. Anderson was the sixth Artistic Director of Rockford Dance Company.
Emily Cooke (Ayala) joined the organization in November of 2015 as Executive Director. In 2016, Ms. Cooke (Ayala) accepted the role of Executive Director and Artistic Coordinator. The future of RDC is very bright and has a renewed spirit. The mission has and will remain the same with the support of all of the contributors, dedicated families, faculty and amazing dancers.