Class Notes Profile: Margi Cole

Margi Cole’s company ‘pushes the envelope’ of creative dance.

When Margi Cole, MFA ’85, was 10 years old, “I proclaimed to the world, ‘I’m going to be a dancer.’”

She did become a dancer—and much more. Over the course of her career, Cole added to her résumé: teacher, choreographer and entrepreneur of modern dance. In 1996 she founded The Dance COLEctive, and she is on the faculty in the dance department at Columbia College Chicago.

“I split my time between teaching and the dance company about 75-75,” says Cole, laughing. “I’m doing the best I can to be the best I can be in both arenas.”

She started TDC with the idea of “pushing the envelope in terms of dance.” To Cole, that means the art form doesn’t have to be seen in a traditional theatrical setting. It also means changing assumptions about what bodies are supposed to look like.

Cole, who grew up in Springfield, Ill., is the recipient of numerous awards and is often commissioned to choreograph programs for dance companies throughout the nation. She credits dance professor Renée Wadleigh, MFA ’91, with helping her see beyond her own two feet while at the U of I.

“Renée helped shape my aesthetic eye for dancing and choreography,” Cole says.

Since taking her first step as a dancer, Cole has stubbed her toe only once along her career path.

“I wanted to be a ballet dancer,” she recalls, “but it turns out I didn’t have the right physical presence or skill.” She is OK with that.

“Now I’m a performer, choreographer, teacher, administrator and mentor,” Cole says. “All those things are intertwined, and the improvisational nature of all that is a place where I like to be.”