Maris Wolff joined the faculty of Johnson State College in 1977 and is now professor of dance. She is the founder and artistic director of the Vermont Dance Collective, a professional company in residence at Johnson State. She formed her solo dance repertory company in 1977, performing in New York City and throughout the United States and abroad.
Maris began her professional performing and teaching career in 1963. She was a soloist with the Milwaukee Ballet and Ballet Repertory (New York), and she has performed as an independent artist and guest artist and taught ballet, modern, jazz, folk, tap and historical dance throughout North America, Europe, England and Africa. Her performance venues have included Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.; Jacob’s Pillow, Lee, Mass.; Lincoln Center, the Symphony Space on Broadway, The Dance Theater Workshop, the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; and museums in Boston, Atlanta, Tulsa and many other cities. Most recently, she had one of the lead roles in the dance-oriented film Brujo, shot in central Vermont.
Maris has choreographed hundreds of dance pieces as well as numerous reconstructions of historical and multicultural dances, and has been commissioned to choreograph for dance companies, organizations, theater and musical theater productions throughout the world.
Besides JSC, she has served on the faculty of Hunter College and Clark Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, the Aegean School of the Arts in Greece; the International Early Dance Institute and the Amherst Early Music Program at Amherst College, Amherst, Mass. She has been an artist-in-residence at many schools and universities in North America, England, Europe and Africa.
She strongly believes in lifelong learning, continuing to take as many courses as she can possibly fit into her schedule. After training in New York City at the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre School and Harkness House for Ballet Arts, Maris continued to study many modern dance techniques including Humphrey, Limon, Graham, Horton, Cunningham, Duncan and Denishawn as well as composition, improvisation and jazz, tap, and folk dance. In addition, she has pursued special studies in Renaissance, Baroque, 19th-century and early 20th-century dance. And she has learned about acting, costume design, and massage therapy and body awareness techniques.
Indeed, Maris passionately loves her work. “It is such a joy to share my love of dance with students; to be able to pass on the traditions given to me by my teachers; to share this universal language; to see students blossoming in their creativity; to delight in the health benefits of dancing; to inspire students to explore new ways of moving; and to witness students’ growth and development. How lucky I am to have such a wonderful job!”
But as much as she loves her work, she loves her family. She has two adult sons, Mischa and Isaac, who, she says, “are both married to amazing women.” Maris lives with her partner, Bob, on his homestead in the Northeast Kingdom.
“I am the luckiest person in the world,” she says, “because I have a wonderful family, I live in a beautiful place, and I get to do what I love every day of my life. I get to share my passion for dance with students, who then become my extended family. It doesn’t get better than that.”
And if you think Maris sounds busy with her professional work, she still manages to fit in a few hobbies: reading, gardening, sewing, knitting and embroidery. “I am trying to learn to cook,” she says. “It is a challenge, but sometimes gratifying!”