Dancing into the Next Chapter

Barbara (Barb) Kibler announced she will be dancing into her next chapter at the end of this academic year. For the past forty years, Barb has been instrumental in pioneering and nourishing the dance program at George School–teaching students to “let their lives speak” through movement and with meaning. She has directed and produced more than thirty dance performances during her tenure.

Barb earned her degree in dance education at New York University (NYU) and then taught as an adjunct dance teacher at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).

“TCNJ received a call from Anne LeDuc [Former Girls’ Athletic Director at George School], who was looking for a dance teacher for a new physical education (PE) offering at GS,” remembered Barb. Pregnant with her first child, she instantly fell in love with the George School community.

“I just loved the inclusivity of it–how everybody was so friendly to each other,” said Barb. “It is actually what helped me decide to become a Quaker.”

Barb’s PE course soon became immensely popular, so she advocated to make dance an official part of the arts curriculum.

“The art of dance is a communicative skill,” said Barb. “That is what makes it an art, as opposed to something that is just entertainment. It is about emotions, and the need to speak your truths about your life, the world, and your place in it. It is similar to why a poet writes because they need to express themselves through words. Dancers feel the need to express themselves through movement.”

In the early to mid-90s, the dance program picked up momentum and students showcased their talents in the school’s first official dance performances.

Cori Seraydarian ’91, p ’24 arrived at George School already passionate about dance. She was a student in Barb’s first official dance performance at George School in the early nineties.

“Being able to study dance as part of my curriculum, while also having opportunities to sing in Chorale, Wednesday Chorus, and the annual musical performance, felt like serious next level education to me,” said Cori. “It definitely shaped and focused my path on to NYU where I studied Musical Theater–a major with a strong emphasis in all dance disciplines.”

“Barb was nurturing and open-minded. She taught us how to be brave on stage as we expressed ourselves through movement,” Cori continued. “Performing in that first Dance Eclectic, I felt a part of something so special, so carefully crafted, and so meaningful. All these years later I know Barb has continued to create that same safe space with every class she has taught. What an incredible gift to give a young person during their high school years! I am forever grateful.”

One of the most memorable performances for Barb was in the spring of 1998 when the student dancers dedicated the performance in honor of a classmate and fellow dancer, Carter Waghorne ’99, who had passed away suddenly. “Carter passed about two weeks before the performance,” reflected Barb. “All of the dancers were devastated with his passing and revamped the performance in his honor.”

Dance is a communicative skill that connects one another through movement and collaboration–a core belief at the foundation of Barb’s teaching philosophy. “There is a collectiveness in dance–we are like a sports team,” said Barb. “You bond and you create. The grounding is in the improvisation before we actually get to the setting of steps. I always create the choreography in conjunction with the dancers. I observe them and see where their strengths are. ‘You’re strong and that, and you’re strong at that. Put your strengths together and let’s see what you come up with.’ It’s rewarding to see them work together and create something. Their choreography is what they choose to express–it is their emotion, hearts, and souls.”

After viewing one of the dance performances, Oscar Hammerstein’s son, James B. Hammerstein ’48, p ’80, wrote Barb a letter as he was in the audience for his 50th George School reunion at the time. The letter remains framed and is a heartfelt treasure for Barb.

Dear Barbara Kibler, 

I’m a member of the Class of ’48 and attended the Saturday evening dance concert during my reunion weekend at George School. I was thrilled by what I saw. I felt a real commitment from the performers and total support from the audience.

The difference in technique became an advantage in some respects–merely highlighting the individuality of the dancers’ personalities rather than exposing their weaknesses.

That evening–which I believe owes a great deal to your guidance and vision–was definitely the high point of my weekend and the rekindling of my love for George School.

Thank you,

James Hammerstein

Gracie Coscia-Collins ’09 had Barb as a teacher, advisor, and coach while at George School. Now she calls Barb a friend and colleague. “Barb would sometimes drive me to school when my parents could not, or drive me back from dance rehearsals,” remembered Gracie. “She was always there when I needed her, not just in the dance studio but far beyond. It was in her class that I fell in love with choreography, which led me to Temple University to pursue my career in dance. She taught me to take risks. She taught me to explore. She fostered in me a lifelong love of learning about the body, and body-mind connection.”

Throughout her time in college, Barb never missed one of Gracie’s shows, and Gracie would occasionally return to George School to help Barb with the Dance Eclectic performance or teach a master class. In 2020, she returned to campus to teach with Barb full time and work in a dorm.

“The three things I most appreciate about Barb are her resilience, honesty, and humor,” said Gracie. “Our relationship has been a journey–of life and loss–the happiest of times and some of the hardest. The morning of my wedding, Barb was in my parents’ kitchen making all the boutonnieres for the wedding party. I will never be finished learning from Barb. I am honored to know her, to work with her, to call her a friend, and to walk in her footsteps.”

Serving as an advisor, PE teacher (including pickle ball before it was popular), and cheerleading and track coach over the years, Barb has consistently lived out the school’s mission in her commitment “to openness in the pursuit of truth, to service and peace, and to the faithful stewardship of the earth,” and in modeling “treasuring learning for its own sake and using it to benefit a diverse world.” She also taught Holistic Health to generations of George School students and was a member of the curriculum review committee which resulted in the establishment of the Essentials of a Friends Community (EFC) course. She has accompanied countless students to Washington DC for service-learning trips, and to the Navajo Reservation, which has resulted in lifelong relationships with families on the Reservation.

“I attended Meeting for Worship for the first time ever at George School,” Barb remembered. “The whole vibe and feeling just drew my husband and I in. We also had friends who were Quakers, and we wanted to raise our kids in some kind of religious environment, and this seemed to be the best place for us.” Barb’s two children, Matthew ’02 and Caitlin ’06, are George School alumni, and she is proud to have them as part of the family legacy at the school. “You connect with a lot of people during your time at George School and stay connected with them after.” In fact, this year the Class of 1993 will celebrate their 30th reunion during Alumni Weekend–a class that Barb was a sponsor of the year they graduated.

The theme for this year’s dance performances was transitions–a theme especially meaningful to Barb as she prepares to leave George School. She will be transitioning to teaching dance in a more therapeutic direction, with plans to begin certification to become a teacher for “Dance for Parkinson’s Disease” which originated with the Mark Morris Dance Group.

What will Barb miss most about George School? “The students,” she says, without missing a beat. “Absolutely the students, and the bonds that you create together. They are taking dance because they want to, because they are curious, and they are showing part of who they are. It takes trust and vulnerability to dance and share it with others.”

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