It came as a shock last week to learn that Crystal Mann–dancer, teacher, force of will–has died, of a recently diagnosed cancer. Crystal began her dance life as a member of Welland Lathrop’s company and went on to become a generous and popular teacher, but I did not know her until five years ago, when I joined the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards committee. Crystal stepped up as chair when no one else had the guts or masochism to. The awards were in an intense time of reorganization and finanical disarray, and Crystal seemed to realize that if she didn’t keep the Izzies going, no one would. She believed in the importance of the awards as a source of celebration and artistic encouragement, and as a yearly rallying point for the Bay Area dance community. Crystal was a fine-boned, small woman with an outsized determination. If someone flaked she wasted no time on anger, but simply stepped in to get the job done. She slugged through paperwork, made crucial new relationships with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Bay Area National Dance Week, and paid bills out of pocket when she had to. It’s no exagreration to say that without her, the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards would no longer exist.
I admired her work ethic and her altruism, but I also relished her company. We would ride-share to Izzies meetings. We’d talk about the latest dance shows we’d seen, but much more too: Crystal was incorrigibly literate and was always telling me about some commentary she’d read in the Times Literary Supplement or Harper’s Magazine. I’ll miss her shrewd, slightly ruddy face, her husky laugh, the sharp way she would raise her chin and narrow her huge eyes just before sharing an incisive point. She’ll be missed by many in the Bay Area dance world.
It was typical of Crystal to work like a dog for the betterment of the community but shirk acknowledgement. According to her family she has requested that no service in her memory be held. We can’t help but remember her anyway, and offer gratitude for all she gave.