Colleen Mulvihill: June 9, 1952 – March 2, 2019

By In Dance


Close up of Colleen Mulvihill with her arm reaching across her body

After a brief, sudden illness, long time Bay Area resident dance artist Colleen Mulvihill died in Longmont, Colorado on March 2, 2019. Her partner for close to four decades, J.A Deane (Dino), was there to support her passing and reflected that “I was blessed to have shared a life-journey with this amazing woman for 38 years and as we all (family/friends/colleagues/clients) knew, Colleen walked her own path. I often felt that she wasn’t securely attached to this physical world but rather traveled another strata.”

A movement conjurer whose 30 year dance career emerged from her early years as an Olympic gymnast, Colleen transformed her singular artistic perspective into healing work with others, using movement and energy work to “understand the deeper energetic capacities within us to affect change and improvement in our whole state of being.” This work bridged diverse settings and body-work modalities, each reflecting her history as a gymnast, dancer, choreographer, teacher, coach and especially in her role as a cherished friend to many in the dance world.

One of eight siblings, Colleen Mulvihill found her calling at an early age, spending hours in the gym daily being coached by her father, Dick Mulvihill, a well-known gymnastic coach in the United States in the 1960s. Colleen went on to compete at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics by placing third at the Olympic Trials. After the Olympics she completed her education at Centennial High School in Illinois, graduating in 1970 and then attended the University of Illinois where she studied dance with Beverly Blossom, Chester Wollenski, Willis Ward and Pat Knowles, receiving a BFA in Modern Dance in 1974.

As might be assumed from her gymnastic training, Colleen was an exceptional dancer. In the Bay Area, Colleen collaborated with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company from 1975–1979 and also from 1984-1986. On learning of her death Jenkins provided this reflection, Colleen was the definition of rhythm for me, living in the spaces in between the beats. When she first came to my class I wondered who this creature was, fresh from gymnastics and the university fitting no particular definition of dancer thank goodness, but surely challenging how one might learn from and contribute to what she knew. Sometimes one just takes a chance not knowing why, as so many did with me, and she became a gift that kept revealing the work to me, to us – her spirit demanding, her craft exemplary, her love in every step, in the margins or ON the stage. A blessing to the work, to me, ongoing.”

Colleen also had the opportunity to work with the David Gordon Pick Up Company in New York City from 1980 to 81.

Starting in 1979, Colleen started her longest and most endearing collaboration that continued until her death. That collaborative partner was composer and musician J.A. Deane – Dino. Together they generated over 50 dance and music works which they described as “a dynamic relationship to the inexhaustible possibilities of movement, sound, architecture, image and light.” Colleen and Dino performed and presented original productions throughout the United States, Europe and China. In 1986 Dancers’ Group presented Colleen and Dino’s work in the inaugural Edge Festival and again in 1994, both presentations in San Francisco.

Over the years Colleen created several businesses that allowed her to share her unique perspectives on training that, in addition to gymnastics and dance, included Qi Kung, yoga, Pilates and Gyrotonic. For many years she created gymnastics routines for competitive university and club teams, cultivating award-winning gymnasts throughout the country, including the University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears. Over the course of her 20-year study of Five Element Theory, Reiki and other esoteric healing forms, she created a tremendously effective and wholly unique energetic healing modality, which she used to restore health to countless animals and people.

Her most recent business in Colorado was aptly titled “The Body Speaks.” On the Body Speaks website Colleen described how she approached each person, “I have come to understand the deeper energetic capacities within us; allowing us to sense new territories of our beings (not only our physical bodies) and then use this awareness to affect change and improvement in our whole state of being. This deeper participation with our whole beings gives us an ever evolving means to express ourselves, communicating with clarity and ease. Constantly attuning to this whole body awareness is what I imagine to be the essence of living from our ‘Core.’” She generously brought to each setting a warmth that radiated kindness imbued with respect for each individual body and being. When you worked with Colleen you were assured one of her vibrant smiles that was always followed by her soulful laugh.

Colleen’s life was celebrated on June 2nd with colleagues, friends and clients in Colorado and on her birthday, June 9, at a gathering in Eugene, Oregon with numerous friends and family.

This article appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of In Dance.

In Dance is a publication of Dancers' Group.