Marianne Crowder, dancer and teacher, dies at 104

Palo Alto woman who taught dance and fitness for nearly eight decades succumbs to pancreatic cancer

Marianne Elser Crowder, who shared the joy and discipline of dance with generations of young women and who showed older women how to remain fit and flexible, died peacefully June 4 at her Palo Alto home at age 104, surrounded by family and friends. She had pancreatic cancer.

Marianne was a well-known and revered teacher of dance and corrective exercise, and a choreographer for many years on the Peninsula.

Born in Colorado Springs, Colo., from a very early age she exhibited an unusual gift for dance. She enrolled in the Perry Mansfield School of Dance and Theater in Colorado and studied with many of the leading pioneers of modern dance, including Louis Horst, Doris Humphrey, Helen Tamiris, Hanya Holm and Daniel Nagrin.

When she completed her studies she joined the Hanya Holm Dance Company during their residences at Bennington College and Mills College. She managed and performed with the Perry Mansfield Company on the RKO Vaudeville Circuit throughout the United States and Canada.

Settling in Colorado Springs, she taught both modern dance and folk dancing at the Cheyenne Mountain School, the Broadmoor Academy of Dance, and was named chair of the Dance Department at Colorado College.

She resigned her position to marry writer Paul Crowder and they moved to California in 1940. For 19 years she taught in the Stanford University Drama Department and choreographed dances for major Stanford productions for the Drama and Music Departments. Her expertise in historical dance led to choreographic commissions for the Carmel Bach Festival and the production of the film, "The Court Dances of the Renaissance."

In 1949 she initiated a series of courses in corrective exercises sponsored by the Palo Alto Adult Education program and later the Menlo Park Recreation Department, where they still continued. She also began a decades-long studio to teach young girls dance. Many programs, with scripts written by her husband, involved hundreds of students over the years. She retired from active teaching at 95. In 2007 she was celebrated as the oldest Girl Scout in America -- the Weekly published a detailed article about her life on April 20, 2007.

She is survived by her two daughters Anne Gully (Anthony) of Tempe, Ariz., and Susan Miller (Robert) of Lafayette. She leaves 10 grandchildren (Wendy Crowder, Rosamond Crowder, Rodney Headington, Hilary Hanel, Megan Davis, Tracy Chiappone, Christopher Chiappone, Cary Chiappone, Emma Gully, and Craig Chiappone) and 12 great-grandchildren.

A private family memorial service is planned. In lieu of flowers the family requests gifts in her memory to the UCSF Foundation's Pancreas Cancer Program Fund, P.O. Box 45339, San Francisco, CA 94145-0339.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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Like this comment
Posted by Amy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2010 at 8:47 am

So proud to have been one of Ms. Crowder's students as a young girl. Will NEVER forget her patience, kindness and love for dance that she shared with SO many of us.
Rest in peace sweet lady.

Like this comment
Posted by GS Troop 60647 leader
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

The Palo Alto Girl Scout community will deeply miss Mrs. Crowder. I am honored to have met her. She was a lovely and gracious woman.

Like this comment
Posted by Sherry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I first had the pleasure of meeting Marianne Crowder in the mid 80s, when at the time she had engaged my services as a financial consultant.
I had the pleasure of serving her financial needs for many years thereafter, and always did and will hold her in the highest regard.

Her zest for life, her energy, and positive attitude were infectious.

Rest in peace dear lady. You will be missed.

Sherry Bijan

Like this comment
Posted by Homer Winslow
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2010 at 10:09 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Jason Fell
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2011 at 9:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Megan Davis
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:55 am

Thank you for all your kind comments about my Grandmother......she truly was a treasure and I am very honored and humbled to be her Granddaughter!! Take care....

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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