L. Tarin Chaplin

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  • "I clearly remember Tarin's influence on the students at..."
    - Larry Clark
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    - sandt litchfield
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    - Sarah Nixon
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    - Nancy Brennan
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EAST MONTPELIER - It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of our beloved flame-haired beauty, our mama, l. tarin chaplin who died of cancer this past Monday, May 25, 2009. Born in 1941, in Brooklyn, N.Y., where her father ran a gas station, tarin began dancing at the age of three. Seven years later her family relocated to Miami, Fla., where they operated The Silva, a commercial fishing boat. Head majorette at Miami High, upon graduation, tarin married Anton S. Chaplin and started a family of her own in State College, Pa., from whence she graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English and a minor in dance. After completing a master's in dance at UCLA, tarin and her youngest son moved to Vermont in 1976, eventually settling in her little red schoolhouse in the town of East Montpelier.

A life-long "eco-choreographer," activist, writer and dancer, tarin sought to connect people to the earth, the elements, and the sentient and non-sentient beings that share this universe with us in all their magnificent manifestations. Embodying this perspective, her art, which was performed on both proscenium stages and in site-specific venues, was known for its piercing imagery and rich symbolism. This past winter, for example, she brought her community the 12th annual Ice on Fire, an outdoor event that tarin conceived and directed in which she draws on storytelling and myth to celebrate the ferocious beauty of deep winter. Likewise, many remember the haunting tableaus of Women's Rites, a touring installation stage and gallery piece exploring the iconography of domesticity that had a memorable performance at Montpelier's Kellogg-Hubbard Library almost 30 years ago. Locally, she enriched circles too numerous to name, notably choreographing Pat Pritchett's version of "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Old Meeting House, participating in the rituals of the Remembrance Community and the explorations of the Authentic Movement group, as well as maintaining a longstanding collaboration with director Marianne Lust of Lincoln, with whom she worked on Marianne's magical Nightfires and Marrowbone.

The author of countless articles and books, including a seminal text in her field, "The Intimate Act of Choreography" (nine printings, three translations, co-authored with the late Lynne Anne Blom), tarin recently wrote and edited for The Bridge and other publications, and functioned as dance-theatre critic for The Times Argus. While rooted in Vermont, tarin taught and created internationally, holding university positions in London, Jerusalem and Vancouver, and nationally, at Penn State, the University of Montana, Goddard, Middlebury College (where she founded the dance major), and at SUNY Purchase (where she taught choreography at the Conservatory of Dance), among others. The recipient of prestigious fellowships from such places as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Asian Cultural Council, American-Israeli Foundation and Vermont Arts Council, tarin founded the International Performance Project (bringing performing and visual artists together from around the world), served for almost 10 years as Artistic Associate and Director of Choreography for the Carlisle Project, directed the Irish National Youth Dance Company, and, most recently, was the keynote speaker at the New Zealand National Dance Festival. A poet, nature writer, and storyteller, her experiences living and working worldwide (in places as far-flung as the Alaskan tundra, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Eastern Europe and the Outer Hebrides) inspired her commitment to honoring earth's breadth and spirit. Ongoing graduate studies in environmental ethics, deep ecology, and ritual augmented her avid Qigong, Butoh and wilderness practices.

Tarin's emphasis on community-based celebrations of the natural and supernatural worlds have opened hearts and given wing to new perceptions of our interconnectedness. Her bright spirit burns on in the dear ones she leaves behind, including her youngest son, environmentalist, builder, mechanic and farmer Daniel Chaplin (father to granddaughter Flora-Sae Kim Chessman Chaplin, both of Worcester); her daughter, Tamara Chaplin, a European historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; her eldest son, builder and former professional skier and tennis coach, Scott Chaplin of Queensland, Australia (father to grandsons Anders Royale and Palmer Gayle Chaplin of Lake Tahoe, Calif.); her niece, Neesa Warlen, of Plantation, Fla.; and a vast community of remarkable friends, students and colleagues. Wise, irreverent and passionate, tarin chaplin demanded much, and gave more. We are grateful for the powerful love she lavished so generously and for the myriad ways in which she shaped our lives. She will be deeply missed.

Tarin requested that donations in her name be sent to support two scholarships: the first, The l. tarin chaplin Choreographic Award, will be presented to a young choreographer enrolled for 2009-2010 at the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College, SUNY (where tarin culminated her academic career); the second will support the study of Yiddish (a language dear to tarin's heart). Checks for the choreography award should be made out to Tamara Chaplin and sent to Tamara at 1550 Center Road, Montpelier, VT, 05602, by July 15. Contributions in honor of the Memorial tarin chaplin Yiddish Studies Fund can be sent to Beth Jacob Synagogue, POB 1033, Montpelier, VT 05602.

Published in Times Argus on May 30, 2009