June Lane Christensen

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  • "RIP sweet June. You always made me smile and feel loved."
    - Michele Hughes
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    - Jane Jaker
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    - Judith
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Obituary

June 24, 1926 - September 5, 2017

Beloved Santa Barbara Dance Teacher Passes On.

June Lane Christensen was known to thousands of students over her 59-year teaching career in Santa Barbara. In 1954 she started teaching modern dance at Santa Barbara High School, acting as choreographer for numerous school musicals and summer programs through 'Youth Theater Productions' (YTP), inspiring future professional performers, most notably Alonzo King of Lines Ballet in San Francisco. During her last 3 years at SB High, June created an alternative 'Learning Center' for students who were dropping out of school until retiring in 1981.

In 1980, inspired by international research on education and brain development, June and local resident Pat McClure formed a consulting practice called 'The Human Curriculum,' an educational approach based on not just "what is taught" but on "how we learn", to actualize each student's unique gifts and intelligence. "Movement is our first language. It is essential to learning, to memorization, to self-expression, and is the key to our health and well being."

June also taught 'Moving Consciously' for 30 years through Continuing Education, a class based on her studies of dance, therapeutic movement and the sensory awareness techniques of Charlotte Selver. June finally retired at age 86 after teaching her last series of classes at La Casa de Maria.

June was born in Oakland, California on June 24, 1926, to Lola and Everett Hellwegen and sister Lolita. As a child, having seen Isadora Duncan perform on the streets of Oakland, she knew she wanted to be a dancer.

In 1936 the family moved to Santa Barbara and later to Long Beach where June attended Long Beach High. She graduated with honors and became a student at UCSB when its campus was still located on the Rivera, majoring in Physical Education and receiving a Minor in Dance.

In 1945 June married World War II Veteran Dan Rice. The newly married couple moved to North Carolina to attend the iconic Black Mountain College. June studied dance with Katherine Litz and Merce Cunningham while working as the school dietician. At Black Mountain her marriage to Dan ended and her partnership with English and music student Mervin Lane began.

The two moved to New York City where they married and June continued her dance training with Martha Graham, coincidently a graduate of Santa Barbara High School. In 1950 the couple moved to Santa Barbara with a dream of starting an art center for children. They purchased land on Mountain Drive where they hand built an adobe house with a grand dance and music studio.

In the early 1950's June also performed as a puppeteer and organized modern dance troupes coming on tour to Santa Barbara. She often recounted her early attempts to fill the Lobero Theater. "I'd be lucky if 100 people showed up. Now I attend the extraordinary line up of UCSB Art and Lecture Dance Companies who pass through our town each season. It brings tears to my eyes to see auditoriums packed full, knowing how treasured dance has become in recent years to the Santa Barbara community!"

In the mid 1960's as teaching careers took off, June and Mervin parted ways. In 1973 June married Robert (Chris) Christensen, a diver instructor and pioneer of the marine technology program at SB City College. The two shared a deep love of nature and remained devoted until his passing in 2013. When not teaching the two could be found gardening, backpacking in the Sierras, fishing and spending time in their beloved California wilderness.

June cultivated a deep spiritual life, spending many years at the Vedanta Temple meditating and honoring the sacredness of our Earth community. When asked about her career June would say, "I am an artist who has served the spirit of dance, the craft of carving out space, and the art of letting go. I discovered early on it is not about the solo performer. It is about relationship and what is generated in the ever changing space between us that matters - on stage and in daily life. This is where magic happens."

June embodied this right to the end, teaching her friends and family who surrounded her that death is simply "a different kind of dance", one that for her was a celebration and greeted with open arms. She is survived by her children Nathan Lane and Katherine Lane Collis, along with the families of John, Lisa, and Susan Gollink Christensen, grandchildren Lara, Taran, Brian, Kaylen, Alise, Zechariah, Steven, Reaya and great grandson Bodhi whom she called Sky Chief.

A Celebration of June's life will be held on November 5 from 4:00 to 6:00pm. Please call (805) 969-2990 for details and to RSVP.


Published in The Santa Barbara News-Press Online Edition from Oct. 26 to Oct. 30, 2017
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