The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

May 2, 2012

The continuing dance

Parents, friends keep performer’s memory alive through scholarship

Her scientific side, she came by honestly (her father is a Greenbrier County science teacher). Her love of animals came from her mother, leading to the smuggling incident (of one of two pet ferrets, Professor and Melinda, into her dorm room — the only blemish on an otherwise perfect school record). Her love of life could hardly be explained away by genetics; to those who knew her, it was otherworldly.

Cyan Maroney, West Virginian by birth and mettle, didn’t “pass away” Oct. 2, 2011, as her parents, Mike Maroney and Dinga Wooling, point out. The West Virginia Dance Company dancer, Tamarack employee, former Theatre West Virginia performer and apple of her mother and father’s eyes became a victim of violence against women, in the most extreme way imaginable.

“We don’t want it whitewashed,” proposes Wooling, referencing her daughter’s tragic death by stabbing. “We feel as a culture we’ve become somewhat numb to violence.”

Now, with the accused assailant behind bars and awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges, Wooling and Maroney have begun traveling the long, inestimable road toward healing. Part of that process, to them, is to keep Cyan’s signature spark alive. They have chosen to perpetuate her contributions to dance through establishing a scholarship at her alma mater, Connecticut College, one that will offer the dream of learning dance, giving preference to West Virginia students for years to come.

Through the work of Tamarack staff and friends of Cyan, the pair is supporting an event at the artisan center Friday called “Remembering Cyan.” All proceeds from the event will go toward the scholarship fund and keeping their daughter’s positive influence alive.

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“There’s a tendency to use euphemisms to make it less traumatic for us,” reasons Maroney. “But the trauma has already been done,” finishes Wooling. “What happened is real. Talking about it isn’t going to make things worse.”

The parents going through what no parent can imagine contend there’s too much violence in the world to maintain a position of silence.

“Violence of any kind isn’t OK,” concludes Maroney in a message he and his wife hope permeates hearers far and wide.

What is most ironic about the way Cyan died was the way she lived, having grown up in a peaceful home, wrapped in an idyllic small town setting, where the concept of violence was understood but not experienced.

Whether hiking at Dolly Sods or hanging out in her grandmother’s kitchen, there lay the potential for enthusiasm from the stunning young performer.

“She was the kind of kid that could be fascinated watching water boil,” says Maroney.

His mother, Cyan’s grandmother, recalled to him that one day while she was cooking, she noticed Cyan lingering at the stove, staring down into a pot. “Mom asked her, ‘What are you doing?’ and she said, ‘I’m just watching the water boil. It’s so neat to watch all the molecules get excited!’”

A born athlete who crawled at 4 months of age and walked by 8 months, Cyan was the couple’s first child, and it didn’t surprise Wooling, who watched her daughter excel past early, obligatory physical milestones, that she would fall in love with the intricacies of dance at an early age.

Cyan performed with community-based Trillium Performing Arts at Greenbrier Valley Theatre from the time she was 8 years old and, as her dad remembers, took the stage at West Virginia Dance Festival before she was of an age to participate with the classes offered there. In addition to a kinship with the movements of different forms of dance, Wooling noticed Cyan’s calm demeanor amid the nervous energy exciting the stage wings before her first GVT performance.

“Aren’t you nervous?” mother asked daughter. “No, I’m … excited,” young Cyan replied, meeting her mother’s query with a wide, confident smile.

“It’s such an odd thing. Both my husband and I would never dream of being in front of other folks. She was different from the get-go.”

Remembering back to the time their daughter’s mounting accolades in dance began to pave a direction for her future, Maroney recalls Cyan’s decision to attend Connecticut College, identifying with the difficulties families face in affording higher education.

“We are not people of great means,” admits Maroney. “Financial considerations were a huge factor. She wanted to go straight into dancing and I wanted her to have a degree. We looked at schools that had good dance programs.”

After considering a few, it was another West Virginian’s influence as guest artist at Connecticut College, renowned American modern dance choreographer Dan Wagoner, that most impressed Cyan, leading to her ultimate decision to study at the small liberal arts school, situated halfway between New York City and Boston. Cyan would receive her B.A. in dance there, with a certificate in museum studies.

Her connection to the place where she grew up was firm and transparent. Maroney was surprised when he walked the halls to his daughter’s dormitory that her choice for door decoration, the greeting she put out to all entering her domain, was a picture of him and a neighbor putting up hay in Greenbrier County.

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Almost immediately after losing their daughter, Wooling and Maroney say they felt compelled to do something positive to honor her memory.

“We wanted it to be something that spoke about who she was, not that would focus on the perpetrator and the event itself.”

It was a foregone conclusion that the “something” would involve dance, which was as much a part of Cyan as loving animals, as country music (Brad Paisley in particular) and her infectious zeal for living.

It was the Greenbrier County community, dance communities from West Virginia (including her peers among the professional dancers at WVDC) and Connecticut and Tamarack staff and friends who immediately got behind the idea of a scholarship.

The National Honor Society at Greenbrier East High School held “Link Up Against Violence” drives, selling paper chain links for $1. At the GEHS homecoming game, the connected chain was brought out —3,000 links strong. It was the first $3,000 contributing to Cyan’s scholarship fund.

“It takes $50,000 to have an endowed scholarship,” Maroney explains, grateful to the students who got the ball rolling toward the lofty goal. “People have been so incredibly generous. It doesn’t seem as out of reach now.”

To date and prior to this weekend’s Tamarack event, Maroney and Wooling are approaching the halfway point, having reached $20,000.

“That amount of money just boggles our brains,” adds Wooling.

Once established, while any qualifying applicant will be considered to receive Cyan’s scholarship for Connecticut College, her parents have asked the school to give preference to West Virginia applicants.

“She loved this state for its physical beauty and for its people,” Maroney states.

“She was teaching dance for River City Youth Ballet in Charleston. Teaching was becoming more a part of what she was doing with dance. At 25 years old, we thought she had a whole lot more time left and a lot more to offer dance.

“This was a way we could allow her to continue to play a part in the future of dance.”  

To raise the money necessary to establish the scholarship, Friday night’s Tamarack’s “Remembering Cyan” evening with jazz musician Bob Thompson coincides with what would’ve been Cyan’s 26th birthday. The event includes a silent and live auction along with entertainment from musicians Lady D, John Yurick and local teen jazz group Diggin’ the Weatha’. Refreshments are also included in the $25 entrance fee. The event begins at 7 p.m.

While all ticket proceeds go toward the scholarship, so will any private donations given to fulfill the remaining endowment requirements.

For tickets, call 1-88-TAMARACK or go to rememberingcyan.com.

— E-mail: lshrewsberry@register-herald.com

 

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