New leadership at the Rockford Dance Company


By Anne E. O’Keefe
Rockford Area Arts Council

Over 40 years ago a group of dedicated moms, led by Carolyn Bailey, approached Jayne Poor, professor of dance at Rockford College, with the idea of performance opportunities for young dancers beyond the classroom and recitals. She and longtime friend, dancer and choreographer, Chuck Hoenes accepted the challenge.

The Rockford Dance Company brought Artistic Director, Wayland Anderson in July of 2014 and now there is a full complement of leadership as Emily Cooke has come on board as Executive Director.

Emily Cooke considers herself a Rockford native, having moved her in 1993. She attended Weber State University in Utah and Western Illinois University on a dance and choreography scholarship. This provided her with the opportunity to gain backstage experience such as costume design and production management while continuing to study, teach and perform ballet, modern and other styles of dance.

Cooke received a Bachelor of Business in Marketing Management and an MBA with a concentration in Marketing and International Business. Cooke has spent many years working for Fortune 100 companies which means she comes with a strong business background.

“I am most excited about being able to make a difference. I studied at RDC so to me it feels like coming home. I have a love for the fine arts as well as business. This position provides me with the opportunity to tap into my passion for both, Cooke said.”

Cooke will be taking the stage in the upcoming collaborative performances of The Nutcracker presented by the Rockford Dance Company and the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. This is a rare occasion as Cooke has not been on stage in over 10 years and she is thrilled to have the opportunity.

“There is something magical about performing especially the tradition of The Nutcracker,” Cooke said.

When I asked Cooke what about her past work experience most ignites her passion for the work that is ahead of her she said, “If I make a difference in one family’s life at Rockford Dance Company it will be unbelievably rewarding. Every time I look into a studio and see the dedication that the students and parents display it makes me want to work that much harder.”

For the past three years, RAAC has had the privilege to work with the RDC’s team including Meghan Baylor and Wayland Anderson. In the recent production of Dracula, ArtsPlace apprentices from last summer were invited to join the production, a turning point for those young dancers.

The Nutcracker will be performed Saturday, December 5 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 6 at 3 p.m. at the Coronado Performing Arts Center. Tickets available at CPAC Box Office and through Ticketmaster. Check out the rest of RDC’s exciting season, The Ugly Duckling, February 27, 2016 at The Nordlof Center; Cleopatra, March 25 and 26, 2016 at Maddox Theatre; Director’s Choice on May 20 and 21, 2016 at The Nordlof Center and RDC School Recital, May 22, 2016 at Maddox Theatre.

For more information on the Rockford Dance Company visit

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