The director of the Grambling State University Orchesis Dance Company, who has more than 25 years of global dance experience, has been suspended until further notice.
Sources say that both Dianne Maroney-Grigsby and her assistant director Teresa Jacobs were temporarily removed from the company last week by the institution, because of two letters to university president Dr. Frank G. Pogue and Vice President of Student Affairs Stacey Duhon that accuse Maroney-Grigsby and Jacobs of mentally and physically hazing dancers.
University officials did not confirm nor deny the allegations of hazing by the directors. However, Will Sutton, GSU’s director of communications and public relations, said that it was a “personnel matter” and the university is conducting an investigation that will last two to four weeks. The investigation is being conducting by the internal auditor.
Maroney is suspended from the dance company and teaching classes. Sources say she is not be within 500 feet of members from the company.
Dance is a concentration discipline within the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, in which Maroney-Grisby teaches 11 credit hours this semester. A temporary replacement professor to teach the dance classes was yet to be named as of press time.
During Maroney-Grigsby’s suspension, Raunda Williams will take over as the director of the dance company. She is a former Orchesis dancer and the wife of GSU head football coach Doug Williams.
Any student who minors in dance must be a part of the company, but not all dancers who are a part of Orchesis are minors.
Maroney-Grigsby succeeded Virgie Broussard Pradia to become the company’s third artistic director in 1983. She has worked with The Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble where she toured extensively with that company, and performed with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Maroney-Grigsby received her bachelor’s degree from GSU and a master’s from Louisiana Tech University.
The Gramblinite received a copy of one of the letters to the administration believed to be the cause of the suspensions, in which the parent claims that dancers were degraded and “torn down.”
“These young ladies are being torn down instead of being built-up, belittled, degraded, and humiliated. Their health is being compromised because of what Ms. Maroney and Teresa Jacobs have determined the ‘ideal weight’ for a field show dancer.”
The six-page letter also claims that dancers are taking laxatives, forcing themselves to regurgitate and starving themselves.
“Some of the dancers hide and eat. They are not allowed to eat bread. One of the girls licked her roll in an attempt to satisfy her needs. Another dancer was punished when she was caught eating a roll.”
Within the letter, verbal disagreements between Maroney and Jacobs and dancers were also explained. The letter concludes with excerpts from the GSU Student Handbook and Human Resource Employment Policies and a list of discrimination and hazing policies that the dance company should follow.
The suspension has caused some heated backlash from former GSU dancers.
Former Orchesis Dance Company member and assistant Kimberly Vaughn-Warner said that Maroney-Grigsby has never called her fat.
“What she has said was that you need to tune up,” said Vaughn-Warner. “But if these girls were rehearsing like they suppose to, then this will come naturally.
Maroney-Grigsby “has always came from a standpoint of she [a dancer] needs to look good for her body. As a dancer you have to be in shape and toned when performing and rehearsing,” Vaughn-Warner said. “You must have stamina.”
Vaughn-Warner, who is a teacher and director of her own dance team, says that not only did she come to GSU because of the Orchesis Dance Company, but that she has seen Maroney-Grisby turn individuals into dancers.
“She is like a second mom to me. I am where I am today because of Ms. Maroney-Grisby,” she said.
“I’ve watched her turn guys and girls with two left feet into dancers.”
However, Vaughn-Warner’s sentiments were not the same for all former dancers.
A GSU student and former Orchesis Dance Company member, who asked not to be identified because of possible negative attention, said Maroney-Grigsby would tell students to watch their intake
“Weight is important to a dancer, but not the determining factor,” she said. “They should talk about the technique before the girls.
“If you look at other girls in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, some are big,” said the former company member.
The official Orchesis Dance Company Guidelines and Constitution, which can be seen on GSU’s website, says in Section IV, Part 2, “Body weight will be determined by your height and bone structure. Weight will be checked.”
This issue has infuriated GSU alumnus Vincent Williams, director of Extensions of Excellence Inc. In a four-page letter e-mailed to Dr. Pogue,
Williams requests that Maroney-Grigsby and Jacobs be returned to their positions.
Williams’ letter also suggests that there may be some ill will toward Maroney-Grigsby, making this much more of a personal issue with administration than that of a personnel matter.
The Williams e-mail addressed the issue of weight.
“The parents constantly complain about weight issues because one of the Maroney-Grigsby rules is that you must weigh in weekly. As an artist myself, I feel that maintains discipline in the company.
“This is NOT a ‘dance line’ we are talking about here like other SWAC schools,” Williams wrote. “This is a dance COMPANY with a former ALVIN AILEY dancer serving as their director. It is a dishonor to the national arts community that a living legend is being treated in this matter.”
Williams and other supporting alumni are requesting to meet with Dr. Pogue during next week’s Homecoming events and and that Orchesis be removed from the Division of Student Affairs.
“We would like to have an open forum and the Dance Company should be moved to academic affairs,” said Williams.
Rashonda Spears, former dancer, assistant and now owner of her own dance company, says the situation is a tragedy.
Maroney-Grigsby “motivated a dance company and for someone to snatch it away from her is a horrible ordeal,” said Spears.
“She has the right to be a part of GSU as long as she wants.”
The open forum that the GSU alumni have requested has not yet been confirmed.