Dear Island Dance community and friends, It saddens me to let you know that Diane Dicke, a member of this community and the “Dance Angel,” passed away peacefully at age 90 on August 24, 2022. I’m writing this letter to commemorate her life and share how special she was to me and the Island Dance community. Diane lived an incredibly full and impactful life. She was born in Berwyn, IL in 1932 where she was surrounded by friends and family. Later, she received her B.A. Degree in Modern Language from Lindenwood College in St. Charles, MO, and went on to get a M.B.A. in Human Relations from the University of Washington. She eventually joined the United States Army Corps in 1961 and moved through the ranks from First Lieutenant to Full Bird Colonel. In 1987, she moved to Whidbey Island.
Tapping at Island Dance
I first met Diane in 1990 when she started taking tap from me at the Eagles Lodge, which was the beginning of our more than 30-year long friendship. Diane was a dedicated and passionate student — always practicing and writing down the steps. I sometimes asked her what came next in the dance routine and she always had the correct answer and the moves to back it up. Although performing wasn’t her favorite aspect of dance, she performed in many Island Dance recitals and early Whidbey Island Dance Theatre Showcase (WIDT) concerts. Diane didn’t stop tapping until July 2022 when the side effects of the cancer made it too difficult for her to continue. I knew this day was coming, but it was very sad for me as her teacher and friend.
The “Dance Angel”
For over 20 years, Diane impacted the lives of many dancers through her generosity. During her time at Island Dance, she learned about serious students who were inspired to take dance to the next level by joining WIDT, a pre-professional dance company. To be part of the dance company, dancers were required to take additional classes to build on their technique. Diane wanted to help these dancers, so she set up an anonymous scholarship fund where she provided partial or full-ride scholarships to 3 to 5 dancers each year. Her only requirement for the scholarship was that the dancer and their family write a letter about their life and financial needs. I didn’t know how to refer to Diane without revealing her name, so I started calling her the “Dance Angel.” Without the “Dance Angel’s” help, many dancers wouldn’t have had the opportunity to dance or continue on with their own dance careers. This act of love should never be forgotten.
Yarrow, a Whidbey Island Dance Theatre dancer, and her mother, Laura, wanted to share how Diane’s gift impacted her life. Yarrow was nine years old when she began dancing at Island Dance in the summer of 2016. Two years later, she was invited to join WIDT’s junior dance company. Laura said she saw how dance supported Yarrow’s physical body, and contributed positively to her mental and social experience. Yarrow was homeschooling during her elementary and middle school years, so her dance community was her primary social experience. Yarrow and her mother knew it was important for her to continue dancing. Joining WIDT’s company was the next logical step. This commitment came with an increased number of required classes and a summer dance intensive, which made their monthly tuition jump in cost. It was that year, 2018, that Laura reached out to see if there were any scholarships available for dancers as both her and her husband were self-employed and raising four children on the island. They learned about the two anonymous benefactors that support students every year. They applied and the “Dance Angel” selected Yarrow as a scholarship recipient. For the next four years, Diane generously paid half of Yarrow’s tuition and her full 2020 dance intensive. Laura mentioned that Diane’s support was truly a gift, and in all honesty, made it possible for Yarrow to continue dancing at Island Dance as a company dancer. Yarrow reflects that, “The opportunity to dance at this level (fifteen hours a week) has not only developed my skills as a dancer, but has also made me a stronger, more disciplined, and flexible individual. Being a part of WIDT’s company has also given me a community of friends that are now some of the closest people in my life. Though my goal is to not become a professional dancer, I know that dance will always be a part of my life. None of this would have been possible without the Dance Angel’s generous support in my dance career. In a world where I see so many people focused on selfish gains, it has been such a gift to have been supported financially by someone who doesn’t even know me. The Dance Angel’s anonymous sponsorship has shown me that humanity has the potential to be generous and kind.” Laura added, “We were never able to meet and thank Diane in person as she wanted to remain anonymous. But it is people like Diane, who reach out and support others in the community, that show the young and old the potential goodness of humanity.”
Diane's generosity for the Island Dance community didn't end there. Over the years, she gifted us dance floors, sound systems, festive lights, and dance and gym wear for students who needed it. She also loved giving gifts to our teachers and her special friend, and Island Dance office manager, Lori Moore.
Diane was an inspiration in the Island Dance classroom as well as throughout our Whidbey Island community. I also want to share other memories from some of her Whidbey Island friends.
Margaret Faltus, one of Diane’s good friends, said, “If you were lucky enough to know Diane and she was your friend, you could go to her anytime and get her help. She always had an honest opinion, was forthright, and a rock-solid wonderful person.”
Brian McKenna, who has been friends with Diane for over 30 years, remembers her as being remarkable and steadfast. She lived by her principles, which included the belief that all folks are created equal and no one should be talked down to or left out. Brian also mentioned that Diane was a joy to be around. He remembers that she loved decorating her house for Halloween and welcoming both children and their parents.
I also recall her love for Halloween as she loved playing practical jokes on me and Island Dance staff who loved all that she did. One time she secretly decorated the studio with frightful visual effects. These decorations actually made me scream out loud. Her quirky sense of humor always kept us on our toes.
I’m so grateful that Diane was part of my life and Island Dance for so many years. What Diane has done for the studio and dancers is extraordinary. She truly is the “Dance Angel” and will live on through all the people she positively impacted.
Love, Char Brown