Photo courtesy of Naropa University Archives
Barbara Dilley, a luminary of the dance world, has profoundly shaped the trajectory of Naropa University. Born in 1938 near Lake Michigan, her journey in dance began with Audree Estey and Helen Priest Rogers, leading her to Merce Cunningham’s company and a transformative era with the Grand Union improvisational ensemble. However, it was her serendipitous encounter with Naropa in 1974 that catalyzed a profound legacy intertwined with the institution.
A creative beacon, Barbara Dilley’s relationship with Naropa was multifaceted. As an inaugural faculty member, she inspired students with her curriculum aimed at “synchronizing body and mind,” which was inspired by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings. She infused this dynamic philosophy into her teachings, championing the synthesis of meditation and movement. Dilley’s journey embraced a multitude of roles, from the architect of the university’s dance and movement program to its visionary president from 1985 to 1993. Through her leadership, she magnified Naropa’s ethos and pioneered its contemplative educational model, fostering an environment where artistic exploration thrived alongside personal growth. With her legacy extending into the realm of presence and the profound alliance of art and contemplation, Barbara Dilley’s influence continues to shape Naropa’s path and the broader landscape of dance and education.