Mary Rotella
Monday, January 31, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:38 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

With the onset of arthritis and consistent physical therapy to repair a 13-year-old hip injury, Mary Rotella said her body isn’t quite what it used to be.

“It’s hard to get older,” said Rotella, 46, chairwoman of the Stephens College dance department. “I’ve been dancing since I was 3, so if you think about it, my hips have been rotating for 43 years.”

As a 1980 graduate of Stephens, Rotella took her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree to New York in hopes of conquering Broadway. Rotella eventually achieved that dream. Her Broadway and national tour credits include “Jerome Robbins Broadway” and revivals of “Cabaret,” “42nd Street” and “My Fair Lady.”

Between performing and touring, Rotella made a living teaching professional dance classes, choreographing and directing musicals.

“I love performing, teaching and directing and choreographing equally,” she said.

In 2002, Rotella received a call from her alma mater asking her to lead the dance department in hopes of reviving it. She put her life in New York on hold and returned to Stephens.

“I really love Stephens and the dance department,” she said. “So I had to come back.

Dividing her time between the Midwest and the East Coast hasn’t been easy, Rotella said, but it’s worth the effort.

A New Yorker at heart, Rotella said she doesn’t think she will ever be able to truly leave the Big Apple.

“It’s so inspirational, energetic and diverse,” she said. “Just walking down the street is a show and performance in itself.”

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