Marshall University Dance Gala welcomes 87-year-old Ella Hay


“Dancing for a Lifetime” is the title of this year’s Marshall University Dance Gala and the guest of honor is 87-year-old Ella Hay, who really has been dancing for the majority of her life.

“I’ve known Ella Hay since the mid 1960s, I danced with her daughter in Huntington, by the old Huntington high school,” said Deborah Novak, the director of the School of Dance at Marshall. “I used to notice her mother watching us very closely, and what she was doing was saying to herself, ‘I think I can do this as well.’ So, at the age of 39 she started to dance, and she trained really hard, it did not come easy for her.”

After years of work, in 1973, Novak said Hay bought The Art Center in Westmoreland. To this day, Hay teaches and dances there and has taught thousands of students since she started working in the studio.

The Gala will take place at 7:30 p.m. March 14 in the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. At the event, Novak said Huntington Mayor Steve Williams will be making a proclamation to mark March 14, 2020 as “Ella Hay Day” in the City of Huntington in her honor.

Hay will be performing and dancing in the final number of the concert.

“The Gala is entitled ‘Dancing for a Lifetime’ and what the audience is going to see is dancers from age eight, which is our youngest, to age 87 and everything in-between,” Novak said.

Novak said that the plans for this event started back in December when they asked studios in the surrounding area to come and perform, including The Beckley Dance Theatre, Arts in Action from Hurricane, Huntington Dance Theatre and The Art Center.

Marshall students that are in the dance classes here will be performing alongside the other companies.

“At Marshall Dance, we teach ballet, tap, jazz and modern,” Novak said. “All four of those classes will be presenting works in the Gala. They are really leading the pack and then we fill in with all the other companies around them.”

The Charleston Ballet, the official state ballet and one of the oldest ballet companies in America, will also be performing.

Novak said those who want tickets may have to go searching at the event.

“We are almost sold out for the Gala by the way, so students that want tickets better hustle,” she said.

Emily Hayslett can be contacted at [email protected]