News Column

DCDC dancer's death a result of brain tumor

May 15, 2014

By Amelia Robinson, Dayton Daily News, Ohio

May 15--William Braddan McClellan Jr., a long-time Dayton Contemporary Dance Company dancer and choreographer, died as the result of complications from a brain tumor, the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner in Michigan said Thursday.

His mother Regina McClellan said he will be buried in Chicago, his beloved hometown.

Funeral arraignments are pending.

McClellan said her son had been sick since January with an illness doctors had not yet diagnosed.

Despite the illness, William McClellan pressed on with his studies at the University of Michigan where he was a candidate for a master of fine arts in dance.

"He wanted to get that master's degree. He wanted to teach at an university," Mrs. McClellan said.

William McClellan graduated May 6.

Mrs. McClellan found the 36-year-old dead Wednesday in his home in Ypsilanti, Mich.

She had been there to help him get around as his illness progressed.

"It was not expected," McClellan said of her son's death. "It was not something we saw coming."

McClellan said the outpouring of love from her son's friends, students and fans from around the country has been remarkable.

"He is known for that smile that he had," she said. "Everybody knows that he loved dancing and he loved teaching dance."

The university held a memorial service for McClellan Thursday, his mother said. A second service will be held in the fall. McClellan is also survived by his father, William Braddan McClellan Sr.; and younger brother, Steven McClellan.

RoNita Hawes-Saunders, DCDC's executive director, said the company received word Wednesday morning of McClellan's passing.

"Not only was he a tremendous performer, but he had a very outgoing spirit. He had a really pleasant demeanor," Hawes-Saunders said. "He was personality in addition to a dancer."

McClellan earned a bachelor's degree in dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2000. He started with DCDC in 2002

Hawes-Saunders said McClellan was featured in many DCDC performances before leaving the area in 2012.

Raised on Chicago's southside, McClellan did his master thesis on Japanese dancers in Brazil.

According to his Joffrey Ballet profile, he "travelled to Brazil and Argentina through two Ohio Arts Council Grants, created ballets for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and the Cincinnati Ballet and has received recognition for his choreography from the Ohio Senate."

According to his University of Michigan profile, McClellan choreographed works for SMAG Dance Collective, Stivers School of the Arts, South Dayton Dance Theater in Dayton. He also choreographed for Ashland Regional Ballet, Pittsburgh Dance Ensemble, Erie Dance Conservatory, Pennsylvania Regional Ballet and the Cincinnati Ballet.

The award-winning dancer's work with the Wright State Dance Ensemble was presented at the American Dance College Festival Association in 2010 and he was selected to serve as an alternate for the National Dance Festival.

McClellan was an adjunct faculty member at Wright State University and taught TLC (Teaching, Learning, Caring) for Dayton Public Schools.

In a 2009 review, then-Dayton Daily News arts critic Terry Morris singled McClellan out in a piece about the opening performance of DCDC's 41st season.

"William B. McClellan Jr. gave a powerful performance as one of seven men on a chain gang whose hearts and minds yearn for the freedom their bodies aren't permitted. LaMoi Hedrington was the man who followed his heart and ended up dead because of it," Morris wrote.

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Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)

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