For our beloved Ann Kilkelly

Collecting loving memories of Ann Kilkelly (76), who was a scholar of jazz-tap dancing, history, performance and gender studies, as well as a teacher, director, choreographer, performer and writer.

"Oh Ann! How’s it look over there? Your rhythms are crackling through the aether. Bosons click-clacking everywhere. Much love maestro/maestra!"

- Whit Maclaughlin

Bob Leonard

"Our dear comrade Ann is in her final days on this plane. Let her time with us, her joy and love of life, her fierce faith in creativity and her deep knowledge of the human spirit released in dance and movement be present with you for a treasured moment."

For our beloved Ann Kilkelly

Lisa Q Mount

One of the great ones has gotten her backstage pass to the universe. Dear, wise, wacky, wonderful Ann Kilkelly is no longer troubled by that damned dementia. Her legacy of scholarship and tap dance, inspiring students and colleagues and friends and loved ones in equal measure, lives on.

I met Ann at my first ROOTS meeting, known among ROOTers as “Sports Camp” or “Dinosaurs” or the one where Paula smashed the guitar. 1990, Carnesville, GA. 

Ann was luminous and magical. I had heard a lot about how she and Jo Carson had spent good times together in Lexington, KY, and I had a mental picture of leafy green trees outside her house, where Jo holed up and wrote things. 

Some years later, Ann brought Carol Burch-Brown to ROOTS and we spent time drinking whiskey (my first introduction to Makers Mark) and playing music together (Ukelele Lady), at Camp Rockmont (aka Lake Eden, aka Black Mountain College). 

Time passed, and there were visits in Blacksburg, and more ROOTS meetings, and Late Night/Café Bizzoso adventures (including her choreography of one of the Boob Ballets), time together at the beach, and then for the first of my Auntie Q and her Wayward Girls shows, I knew we needed the ultimate Waywards, Ann and Carol, to come to Sautee Nacoochee to create and perform. And there her magical luminosity returned – more in the creation of the performance than in the execution. We all lay around and giggled while writing songs that we performed live that week. 

Ann’s final tap performance that I saw, late at night at her last ROOTS meeting, was another of those moments when time suspended itself, and we all lived in her feet and what they knew, as other kinds of cognition had begun to falter. Singing Hard Times, not of the Stephen Foster variety but of the Ain’t Gonna Rule My Mind kind, accompanying her entry into a dance trance state, one of the most profound moments ever. And all who were present knew they were witnessing a peak performance, by someone whose craft and life were completely intertwined.  

We shared wonderful time together at the beach, where this picture of Ann and her beloved Carol was taken. I have missed her fiercely since dementia and Covid stole her from so many of us. This plane was no longer the right container. She and Jo Carson are having one fine reunion. Fly, dear friend, fly.

Photos with Dan Gavere (Ann's son)

For our beloved Ann Kilkelly

Paul Bonin-Rodriguez

I first met Ann and Carol and Joanna in my early years at ROOTS. And at some point, after dancing with Ann (thanks for the photo of that, Lisa Mount!), and spending a lot of happy time with Carol and Joanna, Ann said, “I feel like you’re my brother.” And my heart felt particularly full.

For our beloved Ann Kilkelly - Paul Bonin-Rodriguez

Ann with her stepdaughter, Joanna Burch-Brown

Maureen Connaughty (Ann's niece, daughter of her sister Mary Ellen)

From my earliest memories, when Ann came to visit us in Minnesota it was special. It was exciting and fun. I knew I would receive special attention from my aunt and that meant so much to me. I looked up to her, admired her, loved her eclectic style and was always told I got my eclectic style from her. I felt her unconditional love, always. No matter the time apart or physical distance I felt her presence in my life.

When she would visit we would dance in the basement, talk for hours around the dinner table having our special Irish Coffee ritual, put outfits together, laugh, cry and talk about real stuff.

Ann was my mom Mary Ellen's favorite person in the whole world and was always happiest and laughed the most when Ann was with us.

I am Ann’s namesake and I wear that badge with honor. I will cherish my memories of her always.

Nick Slie

She always listened deeply, pushed me to grow and, of course, left us all in a perpetual state of wonder when she performed.

May we honor her with our work.

Julia Anne Morrison

Ann Kilkelly was always bold. She gave me permission to be, too. She was the teacher, artist, writer, observer, communer of folks I have always wanted to be, and still do. Thank you for shining your light on us and dancing on.

Ann, Carol, Emily and ensemble at Augusta Music Festival

Ann with her grandson, Sean

Bob Lucas

This is a photo of a beautiful photo taken by Fred Park at an event called the Swannanoa Gathering sometime in the mid nineties. It shows happy people having the time of their lives. Scenes like this are not uncommon throughout the summer there and at other music camps all over the world. If you love music, dancing, singing and the selfless feeling one can only experience by sharing these things with others, maybe you should find out more about events like this. I count the experiences I have had at this event as some of the most cherished moments. Have you been? Maybe you are in this picture. Some of my dear friends are. Dude!!

Tony Waag

"My dear sweet amazing Ann Kilkelly! Wow! I met Ann around 40 years ago. Where? In a tap class in Salt Lake City. Fast forward nearly 40 years, we’re breaking up an act!
Carol! What a wonderful journey we had for awhile on stage. The three of us (Bunny, Lloyd & Bubbah). We had such fun. Great moments, lots of laughter. Calamari. I will never forget our times together on and off stage. And we all know “It A’int Whatcha You Do, It’s the Way That You Do It”.
Meanwhile my heart aches like so many here on this thread. “Sway With Me. Stay With Me”.

Carol! You can be so proud of how well you did as a care giver. You’ve been amazing. Thank you so much. So as Ann is finally able to rest, YOU can finally also. Please take care. I’m sending much positive energy and support from Iceland. Love to you both. “Dream a Little Dream” Ann. Tony

Bill Beilke

So beautiful, so creative, such a wonderful collaborator and friend. Ann Kilkelly was never short on costume material, and this is only one of her many fabulous looks.

For our beloved Ann Kilkelly

Nick Taylor

I am completely devastated. My heroine, my idol, my professor & lifelong friend Ann Kilkelly has died.

She was the baddest bitch I ever knew. She walked me through every single step of my Ph.D. She was everything! She taught me an ocean full about love, authentic teaching, tap dance, bravery in front of inanity way more powerful than yourself, and compassion.

She really believed in touching souls, second, chances, living without apology, insisting on her circle to grapple with tough questions & always speak truth to power. Ann knew what meant to be human and lived it daily. she lived in Presence & Resistance.

She’s the reason I’ve pursued a career as a college professor for 20 years, she’s the reason that I even know what it means to be a resistant a pedagog, let alone how much fucking fun it is to rabble-rouse!

I got to know & make art with her, Carol Burch-Brown, Johanna, and so many others ( C.C. Chervenka Bales, F.M. Turner, Russell Chisholm, Patricia Raun, Bob Leonard, David Johnson, Michael Rohd).

She’d love a tap improv circle at her memorial, a lot of laughter, and a dirty joke or two. And stories about her laugh!

Hank Smith

"Haven’t known what to say or even where to begin. I’ll just share this. At ROOTS Week in 1994, Ann had the idea of putting together a dance routine for some us to do in the style of the great Cholly Atkins (look him up, if you don’t know the name), whose workshop she had taken recently. I, of course as her tap dancer colleague and good friend, was recruited to “sing” the lead, lip syncing to David Ruffin’s voice as the recording of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” played for us to dance to. It was just one of many great artistic experiences I had with her. See two moments from it below.
Her journey will continue as she will dance on with Cholly, Jeni, Honi, Juanita, Eleanor, Fred, Bojangles, Gregory, Ginger, Marion, Josephine, Baby, Buster, Cookie, Mable………"

Sean Connaughty (Ann's nephew)

"Mourning the loss of my beloved Aunt Ann Kilkelly. I wrote down some memories and thoughts about the times I was blessed to spend with her. Bringer of joy. 

Ann was the younger sister to my mother Mary Ellen of blessed memory. Our family of seven including the five of us kids were graced by the loving presence of Ann. Ann orchestrated and led us through many adventures in my youth and beyond. She was an inspiration to me and my siblings. We all wanted our time with Ann, our cool and beautiful aunt, so intelligent and generous. 

We shared so many memorable adventures together as a family. Hilarious road trips through the South with Bill Beilke, long vacation stays in the LaGrange house on special Cumberland Island with its wild horses and armadillos. River excursions in her brother Dan’s pontoon boat. Up and down the St Croix River playing on the sandbars, a family of swimmers, lovers of the water enjoying this abundance together. Snowstorms in Salt Lake City as we traveled to Utah, to stay with Ann, Alan, and Dan Gavere. Visits to Lexington Kentucky where one time I sleepwalked out of her apartment and got into the neighbors bed! I remember Christmas Eve’s at the Kilkelly’s, where we composed skits to perform, it was so much fun, and the laughter in the Kilkelly home was epic.

Ann would often come to Minnesota and she would stay with our family. Often her son Dan Gavere would come along and stay with us and a great bond formed between Dan and I. Those were long and idyllic summers in beautiful Eden Prairie before the earthmovers came through, Ann and Mom would stay up late and talk. It was clear that Mom and Ann had a special bond. It was obvious that Mom was happy because her sister Ann was here. 

Ann gave time to all of us kids, taking time to check in. I was so excited to share various creative endeavors I was working on: poetry, drawings and later music. I felt she saw and understood me. It was inspiring to me to see someone who was proud to be a creative person. I admired and emulated Ann for how brave she was in being true to herself and living her truth as an artist and as a feminist woman.

She gave me permission to also be myself and to view my differences as strengths and to be proud of who I am. I so admired Ann when she came out in her love for Carol. A love of a lifetime. They were such a great merging of persons and made their beautiful life together filled with laughter, joy, art and friends. Deepest respect and love to Carol who bore the burden of care for Ann at the end of her life. 

I deeply regret not visiting Ann in her final days and for not being able to help Carol through that trial as we simultaneously dealt with the illness and eventual loss of our mother, Ann’s sister, Mary Ellen, who passed on Christmas morning. 

With the great matriarchs of our family now recently passed; Mom, Vonnie, Bev and now Ann. Our families and communities must necessarily reconfigure. What will become of us without them? What happens to the moments we shared? I find it hard to believe they simply fade and disappear completely forever as we too journey on. Such concentrations of joy surely must be greater than the constraints of our mortal bodies and linear time.I hear ukuleles… and voices raised in laughter, joy and song even now. Urging us to go forth and make more such moments, sacred and eternal. To put aside regret, to be present, to create and share. Thank you Ann. I love you and will miss you."

Celeste Miller

For my friend, my mentor, my inspiration as she begins her passage across the veil. May you pass in peace and love and dance. I love you Ann Kilkelly. (I do not own the rights to the music. Music: Martha Redbone)

Emily Oleson

Ann has been, beyond all shadow of a doubt, the most important teacher and mentor of my dance career. Though my study with her was relatively brief and infrequent (way more so than I would have liked), our sessions were always profoundly significant in terms of providing the next just-right challenge.

Ann gave me a supportive jazz tap bridge between my nascent appreciation of the importance of African American vernacular traditions (seeds planted by Rhiannon Giddens at the Augusta Heritage Center - where I also met Ann) and my previous background focused on Modern and Irish Step Dance. She showed me her collection of Ernie Smith VHS cassettes before they were on YouTube. She taught me Sandman Sims’ Drum Round and Brenda Bufalino’s vernacular jazz dance to “Lester Leaps In,” then she helped me get Brenda’s permission to use it in my MFA Thesis concert. She shared print resources and writing advice. She modeled humility and endurance in the face of difficult conversations, quietly validated my frustrations with conventional dance academia, told me when to stop whining, and pushed me come out of my shell. She gave me authentic affirmation and encouragement when I was overwhelmed with the challenges of writing an MFA thesis with undiagnosed ADHD, before any of us knew what was going on there. She drove from Blacksburg to Maryland as an outside reader on my MFA committee for a defense that two of my full-time faculty members forgot about, and graciously Skyped in (before everyone was doing it), when the defense had to be rescheduled. Everything about her mentorship and collaboration felt full-hearted. Above and beyond any other teacher or mentor I have known.

I long ago realized I would never feel I had “enough time” with Ann, it was clear on our visits that there was always so much more she could teach me … but looking at her beautiful face this Friday, even though she was going, it seemed like … she was just so peaceful and lovely and somehow the bones of her face just looked so STRONG to me. Subtle and strong will always be how I think about Ann, even though she was a tapper and a musician and a hilarious performer … I think her quiet badassery under all that made her even more powerful. I wish I was more like her, and I am so grateful she was in my life.

My deepest admiration for you, Carol, as the best possible partner during and before Ann’s health decline - watching you together focused me on what a partnership can and should be. My husband Matt and daughter Lydia send you their love as well, and let us know if we can be any help at any point. We’re right up the road.

Joan Grossman

I'm devastated by the loss of the one and only, stunningly talented, and beautiful soul, Ann Kilkelly. She choreographed this work of genius made with Carol Burch-Brown. I edited and processed video for this piece and it was pure joy to work with these badass artists. Ann can be seen at 5:50. {{Don't miss it}} She was an experimental tap dancer who was conjuring crabs in this fabulous ditty — Carol and Ann's "Salt Marsh Suite." Ann had a magical sense of performance which extended to everyday life, being present in the most warm and generous ways. I was lucky to live with Ann and Carol for a year when I was at Virginia Tech (where we made all kinds of art and trouble and delicious meals). I'm heartbroken and wrenching from Ann's disappearance. Heartbroken for Carol and for all who knew Ann.

Brenda Buffalino

I appreciate this opportunity to share my love, appreciation and respect for All that Ann brought to the world. I loved her vision and the warmth and brilliance of her writing gifts as well as her performance skills, wit, rhythm and feeling. We shared wonderful conversations and rhythms over the years I have missed her and miss her more at this moment. How I have loved the time spent in NYC with she and Carol. The lightness and the heaviness the depth and the laughter. May Anns' vibration linger in the universe. Brenda

Bill Beilke

Always high on costuming, at which she was brilliant."

Megan Carney

The words are not coming easily for me, but the memories and the deep gratitude are rich and overflowing.
Laughing deeply with Ann, sitting on the floor of her office surrounded by stacks of books and papers, carving out space for our stories, writing our history into books, dreaming big on projects, trading mischievous glances at the most inappropriate times, moving in space, letting the body lead, finding new meanings, giggling, connecting, caring, companionship, and then the most sincere attention to the absolute heart of things.
And I learned so much from Ann and I know those lessons will keep coming.

Thomas Murray

Dear Ann-fans,

When I asked Ann to be on my MFA committee back in 2015, first she said, “what took you so long to ask me?” Shortly thereafter, she shared the news that she would be retiring that next spring but that she would gladly see me through to my graduation in 2018. It should surprise no one that she never balked on that promise. Even as professor emerita, she came to every committee review, read every page of my semester reports, peppered me with questions that cut to the soul of my making, and was front row for every show I directed.

Like for so many others, she was more than a teacher to me. She was a spirit guide. With ease, she demonstrated to me how Blacksburg could be a queer home. Her performance of Salt Marsh Suite was staged in the Cube when I was on my prospective student visit, and it electrified my desire to come to Tech. In her graduate seminar one morning after a late rehearsal, I remember averting her gaze for a long while to skirt the conversation, and the second I looked up, she was staring at me and called me to speak. She would not let one hide. She called everyone into the light.

My deepest gratitude to Ann is for saying yes when my colleague Kristin and I asked if she would lead a devising studio with us in her final semester before retirement. I knew it would encompass choreography, but I could not have imagined how much it would teach me about leadership and collaboration and finding nourishment in a complex community of artists on campus and off campus. It was the only creative project while I was at Tech where the three consecutive years of students in the MFA Directing and Public Dialogue program (Naphtali Fields, Kristin Rose Kelly, and I) created something together. We called it “Extraordinary Interruptions,” and in some way, the arriving dispatches on the thread this week have been those as well - the saddest of news leading to the most heartfelt testimonies.

Katherine Kramer (Syncopated, Inc)

"Most of my memories of Ann lie within my bodys archive of the 1980s, when Ann and I were sharing the experience of Syncopated, Inc. in Lexington, KY, with an amazing group of people. Oh, the laughter and joy and more laughter of creating, performing and producing dance together. I am so filled with her spirit when I dive into that rich archive. She was and is a force, and I will be forever grateful to have been a part of her life, and touched by this force.

How fortunate we all are to have known and enjoyed the energy, wit, intelligence and life force of our dear friend."

Jan Cohen-Cruz

"Of the many ways I am grateful for having known Ann, the one I'll share is her unique and unsterotyped way of being a professor. One who tap dances! yay! i felt that she was someone who was going to to be all she was, undaunted by invisible boundaries... She was incredibly supportive of me when I directed Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, and had to learn how to balance a kind of welcoming and graciousness as a leader but still be true to my convictions. Not easy. She helped, encouraged. I did not see her often but will miss her, and wish very much i was near enough to Blacksburg to stop by. Sending love to her and to Carol."

For our beloved Ann Kilkelly - Jan Cohen-Cruz

Joan Cope

Dear Ann, Carol and Joanna,Yes it's been years since we've seen each other. And why is that I wonder? In my mind you were often present, and I would think, "oh, I'll see them soon." But life gets in the way and ...But please know that memories of you all are special and will live with me always. That first week at Swannanoa will live forever as one of the best weeks of my life and you all there!St. Croix - one of my best island stays and you were there! Good memories of creativity and generosity that inspired me in my life. Sending thanks and love to you all and especially the amazing AK a true force in this world.

Kate Burnham-Hull

Ann you are deeply missed. You were an incredible mentor and wonderful human being. Thank you for sharing your time and guidance with me during my time at VT.I am especially appreciative that you opened your personal library to me as I took my first deep dive into third wave feminism. I didn't even know there was a first or second wave at the time... Winter's Tale will never be the same.

I will always cherish our conversations. Thank you for not letting the research capsize an overly ambitious grad student. So green, oh so green. Our work together on Darwin is especially dear to me. Grad school teaches us so much more than can be summarized in a brochure. Keep on dancing!

Eleanor Brownfield

"What I can say is that I have loved Ann almost from first sight, that she enriched my life in several ways, that I am grateful she brought Carol and Joanna into our community, and that I'm in awe of the joy and love she has spread in our world."  

For our beloved Ann Kilkelly - Eleanor Brownfield

Shannon Turner

"In my pantheon or vision board of #CouplesGoals, these two really were and will always be the reigning queens. Their house, a temple to creativity and hospitality, was like a second home to me in Blacksburg. I've never known a grief quite like this one of losing Ann Kilkelly, and especially in this particular way. She truly was the best. Carol Burch-Brown, you are in my heart

Today I sat and watched a video someone else had posted to your timeline of you dancing. I tried to capture a photo of it, but it was a blur. Felt true, that blurriness. You are a blur to me. Always on the go. Always off to another performance, another committee meeting, another beautiful thing to do.I captured memories of the last time I saw you perform in Blacksburg and at ROOTS. Thought about sitting with you in your room when I was there in 2021. Thought about how the first time I saw you I was in college at Emory & Henry, must have been around 1996 or so, and you read a paper about George Ella Lyon. You were there with Jo Carson. I laughed heartily at the thought because I didn't know who either of you were yet, nor what either of you would mean to me one day.I thought about all those nights with you and Carol and your traveling slumber parties and enviable dinner parties, your house that, in and of itself, is a growing work of art, all the countless bowls of popcorn and zany skits with a teddy bear whose name I've forgotten but distinctly remember loved blueberries and salmon. Those danged beautiful grey cats, Bo and Trouble. Trouble indeed. They knocked over your giant ferns in the middle of the night and scared the shit out of me as I'd fallen asleep on your couch. Those big, comfy couches, so luxurious they felt like a swaddling hug. How I showed up crying on your doorstep one evening, my first spring in grad school, convinced I was about to be kicked out. You sat and knitted and listened, just let me talk it through.I thought about the days we spent together after the shootings. How much I appreciated the way you didn't back down from showing how angry you were. And how, when I went to intern in Minneapolis, you made sure I got connected with your family up there.More than anything I thought about how you called so deeply to my artist self as if you took me by the shoulders, drilled me with those fierce eyes, and said, "Look, you can keep hiding if you so choose, but I'm not fucking around here." You handed me your red tap shoes and said, "You can borrow these for a while if you want to take tap with me this fall." You gave me the space to play and learn, to write and perform monologues and move my body in ways I didn't even know were a thing to do. You said it was all feminist. You introduced me to Celeste Miller and Anna Deveare Smith and nutritional yeast and the importance of having bright, colorful, cloth napkins always waiting for your guests. I have your pillows in my office. I still have some of your hand-me-down clothes (although these boots are only a memory and one of the best online dating stories I will always have to tell).You are a shining beacon of badassery. I will do my best to keep dancing in the extraordinary path you have beaten down for all of us. Thank you. For all of it.

Maurice Turner

"Dear Ann and Carol...
It has been so long since I've seen u two beautiful ladies... However, I think of u quite often... Ur kind and sweet spirits... The hospitality and love that u showed me and my family has never been forgotten... Sending u both my love... Thank u Ann for sharing ur awesomeness...
Sending love to everyone on the thread...
Much Love To Us All...Much Love and More Peace...TurnUrWorldAround..."

Kate GK Celius

I'm crushed. I just learned of Ann Kilkelly 's passing. She had the purest passion for her craft. It was a joy to watch her dance and tell a story. I remember going to her office before I knew her to get on a waitlist for one of her classes- her reputation preceeded her. I remember one of her monstrously difficult tap routines with three other women in the black box theatre in the old PAB. I remember her welcoming personality- always warm, always kind. It's been many years since I left Blacksburg, Ann, but you will be missed. You were truly one of a kind.

Megan Boler

My dearest beautiful and brilliant Ann and Carol,

I cannot begin to describe the love and light and laughter the two of you brought into my life over the years. Such sadness in our hearts at losing you, beautiful Ann.

From the first time I met you as an incoming professor at VT, your brilliance and power and beauty were apparent. How fortunate I was to see you perform as a dancer, and as a musician with Carol on stage on myriad occasions. All of the delightful, gatherings and parties at your home, filled with the most creative communities from the community and surrounding areas locally and globally!

And then — all of the years we spent together at the beach in North Carolina remain some of my most cherished memories. The depths of your capacity to love and nurture, your humour and creativity, your wit and intelligence — all of these make you stand out as one of the most remarkable women I have had the privilege to know.

I have so much gratitude for all the ways you enriched my life, and for the privilege of sharing time with you and Carol all those years.
A dancer, a teacher, a leader, and community builder, a wordsmith and an incredible friend and mentor to so many — Thank you. May the next chapters of your journey be filled with light and peace and joy, knowing how incredibly loved and honoured you are by all whose lives you changed.

Love always Megan

Mady Schutzman

Ann -- it has been so long and yet I will never forget the joy and humor and intelligence that you radiate! You inspired so much curiosity and enthusiasm and vision within me whenever we were together. I never wanted to say goodbye!
It has probably been over 20 years since being with you, Ann and Carol.... and I don't remember where it was exactly. But I have this vague memory of a conference, ATHE or Performance Studies? New York City or Atlanta? The word mezzanine keeps echoing in my head -- I think we were "Feminists on a Mezzanine!" I don't know what we did or said or what that means exactly, but -- as is often the case when working with ones we adore -- I remember the company, the love, the great pleasure of friendship and the gift of time spent together.
I wish I could be physically nearer to you now. But, instead, I share whatever can pass through the ether from Los Angeles to Blacksburg... holding hands virtually with you and everyone....