90-year-old Tai Chi instructor keeps stretching, creating, exploring

by Bill Ligas | May 04, 2016
A fashion illustrator by training, a dancer, model and artist by profession, and a Tai Chi Chih instructor at Galter LifeCenter for 15 years—these are just a few of the talents and passions that describe Evanston resident Blair, who just turned 90 in March.


Blair still regularly teaches Tai Chi Chih classes at the Swedish Covenant Nursing Home across the street from the hospital and is a regular sub for the weekly Tai Chi classes at Galter LifeCenter.

“I like to try different things—it keeps me young and happy—and Tai Chi has been a big help in keeping me moving,” she says. "It has extended my physical and mental balance. The more I do it, the more I feel the energy flow through me—it’s pretty powerful stuff.”

The Scottish-born, long-time New Yorker moved to the United States with her family at age 6, living in various places on the East Coast. After high school, she decided to pursue fashion illustration at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. She next became a model, and then a film set stylist, working with her photographer husband.

Blair also studied ballet, but was soon drawn to modern dance. She danced with several important Manhattan companies and dance celebrities, including Meredith Monk, now most well known as an avant-garde theatre artist and composer. In 1969, Blair participated in an unforgettable dance movement piece with Monk at the Guggenheim Museum called “Juice: A Theatre Cantata in Three Installments.” Dozens of dancers and singers took over the entire museum, taking spectators with them along the museum’s famed winding corkscrew ramps. “It was a blast,” Blair enthuses.

But after 25 years living mostly on New York’s Upper West Side, and with her two children nearing junior-high age, she decided to move to the Midwest in the ‘70s, when a Chicago dance company made her a generous job offer. Following her time there, Blair danced with Perceptual Motion (located in the nearby North Center neighborhood) for 15 years, and just a few years ago, performed with the Evanston Dance Ensemble in “FAB!” a dance concert set to all-Beatles music. “One of my friends from that ensemble told me they want me to do another piece with them and I said, ‘Well you better hurry up!’ ” she laughs.

Her latest passion is sculpting. She started taking classes at the Evanston Arts Center 12 years ago because “I wanted to do something different. I like to sketch and paint, I tried metal (sculpture), but I mostly work with clay.” She discovered that she particularly likes working with plasticine clay “because it doesn’t harden, so it’s easy to work with when I’m sitting at home.” Not surprisingly for a modern dancer, she makes semi-abstract figurative sculptures of people, life-size busts and other small figures. “I don’t have a separate studio—that’s my apartment—it’s full of sculpture,” she explains. “I’ve always been in the arts in one form or another.”

Blair looks forward to continuing to teach Tai Chi Chih and pursuing a wide variety of interests.

Cheers to you Blair!

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