In the fall of 1970, Ellen Van’t Hof took her first dance courses as a 17-year-old at the University of Bristol, England, while as a nanny for some family friends. Once she returned to attend Calvin that January, she decided to start the “Dance Guild” one of the six Fine Arts Guilds that performed at the Fine Arts Festival on the Commons Lawn in the spring of 1971. Little did she know this would be the foundation of a 45-year legacy of Calvin’s Dance Guild.

“I was so intrigued with dance when I came back [from England] that I found some like-minded students, and we banded together to start the guild,” she said. “It has existed ever since, growing to nearly 350 students today.”

Van’t Hof married her high school sweetheart, David, in 1972 while they were both Calvin students at the time. She earned her bachelor’s in Art in 1974 from Calvin, then her master’s in communication arts and sciences and dance at Western Michigan University in 1975. She also completed post-masters course work in dance education at Temple University in 1985 before beginning a family with the birth of her daughter, Grace and later, her son, Luke.

She began teaching at Calvin in 1975 while getting her master’s, teaching a class or two at a time. She was part-time until 1996, and in 1998 she became the director of dance and writer of the dance minor. She was the director of dance for 20 years and the faculty adviser of the student-run Dance Guild for decades.

Van’t Hof is particularly proud of how Dance Guild developed over the years. “It’s always been very inclusive, and that’s what makes it unique,” she said. “It’s about participating, having fun, trying new things and being creative.”

Over the years, she has made many other contributions to the dance community across the world. In 1983, she gave a two-hour presentation at the annual meeting of the CRC Minister’s Institute about sacred dance in the church, which included dancers and a choir. “Back then, it was earth-shaking. We’ve seen over the years that many churches are using dance, and it is now widely appreciated,” she said.

She also presented a paper in Amsterdam on the origin of the Klompen dance in Holland, Michigan, taught dancers and teachers in Volgograd and St. Petersburg, Russia, and created a documentary film over the course of six years about the reawakening of dance and other arts of a native Alaskan tribe.

Since Van’t Hof’s husband has already been retired for 12 years, they plan on traveling during their retirement and returning to Alaska for a few months. They will also be spending time with their children, and she hopes to work on long overdue art projects with figure drawing and fiber art.

Van’t Hof will miss her students and colleagues greatly. “There are no better people to work with than here at Calvin. I love this age of students--they’re so bright, enthusiastic and creative. I love the joy that they bring. There’s just no other subject than dance that is founded so strongly on joy.”