On Friday, April 3, senior lecturer in dance John Todd passed away. In an email to the LMU community, President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., shared Todd’s passing was a result of complications due to cancer and expressed his condolences. Todd was 47 years old.
Todd joined the LMU faculty in 2013 and instructed in ballet and musical theater classes. He maintained a full teaching schedule until a week before his death.
“Some people are teachers in occupation; it is what they do. And some are teachers in being; it is who they are. John was a teacher in being,” said Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, Associate Professor and Chair of Dance. “He was able to guide so many students home to their own heart and soul through the vehicle of the most masterful and elevated technique. Here is where the distinction of titles in academe really fall short, because while he carried the title of instructor, he really embodied the spirit of a professor. Students and faculty will all miss him dearly.”
“I have enrolled in John Todd’s courses every year that I have been at LMU,” said senior dance and health and human sciences double-major Tippy Dringman. “The way he can conduct a classroom makes every dancer respect him and have a special reverence for ballet.”
Having taken six ballet classes and two musical theater classes from Todd, Dringman describes him as “organized, straightforward, efficient, and energetic. John is someone we all feared out of great respect, because he respected us.”
Outside of teaching at LMU and the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica, Todd cultivated an extensive professional career dancing with The Hungarian State Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Fort Worth Ballet and Hartford Ballet, according to Opera Wire. Appearing in a number of commercials, television shows, feature films and Broadway performances, Todd also choreographed and directed in these settings as well as for the LA Opera.
“He has worked with dance legends that we read about in our dance history textbooks, and yet he never felt the need to brag or prove himself,” said Dringman. “He simply shared all of his gifts and knowledge with us, and through that we see how amazing he is. I will carry on John’s legacy by trying to live my life the way that he did, being fully invested in the present moment, being real with yourself, and using the gifts you are given to help others around you.”
Todd was awarded multiple Stage Scene LA Awards and received the inaugural Part-Time Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award in 2015.
Isaiah Kim, sophomore dance major, remembers his late teacher as “one of the first ballet teachers to ever tell me that he saw potential in me and treated me as if I was already a professional dancer. John Todd was the mentor that I truly needed during that period of my dance journey. He showed me and made me destroy the mental blocks that I had unknowingly built for myself. He treated every dancer with the same level of expectation and respect,” said Kim.
In his email President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., also shared that a celebration of Todd’s life will be held at a later date. Students and faculty who would like to share their support with Seth Belliston, Todd’s partner, or Todd’s family have been asked to email Lovejohntodd@gmail.com.
“Teaching brings out the best and expands every possibility in this world. Frustration turns to winning, tears turn to laughter, hard work and showing up cross fade to success.” - John Todd