Charlotte York Irey during her dancing years.

(Courtesy CU Boulder Department of Theatre & Dance)

There was no dedicated dance studio when Charlotte York Irey arrived at the University of Colorado Boulder to teach dance in the 1940s. Dance classes took place in the women's gym and were part of the physical education department -- you were more likely to see square dancing than pliés.

That changed by 1963 when Irey created the university's first degree program in dance. About six years later, she established a master's degree in dance and the program merged with the theater department. 

In 1984, when CU's Department of Theatre and Dance moved into a new wing of the school's old library building, a 150-seat venue was named the Charlotte York Irey TheatreIrey was a recipient of CU Boulder's Robert L. Stearns and Thomas Jefferson awards. She was also named a "Legend of Dance in Colorado" in 2005 by the University of Denver's Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library. 

The modern dance champion passed away in January. Her colleagues will honor her this Saturday, on what would've been her 99th birthday.

Marda Kirn, who founded the Colorado Dance Festival, considered Irey a mentor. She recalled some of her fondest memories of Irey with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

Related: From Dancer To Naropa President, Barbara Dilley's Memoir