June Vail grew up in Ohio and earned a BA in English literature and French from Connecticut College and a MALS in Movement Studies from Wesleyan University. After two years in Uganda, she arrived in Maine in 1970 and, except for extended research in Sweden, has been here ever since. She lives in Brunswick with her husband David. She founded the dance program at Bowdoin College and chaired the department of Theater and Dance for many years. In 2010 Bowdoin honored her with its Distinguished Service Award for Faculty and Staff. She has now retired from teaching.
In addition to studio courses at Bowdoin, June wrote dance criticism and essays for the Maine Times and the Portland Phoenix and contributed book chapters to several anthologies, including: “What the Words Say: Watching American Critics Watch World Dance,” in Looking Out: Perspectives on Dance and Criticism in a Multi-Cultural World, edited by David Gere. Schirmer Books, 1995; and “Balkan Tradition, American Alternative: Dance as Community,” in Moving Words: Rewriting Dance, edited by Gay Morris, Routledge Publishing, 1996. Her first book, Cultural Choreographies, on dance cultures in Sweden, appeared in 1998. (Carlssons Bokförlag.) June’s latest book is unrelated to dance – The Passion of Perfection/Gertrude Hitz Burton’s Modern Victorian Life (Maine Authors Publishing, 2017). It chronicles a brief, extraordinary yet unremembered, life, discovered in a trove of family photographs, diaries and correspondence.
Gertrude (1861-1896) was Vail’s great-grandmother, a Gilded Age feminist reformer whose writings and lectures in Washington D.C., Boston, and Maine promoted sex education, marriage equality and "voluntary motherhood”. Gertrude’s interactions with family, friends, and well-known colleagues, including Alexander Graham Bell, Robert E. Peary, and Clara Barton, illuminate her times – and our own, America’s second Gilded Age. Gertrude’s lectures and published writing confronted sexual double standards similar to those evident in America today. Her complicated personal journey raised questions that echo current concerns: How to create a meaningful life? How to preserve a sense of self? How to figure out a workable marriage and raise two children? How to think about and prepare for your own death?