Richard Rose was a chameleon onstage.
The UF dance professor of more than 30 years took on dozens of roles, immersing himself in each character.
During one performance of “Don Quixote,” a dancer dropped an earring on stage. Still in character as Sancho Panza, Rose picked it up and took a bite to see if it was gold. Kim Tuttle, the executive assistant director of Dance Alive National Ballet, said it was improvisational but completely in character.
“He was an entertainer but he’s also profound,” the 69-year-old said. “Most of what I remember was his ability to transform on stage.”
Now, Rose’s former students reflect on their memories of his performances after Rose, 61, died on Nov. 18.
Rose died of lung cancer at 9:30 a.m. at Haven Hospice, according to the Gainesville Sun. His services will take place Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
Tuttle said when she thinks of Rose, she remembers his dedication to dance and the way he attracted people to him.
“He was like a magnet,” Tuttle said. “Everyone wanted to be around him.”
Rose began his decadeslong career as a UF professor when his back issues caused him to retire from dance, Tuttle said.
Lucinda Lavelli, the dean for the UF College of the Arts, said a scholarship, the Ric Rose Fund for Dance, was started in his name after Rose's passing.
The UF College of the Arts and School of Theatre and Dance will hold a celebration to honor Rose’s life Jan. 20 she said.
“We all feel a great sense of loss because Ric was such a warm human being,” Lavelli said.
At UF, Rose mentored students like Staci Vernal, a UF alumna who took a ballet class with Rose in 1999.
“He cared so much, and you knew it,” the 39-year-old said. “He let you know how important you were and how much he appreciated you.”
Rose was a dancer ahead of his time, Vernal said. Her favorite dance to perform with him was “The Ring Cycle,” where he created a different world on stage with large hoops representing a portal.
“It reminded me of how different he was — how willing he was to take an idea and just roll with it,” she said.
As a freshman searching for a place to belong, Rose made Lynn Forney feel welcomed, she said. He was a major reason she joined UF’s dance program in 1998.
“He always helped you get better, but in a really supportive way and a very encouraging way that never made you feel less,” the 40-year-old dancer said.
Even today, Forney thinks about the hug Rose gave her when she won the most outstanding senior award in 2001. It felt good to know he was proud of her, she said.
Forney said she aspires to make other people feel the way Rose made her feel, and she keeps his energy with her every time she’s on stage.
“You never knew if he had a bad day,” she said. “He just really loved life and took advantage of it.”