Toni Beck Bosner, founding chair of SMU's Division of Dance, dies at 92

Bosner's many other accomplishments include being an early pioneer in teaching the Martha Graham technique of dance in Dallas. She later taught dance and choreography internationally, from Tokyo to Amsterdam.

By Joe Simnacher
Staff Writer 

Toni Beck Bosner was founding chairwoman of Southern Methodist University's dance department, which became a highlight of her legacy.

Bosner's many other accomplishments include being an early pioneer in teaching the Martha Graham technique of dance in Dallas. She later taught dance and choreography internationally, from Tokyo to Amsterdam.

She also instructed exercise classes for the well-heeled in Dallas homes, a springboard to her helping create and lead luxurious spas. She briefly had her own Dallas dance company.

Bosner, 92, died June 17 of natural causes at Tradition Memory Care in Dallas. She had lived with dementia for several years.


A celebration of Bosner's life will be at 2 p.m. July 29 at Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home. Bosner donated her remains to the Willed Body Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"I would say she was the mother of the dance division at SMU," said Patty Harrington Delaney, chair of the division at the university's Meadows School of the Arts.

Bosner was a well-rounded artist and teacher, said Harrington Delaney, who studied under Bosner at SMU in the 1970s.

"It was her energy," Harrington Delaney said. "She was one of the most energetic and charismatic women I had ever met, certainly at that point in my life."

It was an improbable path that Bosner took to become a Dallas dance icon.

Born in New York, Bosner received a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in Ohio and a master's in dance-drama from Columbia University.

"She really started late," said her husband, Paul Bosner of Dallas. "Her parents really didn't want her to go into dance and theater."

(Her parents wouldn't let her dance until she was 19 and out of college.)

In New York, Bosner worked odd jobs, including as a telephone operator while she took acting and dance classes. She studied under numerous noted dancers, including Martha Graham, whose method is considered the cornerstone of American modern dance.

Bosner danced professionally in New York for concerts, television and musical comedy on Broadway.

"At some point in the pursuit of her career in New York, she realized she wasn't going to make it," her husband said. "She gravitated toward choreography and teaching."

Bosner became an associate professor of dance at Washington University in St. Louis and continued her own studies under a Ford Foundation grant. 

She married Bob Glatter, whose job led the couple to Dallas in 1952. They later divorced.

In Dallas, Bosner taught at the Edith Jones School of the Dance and the Park Cities YMCA. In 1958, she opened the Toni Beck School of Modern Dance on Preston Road. She also performed with Dallas Summer Musicals and other organizations.

When she joined SMU in 1962, dance was part of the university's physical education department. She was a member of the group that created SMU's Meadows School of the Arts. Bosner advocated making the study of dance a separate division within the school, with its own studio space.

While at SMU, Bosner began giving exercise classes for groups of wealthy Dallas residents in their homes. Harrington Delaney, then her student at SMU, was Bosner's demonstrator for the classes.

Also in the 1960s, Bosner helped Stanley Marcus create the Greenhouse Spa in Arlington, which pampered celebrities from Grace Kelly to the Duchess of Windsor. She became its executive director and later filled the same role at the Spa at the Crescent in Dallas.

In 1969, she married Bosner, an Emmy-winning producer and director.

Bosner traveled the globe to work with dance companies, including in Tokyo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Israel. In 1973, she spent two weeks in Ireland choreographing a ballet for the Irish National Ballet. 

Late in life, Bosner developed and worked with senior programs at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

She wrote two books, Fashion Your Figure and Focus on Your Figure.

In addition to her husband, Bosner is survived by daughters Sarilyn Bosner of Amsterdam and Lesli Linka Glatter of Pacific Palisades, Calif.; a son, Dr. Matthew Bosner of Ste. Genevieve, Mo.; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer's Association.