Nikolaiss students, his company dancers, and his creative colleagues are
deeply grateful for his generous giving of his vision and his artistry to us
and to the world. We thank Nik for being our teacher, guide, and inspiration!
Ruth E. Grauert
Bearnstow Journal offers articles on the Nikolais esthetic and the arts. The late editor, Ruth Grauert, worked for Alwin Nikolais for forty years. She created lighting designs for many dancers in that discipline. A published poet and essayist, Ms. Grauert was the Founder and Artistic Director of Bearnstow, an arts and nature summer place in Mount Vernon, Maine.
Bearnstow Journal is published by Bearnstow, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. The sites development and maintenance are dependent on your tax-deductible contributions. Please go to Bearnstows support page: bearnstow.org/support/
This 14-minute, excerpted version of Janis Brenners full-length, multi-award-winning dance-opera-play and comic drama, Inheritance: A Litany, premiered in 2018 at the United Solo Theatre Festival at Theatre Row in NYC. The work was invited back in 2019 and then toured in the US. This summer, July 1215, A Litany will be performed at the American Dance Festival in Raleigh-Durham, NC. See ticket information.
Janis Brenner (a former dancer in the Murray Louis Dance Company, 197784) is an award-winning dancer/ choreographer/singer/teacher and Artistic Director of Janis Brenner & Dancers in NYC. She has been invited back to Bearnstow in Mount Vernon, Maine this summer for a week-long workshop on August 715. See the workshop description.
From the Ohio University Libraries comes this 2022 interview with Gladys Bailin, one of the original members of the Nikolais company formed at the Henry Street Playhouse in 1949. A tireless champion of dance as an art form, Gladys Bailins musicality and impeccable sense of motion has inspired generations as a performer, choreographer, teacher, administrator and mentor. In this video, Gladys Bailin reflects on her early training in New York City, her international career as a performer and choreographer, and her impact on the School of Dance at Ohio University.
Click arrow to begin video.
In Memoriam James Seawright (19362022)
Jimmy, as he was affectionately known, passed away peacefully at home on February 12. He was widely known for his architectural and electronic, interactive light-and-sound sculptures. In the 1960s and 70s he worked closely with Alwin Nikolais in the development of his electronic scores. Early on, he contributed sounds to the score for Imago as well as other works. Jimmy was also instrumental in Nikolaiss acquisition of the first Moog synthesizer in 1964.
Emma Lewis Thomas, professor emerita in the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, passed away Thursday, September 16, 2021 at the age of 89. Her fields of expertise included German literature, modern dance, and Italian Renaissance dance. See her extended obituary, including notes from Joan Woodbury.
In 1939, in collaboration with Truda Kashman (his first dance teacher), Nikolais had premiered his first major choreographic work, an anti-war piece called Eight Column Line. In one of her many after-dinner stories Ruth tells how she met Nik in 1941 at a fund-raising gathering at her house, where he invited her to his studio. She later learned that by just showing up she had joined his company! She tells of the body-buster challenges in learning the pavanne he had excerpted from the earlier work. Images from Eight Column Line and Pavanne have been included in the Memorial Slide Show presented here. Read How I Met Nik (PDF).
Memorial Slide Show A web version of the slide show tribute that was shown at the June 26 Memorial Celebration at Bearnstow has been recreated here. Two versions are available:
In this 1998 article, a former Murray Louis Dance Company member gives us a look from inside the company at the time Rudolf Nureyev joined the Louis company for the premiere of Canarsie Venice at the (then) new Minskoff Theatre on Broadway.
In recognition of Murray Louiss monumental career and collection of works, Bearnstow Journal has published Ruth Gruaerts On Murray Louisan insightful analysis of his dances over the years, following his thematic thread from the little man to everyman. The article was compiled from notes taken in the early 1980s at the request of Alwin Nikolais, who was working on a biography of Murray.
Emma Lew Thomas studied with Mary Wigman in Berlin from 1954 to 1959, dancing in her major works, including Wigmans Rite of Spring. While in Berlin she befriended Joan Woodbury, who also studied with Wigman, 19551956. She appears frequently in photos of Wigman's works; see the slide show at An AddendumEmma Lewis Thomas by Joan Woodbury.
Modern dancer Emma Lewis Thomas has been teaching Dance History at UCLA since 1971. She began ballet in Charleston, WV with Caroline Petty; later professional training and performance in Berlin with Mary Wigman led to a career in historic dance research and performance (197296) of Renaissance and Baroque scores. Thomas continued to teach and perform modern dance works, often with dancers related to the Alwin Nikolais/Murray Louis companiesU.S. artists credited with perpetuating the legacy of Wigman dance teachings in America. Collaborating with Andrzej Wirth, founder of the Giessener Schule, Thomas focused on movement for actors in theatrical works of Bertolt Brecht, Heiner Müller, and Robert Wilson. She continues to lecture and write, currently advising and raising funds for contemporary dance, music, and theater groups in California.
Nikolais alumni and others are invited to submit essays, stories, and poetry, which may
be reprinted on this site at the disgression of the Editor. Please include a short biography
and any other information you may consider pertinent. E-mail Bearnstow Journal editor.
Essays on the art of Alwin Nikolais, by Ruth E. Grauert, comprise Volume I. Included are Nikolais use of light, sound, properties, and motion; a comparison between Nikolais and the Bauhaus; and a brief historic overview and current thought on stage lighting and dance. Go to the Index of Volume I articles.
Essays on Mary Wigman:Volume II of Bearnstow Journal includes: Wigmans own article on her early experience with Rudolph von Laban, Susan Buirges interview with Hanya Holm about Hanyas early experiences at the Wigman School, Joan Wooburys and Beverly Blossoms accounts of their school year with Wigman in Berlin, reprints of Joan Woodburys 1956 articles on Wigman from Dance Observer, notes from Peggy Chambers, Julie Hamilton Pleus, and John Wilson, and finally excerpts from Mary Wigmans letters to Joan Woodbury from 1957 to 1970.
A review of the Nikolais heritage and its impact from a European viewpoint. See the article Alwin Nikolais, by Arnd Wesemann, originally published in Tanz magazine, July 2014; translated into English by Emma Lew Thomas.
Alwin NIkolias and Ruth Grauert in a lighting rehearsal for Vaudeville of the Elements at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in 1965 ~ Photo by Eric Sutherland
Long before Facebook there were email chat groups. Read the e-mail discussion forum of former Nikolais/Louis dancers, students, and technical staff members.
This Web site (BearnstowJournal.org) is designed and maintained by Jim Van Abbema, who was a sound engineer, stage manager, and technical director for the Nikolais and Louis companies from 1968 to 1975. He is currently a Webmaster and copy editor. For questions, or to offer suggestions or contributions to this site, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All images and written material on Bearnstow Journal are copyrighted. Reproduction of any item from this site is prohibited without prior written permission from Bearnstow.