“Nikolais’s 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

Site Search:

search tips   sitemap

Bearnstow Journal offers articles on the Nikolais esthetic and the arts.  Editor Ruth Grauert worked for Alwin Nikolais for forty years.  She has created lighting designs for many dancers in that discipline.  A published poet and essayist, Ms. Grauert is the executive director of Bearnstow, an arts and nature summer place in Mt. Vernon, Maine.

Bearnstow Journal is published by Bearnstow, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.  The site’s development and maintenance are dependent on your tax-deductible contributions.  You may contribute online though PayPal (PayPal membership not required); click PayPal button on the right. Or mail checks to Bearnstow, 83 Sanford Place, Jersey City, NJ 07307.

See also the Nikolais/Louis Alumni on Facebook.

Bearnstow is registered in Amazon’s Smile Program and receives a small donation every time you buy an eligible product. Log in with this easy-to-rememer link: http://bearnstow.org/amazon.

News and Announcements

Bearnstow on Parker Pond Announces a Memorial Celebration for Murray Louis

Mount Vernon Community Center, Mount Vernon, Maine
Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 7:30 p.m.

A scene from one of Louis's most seminal works, Interims (1963).
Pictured are Roger Rowell, Phyllis Lamhut, Bill Frank, and Murray Louis

Our friend and colleague, internationally acclaimed dan­cer and choreographer Murray Louis, passed away on February 1 at the age of 89. He was known as one of the most influential American mod­ern dancers and choreographers. Born in Brook­lyn, New York, he grew up in Man­hattan near Henry Street where he would later attend class at the Henry Street Play­house, become one of the found­ing members of the Nikolais Dance Theater, and also start his own company.

As an acknowledgement of his large body of works, Bearn­stow will present a video showing of his solos filmed in the 1980s, followed by a question and an­swer session conducted by Ruth Grauert, Phyllis Lamhut, Robert Small, and Jim Van Abbema, all of whom have served Mr. Louis variously as aes­thetic advisor and stage manager, members of his company, and technical director.

We invite all dancers and dance aficionados to come celebrate Murray’s life and work with us. Following the presenta­tion all are invited to join us at Bearnstow for a convivial supper and to schmooze. For those who may need overnight accommodations, Bearnstow has very limited number of cabins available on a first-come, first-serve basis (please write Bearnstow to inquire). We also recommend the Lakeside Loft in down­town Mount Vernon (www.thelakesideloft.com).

Download a printable flier for this event (PDF).

A Memorial Tribute to Murray Louis

April 24, 2:00–4:00 p.m.
Shirley Wimmer Dance Theater
Putnam Hall, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio

Gladys Bailin Stern writes:

Hi all,

This is to let you now that we at the Ohio University dance department are hosting a tribute to Murray Louis on April 24 in our dance theater. Bebe Miller and Eddie Taketa, both in Columbus, have agreed to come to Athens to talk briefly about their association with Murray, and I will give an introduction and brief history of our relationship at the Henry Street Playhouse. We will show a DVD of Bach Suite and his solos that I got from the Archives here at Ohio U.

We are inviting everyone from the Dance Archives and a few others from the College of Fine Arts and many friends and students. We are also planning a a wine and cheese social afterwards. Many folks only know that Nikolais/Louis Dance collection lives in our Library, but they know little of the person. I think this will introduce them to the person.

Best to All,

In recognition of Murray Louis’s monumental career and collection of works, Bearnstow Journal has published for the first time Ruth Gruaert’s On Murray Louis—an 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.

In Memoriam — Murray Louis,

November 4, 1926–February 1, 2016

From the Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance

Dear Nikolais/Louis family and dance lovers,

     It is with great sadness and a heavy heart I share the news of the passing of our beloved Murray Louis. On February 1st at 4:30 am the world lost one of America’s dance icons. His spirit, wisdom and artistry will forever live in our hearts. He died peacefully at his home in New York City. He was 89 years old.

The Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance will hold a celebration of his life at a later time.

Thoughts and condolences can be left at murray@nikolaislouis.org.

Much love to All,
Alberto del Saz
Artistic Director, Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance.

I phoned Murray on his birthday in early November and had a brief but lucid conversation with him. “Oh, Ruth!! Hi Doll, how great to hear from you. . . . Well, right now I’m eating a piece of cake.” Murray was for that moment himself.

I taught Murray in Choroscript class. He was a difficult student there—too much head and paper work and not enough motion. I had him occasionally in technique class and there he shone. I audited comp class and saw his first efforts—a portrait of his cat, a portrait of a VIP. Then his first real dance, Antechamber, and he was up and away! There was no stopping him!

I was Murray’s first stage manager. We did a lot of touring, with the support of the N.E.A. Dance Touring Program. Murray’s interests were so diverse and his nature so generous! We went to Chicago and had to play in a theatre the dance community was trying to restore. The show went well, but there was snow in the crossover. We were in California and just had to see Capistrano although it was not time for the swallows to return. We had to stop in Denver for a cousin’s bar mitzvah; they served lobster at the reception. In California we played the Pasadena Playhouse and stayed at the old Hotel Constance. The show went well, but the young lively dancers really stirred things up in that hotel—which had become a retirement home.

We went to India with (among other works) Junk Dances—a dance in which the women in the company, carrying shopping bags and brooms, sweep the stage. Murray asked me why the audience applauded his female corps more than he. “Murray, they are sweepers and this IS India!”

As the Nik/Lou reputation grew and the two companies began to tour independently, others took over as Murray’s stage manager, and Nik decided he wanted me for his stage manager. But I missed Murray.

Then and now and always—a unique artist, a unique human. Wherever you are, Murray — Mazel Tov!

—Ruth Grauert     

Murray Louis Receives The Martha Hill Lifetime Achievement Award, November 30, 2015

Click arrow to begin video.
Murray was unable to attend, but his spirit was present as Bebe Miller enu­merated his many accomplishments and creative endeavors, first in asso­ciation with the Alwin Nikolais Dance Theater and then his own, the Murray Louis Dance Company.

The award was gra­ciously accepted on his behalf by Alberto Del Saz who of­fered a personal message from Louis with whom he had visited earlier that day.

Lest anyone forget Murray’s amazing grace and fluidity and delightful style, a video was shown of him dancing ex­cerpts from his own choreography.

Bearnstow Journal is pleased to publish the recent article by UCLA dance professor emerita and noted dance historian Emma Lewis Thomas: “My Mary: Personal Reminiscences of Learning from Wigman,” The article is the latest addition to our Wigman Heritage section.

Emma Lew Thomas studied with Mary Wigman in Berlin from 1954 to 1959, dancing in her major works, including Wigman’s Rite of Spring. While in Berlin she befriended Joan Woodbury, who also studied with Wigman, 1955–1956. She appears frequently in photos of Wigman's works; see the slide show at “An Addendum—Emma 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 (1972–96) of Renaissance and Baroque scores. Thomas continued to teach and perform modern dance works, often with dancers related to the Alwin Nikolais/Murray Louis companies—U.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.

Bearnstow Announces Its Faculty and Workshops for Summer 2016

Ruth Grauert

Véronique MacKenzie

Peter Kyle

Scott Giguere

K.J. Holmes

Robin Gilmore

Lauren Kelly-Washington

Claire Porter

Adriana León

Susan Rethorst

Summer 2016 workshops. See complete list of activites.


Hollow, choreographed and designed by Gerald Otte at Hunter College ~ Photo: Sabrina Polanco-Ferreyra

Journal Articles

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
  1. 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.

  2. Essays on Mary Wigman:  Volume II of Bearnstow Journal includes: Wigman’s own article on her early experience with Rudolph von Laban, Susan Buirge’s interview with Hanya Holm about Hanya’s early experiences at the Wigman School, Joan Woobury’s and Beverly Blossom’s accounts of their school year with Wigman in Berlin, reprints of Joan Woodbury’s 1956 articles on Wigman from Dance Observer, notes from Peggy Chambers, Julie Hamilton Pleus, and John Wilson, and finally excerpts from Mary Wigman’s letters to Joan Woodbury from 1957 to 1970.

  3. A Dance Course Curriculum by Dale Thompson.  Dale Thompson (NDT 1978–1983) has developed a sixteen-week dance curriculum, which also includes a comprehensive reading list.  Click for more information and downloading links.

  4. A review of the Nikolais heritage and its impact from a Euro­pean viewpoint. See Alwin Nikolais, by Arnd Wesemann, origi­nally published in Tanz magazine, July 2014; translated into English by Emma Lew Thomas.

The Chatterbox

Read the e-mail discussion forum of former Nikolais/Louis dancers, students, and technical staff members.

Special Links on This Site

You may submit articles, contributions to The Chatterbox, reviews of performances, and poetry for inclusion on this site by e-mail to Ruth Grauert.  Please include a short biography and any other information you may consider pertinent.

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 about this Web site or exploring the possibility of designing or renovating your own site, e-mail Jim.

Tandy Beal, Mimi Garrard, Kathy Kroll, Phyllis Lamhut, Sheila Mason, Helen Kent Nicoll, Gerald Otte, Audrey Ross, and Joan Woodbury have helped us maintain Bearnstow Journal over the past year.

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.