“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

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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 by credit card; specify the amount in the blank field and click the Donate 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.

The Murray Louis Dance Company — Proximities

From left to right: Robert Small, Marcia Wardell, Leslie Ditson, Anne McCleod, Helen Kent, and Michael Ballard in Proximities, 1969. (Click to enlarge)

Image scanned from a 10" x 21" poster that had been inadvertently discarded and found outdoors after a period of time exposed to the elements; photographer unknown.

See previously featured Historical Photos.

Proximities (originally titled The Plea­sures of Proximities) premiered on January 30, 1969, at the Henry Street Play­house. Accompanied by Brahms’ Ser­enade No. 2 in A, the work was said to be a Valentine present Murray gave to his company. It soon became core rep­ertory and was performed widely on tour. Proximi­ties was among the first of Louis group pieces to be mounted on another dance company, given to Entre-Six of Montreal in 1978.

News and Announcements

Obsèques du chorégraphe américain Murray Louis au Père-Lachaise

This article in French has been published on the internment of Murray’s ashes, announcing the cermony at the Père-Lachaise cemetary on April 13.

The photo, captioned “Carolyn Carlson et Murray Louis dans le ballet Imago, sur la scène du Théâtre des Champs Elysées en 1968. (LIDOSIPA),” is of a duet from Imago by Carolyn Carlson and Murray Louis on the stage of the Theatre of Champs Elysées in 1968.

It was the sixth Festival International de Danse de Paris, November 5–9, 1968. The company was awarded the Grand Prix de Ville de Paris for best production of the 1968 Paris Festival. Carolyn Carlson was awarded Premiere Danseuse of the festival.

Images from the Internment Ceremony


The Nikolais/Louis plaque, Alberto (Tito) del Saz, and the group attending the ceremony, April 13, 2017 ~ Photos by Alberto Del Saz

France Pays Homage to Murray Louis

Marc Lawton, Dominique Rebaud, and Arnaud Sauer have sent the following invitation:

Dear friends,

It’s now our turn here [in France] to pay homage to Murray, as you can read below. His ashes will join those of Nik’s on the morning of April 13, in Père Lachaise ceme­tery, Paris. It will be followed by an evening of dance, films, shared memories and gathering, This tribute will take place in a cozy Paris studio, run by an American, Amy Swanson. Tito will be there and our Ministry of Culture, too, for speeches in the morning. People present will mostly be former dancers and choreo­graphers having stud­ied with Nik in CNDC, Angers, or with Carolyn Carl­son or Susan Buirge and also former students in New York.

Murray was less keen on France than Nik, but his company toured the coun­try suc­cessfully in the 70s and 80s—especially at Théâtre de la Ville, Paris—and of course, later with Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance. He taught many times and was much appreciated as a teacher. A strong memory is his lead solo dance part in Schema, a 1980 production commissioned by Opéra de Paris and directed by Nik with dancers, circus artists and film. Murray was the living human-size replica of a giant puppet, dazzling and playing with his own figure appearing on a screen. The footage had been created by experi­mental cinema director Ed Em­shwiller, a well-known collaborator of Nik.

If any of you happen to be in France at this time, please join!

Kisses and Love
Marc, Dominique, Arnaud

For more information, please write prismenikolais@orange.fr.

Registrations for Bearnstow Summer Workshops Are Now Online

Ruth Grauert

Véronique MacKenzie

Peter Kyle

Scott Giguere

Robin Gilmore

K.J. Holmes

Claire Porter

Sara Pearson & Patrik Widrig

Susan Rethorst

Jonathan Trejo

Summer 2017 workshops. See complete list of activities.

“War and I”

An essay by Ruth Grauert

“War had involved me while I was in utero,” says Ruth. In this time-expansive 1996 essay
Ruth reflects upon the impact war has had on her life.

In Memoriam: Murray Louis
November 4, 1926–February 1, 2016

On February 1st at 4:30 a.m. the world lost one of America's dance icons. His spirit, wisdom and artistry will forever live in our hearts. See Muray Louis Memorial page. See also Bearnstow’s Memorial Celebration for Murray Louis, held Wednesday, June 29, 2016, at the Mount Vernon Community Center, Mount Vernon, Maine.

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.

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.


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.