“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


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 site’s development and maintenance are dependent on your tax-deductible contributions. Please go to Bearnstow’s support page: bearnstow.org/support/

See also the Nikolais/Louis Alumni on Facebook.



Inheritance: A Litany

This 14-minute, excerpted version of Janis Brenner’s 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 12–15, 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, 1977–’84) 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 7–15. 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 Bailin’s 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 (1936–2022)

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 Nikolais’s acquisition of the first Moog synthesizer in 1964.

See complete memorial page and obituary.


In Memoriam — Emma Lewis Thomas (1932–2021)

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.

See also “We Called Her Lew: Remembering Emma Lewis Thomas” by Jeff Slayton, which commemorates her life and career.

Thomas is the author of “My Mary: Personal Reminiscences of Learning from Wigman,” published on this site in 2019.



Bearnstow Archive
Reviewing the Decade of the 2010s

The decade of the 2010s at Bearnstow was an extraordinary period of dance, dance instruction,
and art presentation. The records of these works and presentations have been compiled
in the Bearnstow Archive: Reviewing the Decade of the 2010s.



A Memorial Slide Show of Photos Honoring Ruth Grauert
See Ruth‘s Memorial Tribute page.

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:
  1. Manual changes: Use left and right arrows to move though images;
  2. Automatic changes: Approximately 6-second intervals (hold mouse arrow over images to pause slide changes), For best results expand your browser to full screen.
For best results expand your browser to full screen.
We begin with “Baby Ruth”!




“A Remembrance of Rudolf”

An article by Janis Brenner

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.



“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 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 excellent 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.


Essays

Go to the Essays page.

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.



Journal Articles
  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 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

The Chatterbox

Long before Facebook there were email chat groups. Read the e-mail discussion forum of former Nikolais/Louis dancers, students, and technical staff members.


Special Links on This Site


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 jim@bearnstow.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.