The Murray Louis Dance Company Proximities
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.
Web originally premiered at the Henry Street Settlement Playhouse on February 13, 1955, as part of the concert titled Village of Whispers. On December 10, 1955, it was integrated into Masks, Props and Mobiles and later reworked as a full company dance titled Tensile Involvement. It was performed on the Steve Allen Show on May 17, 1959.
The Bewitched premiered on March 26, 1957 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with music composed by Harry Partch. The prominent Greek-American artist George Constant made the props and painted the the costumes.
Photo of Capesthe finale of Kaleidoscope (premiered at the Henry Street Settlement Playhouse, 1956). Capes was originally part of Masks, Props & Mobiles (1953). Leotards made from crinkle knit worn for other dances in Kaleidoscope (see more images in The Theater of Alwin Nikolais by Ruth Grauert on this site) were actually painted on the dancers by the prominent Greek-American artist George Constant.
The Fable of the Donkey, after the Aesop tale, was written and produced during the summer of 1948 by Nikolais where he was working under Hanya Holm in Colorado. He reproduced it at the Henry Street Playhouse for the 1948 Christmas/Chanukah celebration. It is this production that is pictured here. It was perhaps the first dance that Nikolais presented at the Playhouse. Fable remained in the Playhouse Dance Company repertory for many years.
In this November 1974, CUNY TV, City University Television production, recently digitized and rebroadcast, Nikolais discusses the development of his art and aesthetic.
Q: Is creativity a kind of compulsion with you?
A: I think it is; an artist has no choice, you have no choice. If someone were to ask me, Shall I be a dancer? Id say no. Well why? Because youve asked me!
Dorothy Vislocky participated in the making of Nikolaiss Theater Dance for ten years, during the time of his intense explorations of space, time, shape and motion, as he incorporated sound, light, and a wide array of materials to create the magic of his theater. On July 28August 3, 2013, Dorothy Vislocky conducted the workshop Principles of Nikolais Theory and Composition at Bearnstow in Mount Vernon, Maine. Dorothy passed away in October 2013; see her Memorial page.
Years later, from the mid-70s to the late 80s, Hanya taught classes at the Nikolais/Louis studio on 18th Street in Manhattan. Lynn Lesniak Needle recalls: I began teaching the warm-up for Hanyas classes in 1983. I would teach the warm-up, then meet her in Betty Youngs or Niks office and escort her down the long hallway into Murrays studio where I believe this photo was taken. The drums and chair were already placed, and she would enter in her black dress and chignon and teach from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It was a grueling but memorable class. Gerald Otte also often taught the warm-ups for Hanyas classes. He tells that when he came to get her for her class, she had only one question: Are they sweaty? See an Interview with Hanya Holm by Susan Buirge on her work with Mary Wigman.
Google Doodle, a Music Synthesizer, Pays Tribute to Robert Moog
Alwin Nikolais first met Robert Moog at the annual convention of the Audio Engineering Society in October 1964 where Moog had his recently assembled modular prototype on display. Nikolais is quoted as saying, Ill take one of this, two of this, and that one . . . . It was at this time Nik placed his order for what was to become one of the first (if not the first) commercially produced Moog synthsizer. The majority of Nikolaiss subsequent works were composed using this syntheziers. For more on the history of Niks Moog synthizier, see the Chatterbox discussion Niks Music.
in Buenos Aires, Spring Tour 1973
George Gracy found this photo, scanned it, and sent it to us. George writes:
As I recall, it was our only night off in a long time. After the show the evening before, Nik told us we had to go to this thing. The smiles you see on us all are entirely fake (except for Niks and Ambassador Lodge). Enjoy! Sweet Memories.Identified from left standing: John MacFarlane, George Gracey, Suzy MacDermaid, Bill Groves, Frankie Garcia, Ann Marie Ridgway, Fred Timm, Lisbeth Bagnold, Jim Teeters, and Lynn Levine. Seated from left: Gerald Otte, Alwin Nikolais, Mrs. Francesca Braggiottie Lodge, and Ambassador John Davis Lodge. (Others are Embassy and/or cultural personnel.)
Ambassador John Davis Lodge (19031985) was an actor turned politician. He was the 79th Governor of Connecticut, and served as U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Argentina, and Switzerland. In 1929 he married dancer and actress Francesca Braggiottie, who, with her sister, were well-known dancers in Boston after World War I. She starred in several films in the 1930s and also dubbed several (she was the first Italian voice of Greta Garbo).
Download high resolution copy of this photo (JPG) (1.6 Mb).
A Cartoon by Les Ditson
While on tour in 1973 in Oklahoma with the Murray Louis Dance Company, Les Ditson drew a cartoon especially for the Nikolais Dance Theater company members, who were on tour at the same time in South America. He recently disovered copies of it in his computer and sent it along. For those of us who were around at that time (and even for those who were not), there are bound to be some company members you recognize!
Click image to expand to full size.
For identification of persons download the Key (PDF)
Download a PDF copy of the full-size drawing.
The company takes bows after a performance of Tower (ca. 1977). From left to right are: Suzy MacDermaid Fridell, Gerald Otte, Beth Bagnold, Alwin Nikolais, Jim Teeters, and Karen Sing. Tower was the third act of Vaudville of the Elements, which premiered at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneopolis on December 10, 1965.
To give his Playhouse students performing experience Nikolais produced dance plays for children. The first produced at the Playhouse (pictured left) was the Fable of the Donkey (Aesop) in 1948 (originally created in Colorado Springs in 1946).
Photo: Playhouse Dance Company, ca. 195051; Courtesy Nikolais-Louis Dance Collection, University of Ohio, Athens
The Lobster Quadrille (from Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in Wonderland), music by Freda Miller, premiere November 19, 1949, American Museum of Natural History, New York City, for the New York Times Third Annual Boys & Girls Book Fair.
Pictured is a class at the Henry Street Playhouse in 1949. Identified persons are, at lower left, Alwin Nikolais; back row standing: Ruth Grauert, Luke Bragg, and Martha Howe; second row: ***, ***, and Sheldon Ossosky; seated in front: Anita Lynn, Phyllis Lamhut, Nancy Robb, and ***. Dancers in motion are Murray Louis and Gladys Bailin.
Photo courtesy Nikolais-Louis Dance Collection, University of Ohio, Athens
Another class photo at the Henry Street Playhouse taken in 1949. Identified persons are, on left standing: Luke Bragg, Sheldon Ossosky, and Murray Louis; front seated: Anita Lynn, Phyllis Lamhut, ***, Nancy Robb (front), Martha Howe (rear), Murray Gitlin, and ***; on right: Alwin Nikolais and Gladys Bailin.
Pictured is the Playhouse Comany at the Henry Street Settlement Playhouse in 1953. See some of these dancers today in photos of The Horses Mouth, a special centennial celebration in memory of Nik. Identified persons are: Men in back row Murray Louis, Alwin Nikilais, Floyd Gaffney, and Bill Frank. Women standing: Florence Deutsch, Ellen Griegas, Debby Klein (née Cohen), Gladys Bailin, Phyllis Lamhut, Ruth Grauert, and Nancy Robb. Down front: ***, ***, ***, Billy Shulman, Lenny Landau, and ***.
Click image to enlarge
In Galaxy, 1965, Nikolais made extensive use of blacklight. Ultraviolet light enabled him to create moving elements without revealing the mechanics of the motion.
Photo: Herbert Migdoll
Photo: Nikolais Dance Theater
Somniloquy premiered in February 1967 at the Guggenheim Museum, whose small stage devoid of lighting instruments prompted Nik to develop miniature battery-powered Linnebach projectors, which each dancer carried. The hand-held lantern was controled with an Ohmite variable resister as a dimmer. Center figures are Phyllis Lamhut and Murray Louis.
Photo: Bob Moreland (published in Time Magazine, 03/15/1968)
Alwin Nikolais coaches the Trio from Vaudeville of the Elements on the set of a French televison studio in May 1978. From left to right are Jessica Sayre, Chris Reisner, and Lisbeth Bagnold. Vaudeville premiered in 1965.
Photo by Patrick Berthelot, courtesy of Christine Reisner
On July 20, 1969, the Nikolais Dance Theater opened with Tensile Involvement on the stage before the Roman Temple of Bacchus in Baalbeck, Lebanon. The performance was part of the Quatorzieme Festival International de Baalbeck. During the first intermission, the festival director came onstage to make an announcement to the audience of 5,000. In Arabic, French, and English, he told us that the Apollo 11 astronauts had just taken their first steps on the Moon. The crowd cheered. Just above the towers of the Temple of Jupiter (the six colums on the right in the photo) the crescent of the Moon was shining brightly.*