“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

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. The hotel that 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     





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.



Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur

Member of the early Nikolais Dance Theater
received highest French honor on December 2.

The President of France nominated Susan Buirge to the rank of Chevalier (Knight) in the National Order of the Legion of Honor—the highest distinction of France. The nomination was proposed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in particular for the work she has done to further Franco-Japanese relations.

On December 2, an official ceremony was held at the French Embassy in Tokyo where the Chevalier insignia was presented by the Ambassador. The ceremony was followed by a reception for invited guests in the garden of the Embassy.

Susan Buirge taught Composition Workshop: Ancient Kagura and Contemporary Choreo­graphy at Bearnstow, August 9–15, 2015.




Ambassador Thierry Dana bestows the insignia of the chevalier of the Legion of Honor on Susan Buirge.


Susan and husband Jiro enjoy the musical interlude at the reception.
Susan reflects upon the evernt.

A moving moment. Surprising of an unexpected emotion.

Followed by the festivities in the lounges of the Residence of the Ambassador.

So many friends coming from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Korea, Kyoto, Kobe, Kyushu, Shimane, and Tokyo.

Glasses of champagne, the laughter, the photographs.

The musical surprise of a composition for the occasion by a composer friend, for piano and violin—entitled “If…” A music so beautiful that the desire to dance invades me.

The musicians play again.

And there, medal pinned on the heart, shoes removed, standing upright while remaining in one spot in the corner of a large carpet I danced, again, one last time…



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.











Reviews

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, 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.