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 is planning a celebration of his life in the fall of 2016.

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     

Ohio University Dance Department Presents:
A Memorial Tribute to Murray Louis

Held April 24, 2016, 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 know 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 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,

A portion of this tribute at Ohio University is onllne on YouTube at

Bearnstow on Parker Pond Presents a Memorial Celebration for Murray Louis

Mount Vernon Community Center, Mount Vernon, Maine
Held 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 presented a video showing of his solos filmed in the 1980s, which was followed by a question and an­swer session conducted by Ruth Grauert, Phyllis Lamhut, Robert Small, Alberto (Tito) del Saz, Jan Strader Connor, and Jim Van Abbema, all of whom served Mr. Louis variously as members of his company, and technical personel.

A Celebration of the Life and Artistry of Murray Louis

Held January 22, 2017
Abrons Art Center, Henry Street Playhouse
466 Grand Street, New York City

The program featured solos by Coral Martindale Aubert, Peter Kyle, and Alberto del Saz, and group dances by dancers from the Marymount Manhattan Dance Department. Click image below to enlarge.

Dear friends,

It’s now our turn here [in France] to pay homage to Murray, as you can read [on the left]. 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
(Marc Lawton, Dominique Rebaud, and Arnaud Sauer)

Click the image on the left to enlarge.

Obsèques du chorégraphe américain Murray Louis au Père-Lachaise — article in French 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.

Hommages Parisiens à Murray Louis par Nicolas Villodre (Parisians Pay Homage to Murray Louis) — article in French with photos

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

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