Ruth at the mouth of Uncle Daniel’s Brook
at Bearnstow in June 2016

In Memoriam: Ruth E. Grauert

March 24, 1919–May 20, 2020

Ruth Emma Demora Grauert — mentor, teacher, director, and friend to generations — died peacefully at her home in Jersey City, New Jersey, on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, after a brief illness. Close members of her very supportive family were at her side. She was 101 years old.

From 1939 to 1943, Ruth had classes with Martha Graham and Hanya Holm, Alwin Nikolais, and Truda Kashman, and ballet with Deloris Guidone. She danced in the pre–World War II Hartford Nikolais Company and briefly in the Kashman Company. Then, in New York City, in the Charles Weidman Dance Company

Following World War II, she supervised all children’s classes at the Henry Street Play­house and acted as the Playhouse stage manager for the many dance concerts presented there and as production stage manager for the Nikolais, Louis, Lamhut and Blossom com­panies from the 1950s to the late 1980s. In 1979–1980 she was production manager and instructor for the Centre national de danse contemporaine (CNDC) in Angers, France. She toured world-wide as the production stage manager for the Nikolais Dance Theater from 1948 to 1988 and taught lighting at the Nik/Lou lab throughout that period.

Ruth held a B.A. from Ursinus College, 1939, and an M.A. from Columbia University, 1941. She was the recipient of the 2005 Martha Hill Lifetime Achievement Award and Doctorates of Humane Letters from Ursinus College in 2009 and Centenary College in 2013. She wrote widely on contemporary dance, publishing numerous essays, articles and reviews on dance aesthetics, education, staging and lighting. Many of these articles appear here on this site.

With her life partner, Frances Reid, she founded Bearnstow in 1946 as a children’s camp, which continued into the 90s. By the late 90s it had become a summer arts place, bringing to students the opportunity to discover and know, first hand, the world of dance. The camp also continued to provide a day camp for children for two weeks each summer.

Bearnstow was unique among children’s camps for its principles of inclusion, diversity and generosity, as an inter-racial, inter-religious, and non-discriminatory institution — a philosophy that became a hallmark of Bearnstow throughout the decades. Along with an international faculty, Ruth taught her own classes, with emphasis on the aesthetic principles of Alwin Nikolais, through the summer 2019.

Ruth Grauert and Beverly Blossom — View a 2015 interview with Ruth by Beverly’s son, Michael.

Tributes and remembrances, sent to will be posted here. See also Remembering Reg on Facebook.

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In homage to Ruth Grauert:

What a beautiful and honorable life she lived.
Instilling the genius of Alwin Nikolais’s work, philosophy, and teachings.
Her support and devotion to the dance world is an indelible mark in our history.

A kiss farewell

101 candles burning
returns to the roar of stars.

—Carolyn Carlson

Tribute to Ruth E. Grauert by Adriana León
We remember dance critic, lighting designer and choreographic composition
teacher Ruth E. Grauert who passed away on May 20, 2020, at the age of 101.

Adriana León: Interpretation and Choreographu\y
Alejandro Veyra: Camera and Lighting
Jonathan Trejo: Editing

Music: “Life” from the album HOME
Sound Track of the documentary HOME of 2009 directed by
Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Label: NAIVE (Indigo)

Lynn Lesniak Needle — There are no words to express the deep loss of Dr. Ruth Grauert. She was simply the most humble, intelligent and loving woman I knew who gave selflessly to the world of dance. Her aesthetic and curatorial eye was impeccable and she expected the best out of her students and colleagues. She was known for never being “sloppy” and always having integrity. I love her and will miss her. Her life’s work will live on with the AOMDT. We all love, cherish and respect you, Ruth.

Mimi Garrard — She will be missed by all of us, but her ideas and vision will live on.

Photo by Jonathan Trejo, at Bearnstow 2016

Clarence Brooks — I am so saddened to hear this news.

Stephanie Scopelitis — What a remarkable woman. Her spirit lives on in her art

Paula Aarons — What a wonderful and wild spirit, I am so grateful to have spent time at Bearnstow with her. I’m sure she’s already into another great investigation!

Dudley Brooks — Very, very sad news. Such a wonderful person, and so very inspiring in every possible way. A tremendous loss to all of us personally and to the dance community in general.

Trista Redavid DeFilippis — So very sorry to read this. Ruth was a “tell it like it is” person — so knowledgeable and willing to give you advice — she will be missed. Rest In Peace.

Doris Caravaglia — Dear Ruth RIP. You have left a place in our hearts that cannot be filled. Another chapter is closed of a remarkable artist that gave her being for the love and devotion of dance . Her passion was unequaled by few and will be left for all to remember

Rob Esposito — So, so, sad. A dear and remarkably talented soul. So many fond memories of her careful mentorship, her steady hand at the helm, her wicked good humor. She always had a solution to any problem, tech or personal, always a willing, wise and understanding friend to the art and its artists. It’s no wonder Nik trusted her sol It’s a comfort to know that she passed peacefully and with loved ones.

Kelly Roth — Truly impressive legacy and engaged to the end. A great example to is all!! RIP

Alberto del Saz — Sad news indeed, her legacy will live in all of us. Remarkable woman.

Ruth takes bow at the Nikolais Centennial Concerts, December 2010

Jim Teeters — Memories... Ruth took Nik’s company out on tour in 1971. We were a fresh group of kids following an almost complete turnover. (Susie and Gerald were the only holdovers after a 16 week tour of Europe.) Ruth held us together on our bus and plane rides throughout upper New York State, lit the shows, directed us in all aspects of being members of NDT. She was calm, humorous, understanding and direct. A very fine person.

Joe Zina — Ruth was tough, talented and always there with words of wisdom. She joins the other many wonderful women of the Alwin Nikolais legacy that we loved... Hanya Holm, Claudia Gittleman, Betty Young, Ruth Scherer and Beverly Blossom. And say hi to our guys up there Nik and Murray.

Marcia Wardell Kelly — Ruth was always generous with good advice. When in Angers teaching, she helped lay out a dinner for guests saying: “Never put all of your main dish in the serving bowl. Always leave some in the pot... just in case.” She was always asking about my children. Forever interested. We will all miss her.

Rob Esposito — Throughout the night, throughout the weight of loss, sadness, vivid memories as if etched in a foggy mirror. Ruth in a red jacket, the scent of Borkum Riff, a wry twinkle in her eye. Ruth standing at the front of the bus waving a paperback over her head, voice raised above the din, “Who here wants The Human Zoo!?” — a humorous twist of irony in her voice. Intelligence, purpose, art. Another great one passed from our Earthly comings and goings.

Ruth visits Susan Buirge in Japan, December 2009,
at the Golden Palace, Kyoto. Photo by Susan Buirge

Helen Kent Nicoll — Always curious, forever engaged, a force of nature who loved to question and see anew. A sage who found life forever interesting. Dearest Ruth, I will miss you. Love, Helen

Gregory L. Bain — RIP Ruth. You will be missed.

Karen Sefton Safrit — RIP Ruth. She shared such passion for her work. Undoubtedly her passions touched each of us in an indelible way. The impact is immeasurable, and continues, as over 101 years, her influence has rippled through generations. What a remarkable journey she took on this planet.

Susan Penelope Lloyd — Wonder Woman.

Betsy Fisher — Ruth had a long productive life to be celebrated. She was a force of nature.

Tandy Beal — Ruth... yes, a force of nature, my very thought... direct, truthful, uncompromising, passionate... she taught me how to see early on... she said take a breath before you look at the next comp study, clear your mind and see it with new eyes. we were roommates early on in my touring with Nik... after a short period, she said i like you but i need a new roommate—you have the "spreading out" disease and i have the tidy one! i feel lucky to have danced with her in her 90’s — as many of us did... thank you Joan J Woodbury for the daily improvs in SLC Alwin Nikolais legacy workshop. Thank you Ruth for the unquenchable love for the art, for this lineage, for teaching.

Lisbeth Bagnold and Ruth Grauert at the
Nikolais/Louis Legacy Workshop Alumni Week July 24–28, 2006, Salt Lake City, Utah

Rob Esposito — Beautiful, Tandy.

Joelle Van Sickle — So sorry to hear. May her legacy live on.

Sara Hook — She was such a visionary force. And so keen and suppoortive

George Gracey — Ruth had a wonderful way of being, instructing, kind, forceful, stern, funny and lovable… all at the same time. For example, on that ’71 “new company” Upstate New York tour (that Jim Teeters mentioned in his tribute) it was my turn, as a very young, very “green” stage manager, to learn “The Nikolais Way.” I made so many screw-ups, I just know Ruth wanted to drown me. When I would do something really stupid Ruth would take a puff off the pipe, cross her arms, put her chin on her chest and mutter, “jeeezus peezus, George!” Yeah, I got a lot of that, but I have a feeling that I am only one of hundreds, maybe even thousands, who learned a lot from Ruth. Ruth, I’m gonna miss you… especially the conversations we had every year on our March 24th shared birthday. Birthdays will never be quite the same. I love you, Ruth.

Elizabeth Higgins — So sorry to hear! She has been such an incredible source of inspiration and artistry. I’m so happy that I had the chance to know and dance with her. She was such a great spirit! My thoughts are with all her family and friends.

Lynn Levine Rico — Dancer, teacher, production stage manager, arts camp founder, philosopher.­..With the sharp eye of a true artist, teacher, and mentor, Ruth reached out to find creative potential in us all and to demand that potential be fulfilled. She had a unique ability to challenge in order to inspire. Ruth held high ethical ideals — and lived those ideals — many decades before they became broadly accepted in society. Ruth, you have contributed so much to so many. Your spirit will be missed. RIP, dear Ruth.

Mimi Garrard — I keep thinking about Ruth. What amazed me was the way she kept learning and growing. She was more intelligent, curious, observant, and enlightened at 101 than she was at 40 years old. Nature and art are magical together.

Ruth receives Doctor of Humane Letters from her alma mater, Centenary College, on May 18, 2013.

Michael Blossom — Hello Jim, I am so sorry to hear of Ruth’s passing. I am not being facetious when I say that in my heart, I felt she would make it to 150, although of course my brain knows better. I send my condolences to you. I hope that you and others will find a way to keep Bearnstow going — it’s so special — but I know this is not the moment to worry about that. As you know, Ruth was a very important person in my mom’s life and career. Bev loved Ruth very much.

Marc Lawton — I realize France has not spoken up in memory of Ruth. I shared the news of her passing with former colleagues/friends from the Angers days (I copy this to four of them, Philippe, Louis, Christine and Dominique, but there are many others), and all of us were saddened by her death, remembering her strong character, her sense of guiding us as young dancers, her piercing eye, her insistance in trying to explain to us French what abstraction in dance meant, her generosity and last but not least... her pipe!
     I had the privilege of coming to Bearnstow in 2009, Claudia having said, “You must visit Ruth in her Maine location once in your life!” And I will remember her there, so vibrating when speaking of Nik and precise as to pushing us along dancing and sharing our thoughts together. Not to speak of the wondernful surroundings!
     I also visited her in her New Jersey home and later used her 1979 article “Alwin Nikolais’ total theater — Nik’s sound and light show” in Dance Magzine in my 2012 dissertation on Nik. The last time I saw her was at the Nikolais Forum at Hunter in November, 2018, and I was amazed at her willpower to attend and share. So here in France my friends and I will miss her, definitely. A great woman indeed.

On June 1, 2018, Douglas Nielsen, Ruth Grauert,
Coral Martindale, and Phyllis Lamhut talk about the incomparable Beverly Blossom, at the 92nd Street Y.
Photo by Clarence Brooks

Suzy McDermaid Fridell — I’ll never forget Ruth during my time as a dancer in Nik’s company. She was an amazing force of energy and brilliance. During rehearsals, she’d be fully ensconced in technical details, working on slides, lighting, and myriads of projects, and yet as she passed by dancers stretching on the floor, she managed to stop, lean down, and make a postural correction on an unsuspecting dancer, all the while with a heavy Fresnel lighting instrument hanging from her arm.
     Watching her give a lecture in her late 80’s, or reading her stunning essays, just being around her, made me sit up a bit straighter, and listen and attempt to absorb some of her genius.
     It tickled me that she loved our “GlenLyon” RED wine. I smile that in her late 90’s she would send me emails and request a bottle or two of our “good stuff” our Syrah or Cabernet. We were so happy to send a case for her 100th birthday. I hope she saved a little for herself! It’s not often that an inspirational centenarian requests and sips on our wines.
     Thank you Ruth, for your gifts as a teacher, artist, stage manager, lighting designer, philosopher, and friend. You live on in all of us!

Bridge Dance / Autumn (2020)
Susie Creitz — Dedicated to Ruth Grauert

Susan Creitz — Ruth and I became friends when she was 88 and I was 59. Wow! What luck! To be around her was the easiest thing in the world. There was never a worry as to what to talk about or if she was going to approve of what I was teaching. Her rootedness and vitality allowed me to be calm and incredibly happy in her presence.
     My husband Bob and I came to Bearnstow often after I had taught a workshop in 2008, either to choreograph a dance for the interns, to attend a Nikolais event, to take a workshop or even better—to just come to be with Ruth. That was enough for me! I just wanted to be with Ruth. When I would ask her what I could do to help around the place, she would always say, “Just talk with me.” And we would! Sometimes we would dance together, too.
     I am sure that many people were adopted by Ruth. Her heart was gigantic. Her voice raspy and tender. Her cheek so very soft to learn against, to kiss. I loved her so very much. Just to hear her say my name was a healing balm.
     My first personal encounter with Ruth was in 1975 when I presented my first NYC concert at The Cubiculo with Anne Ridgway, a former Nikolais Company member. Ruth came rushing into the dressing room after the concert asking, “Where is Susie Creitz? Where is Susie Creitz?” Looking at each other she said, “Your dances were wonderful! They were great beginnings!” Then she quickly left! I was taken aback at first since I thought the dances were fine as they were. Upon reflection I realized that Ruth was right. These dances were just beginnings. Her tremendous gift of an honest, generous critique along with her presence at the concert was something that I have remembered and used throughout my role as a mentor to other budding artists.

     Bob and I would take Ruth to events in the city, take her home and on occasion stay overnight on the pullout sofa. Her family home of many memories including her framed childhood drawings hanging on the living room wall, again, created another easy place to talk about anything and everything. The last Thanksgiving dinner before the pandemic we spent eating in her tiny kitchen. Bob and I had brought a cooked meal and lots of extras so that there would be leftovers for the week to come. Sure enough, as soon as dinner was over, ever resourceful Ruth began making bone soup. I think her brain was always thinking of possibilities. While she spoke of the past, she lived in the future.

     In 2020 I was invited to be part of “Ten Tiny Dances” presented by the director of dance at Cedar Crest College, Allentown, PA. Being in the height of the pandemic, this viral concert imposed a space limitation. I used the singing score I had created at Bearnstow for a group dance, commissioned by Ruth, created in a leaf-covered field in 2014. It served as inspiration for a solo on a leaf-covered rickety bridge in Pennsylvania.
     When it was completed, I thought that Ruth might like it. You see, Ruth was the essence of a wild soul, someone who never lost her connection to the earth, sky and water. Mussed white hair, keen blue eyes, deep seated laugh, swift anger, abounding compassion. A true wild woman with incredible honesty. She cared for us all. While she was the bos, she was also a great listener as mother-teacher-friend-mentor, determined to carry out her mission of preserving the aesthetics of Alwin Nikolais while reminding people of their roots... their souls... in nature. Bearnstow kept her alive as she kept Bearnstow alive. Ruth and I were to teach together at Bearnstow the summer before she died. I was looking forward to that so very much.
     Ruth... I promise that I will listen for your voice in the trees, in the wind, in the lake, in the laughter, in the silence, in my body—and that I will keep working!
—Love, Susie

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See also Remembering Reg on Facebook.

Véreonique MacKenzie remembers Reg in this video tribute

On May 20, my friend and mentor, Ruth Grauert (aka Reg) passed away. She was 101 years old. I made a video to celebrate my time with her and to share with my friends why it was that I kept going back to the artist retreat in the Maine woods. She was a character to the "nth" degree, and while time started to slip for her in these past few years, she loved me, and I, her. Dance into the light my friend... dance into the light.

A Tribute to Reg by Mary-Therese Duffy
Former staff 1980–2003

It is wonderful to see and hear from community members from all three of Bearnstow’s expressions: an overnight “away” camp begin­ning in 1946, a 6-week day camp, and an dancer/artist workshop retreat center with 2 weeks of children’s day camp. My decades are in the 6 week day camp days, and the beginning transitions into a work­shop, 1980–2003. The following is about a 3-minute read, but there is some history and characteristics of Reg that I’m sure we all share, some that has not been mentioned anywhere yet, that I think many of this community would appreciate knowing.

I first met Reg when summoned for a meeting that I swiftly learned was an interview for a summer job I didn’t know I was to be seeking. Many jobs really, as employment at Bearnstow often goes. She was taller then. Seriously upright, lean, and of quite formidable stride. I observed then what I came to recognize as her lifelong characteristics: how she’d settle her pipe between her teeth, fold her arms, lower her chin and call her thoughts to a keen study. No matter the musing, her responses were always full of unexpected foresight, uncanny connections, and by conversation’s end, hopefully, that wonderful, hearty laugh. Otherwise, her quite suspicious eyeing that I observed make grown men squirm.

Catching up to her 5 a.m. rising, and finding her bent to her garden, watering her seedlings, encouraging frogs, staking a tomato, vining a young bean tendril, dancing her arm in duet with a baby snake, and always: her meandering and aimless, just-barely-a whistle.

Walking “up the line” every early June (mouth of the brook to the far side of the cove) to surmise the winter’s repairs to come, and searching out the sheep’s laurel, the service berry, the walnut tree, and if we were lucky, the Jack in the Pulpits as well as other precious native wildflowers she diligently sought out and protected.

The meticulous cleaning, repairing, oiling and just so storing of every single tool after every single use, in readiness for the next use. As was the same for every item in camp. I can’t emphasize this enough.

Katy Freeman and Reg with Athena,
a favorite horse at Bearnstow in 1996

Her extraordinary conversations with horses, forelock to forebrain.

Her conversations with the men in her employ, guiding them to her way of doing things and firing them, sharply if needed, if they continued to insist they knew everything over these “crazy ladies in the woods.” Openness, humility, and being educable a prerequisite from everyone for being at Bearnstow.

Digging clay in the brook to line the stalls of the stable she meticulously designed and equally meticulously sited and making sure it was lit for every evening performance, with her infamous and celebratory exclaim, “why not?!”

Her cantankerous insistence of each student’s fully focused self application to whatever their task: music, art, dance, swim, riding, boating and her wild disappointment until it was done right. She would downright scare students and staff alike in those moments, pushing each beyond themselves into strengths, skills and talents that surprised them, but not Reg.

The deft and soundless strokes of her canoe steerage for the yearly loon count tract, no matter the weather.

Her fierce powering of the row boat as she protected the third area swimmers on their ½ mile, mile, and three mile swims along the coast, no matter the weather (save thunder, of course).

Her brilliance in having these same students, swim to the 2nd area swimmers to accompany them in their promotion to the third area dock, creating indelible impressions: the young ones, feeling more confident for having been sought out by the fully admired accomplished teens, and seeing just where and how they were to grow, while the older ones beamed with the importance of not just their successes, but the impact of their responsibility, mentoring and service in that moment, that would last lifetimes.

Learning Tai Chi together and Reg’s thumbing of her nose at me as part of “part the wild horse’s mane.” Every practice since!

Being off the solarium, squatted neck deep by a male boater (yes, were indeed nude) who thought it was a grand time to strike up a lengthy conversation with three of us, [w. Joanne DeMariano] totaling no less than 195 years of age. We never did know if he could “see” at all, but the laughter rang loud and uproarious at his leaving and for some time thereafter.

Her horror and mourning at news stories of war: “All those beautiful young people!”

So many memories of a woman, two women really, who were nothing less than visionaries. Who combed the civic organizations in NYC and Jersey City in the early 1940’s to recruit African Americans and people of other faiths to come to a camp like no other, not realizing the fiercely determined work they would need to do in Maine for housing these recruits and their families when needed. In addition to aquatic and equestrian arts and skills, Bearnstow was to teach campers, students and the surrounding communities alike, human diversity and inclusion, the fine arts, dance and music, non-competitive games, ecodiversity and protection, before anyone was thinking of these things. The keen attention given to every detail of the land, the buildings, the families who came, showed, no, shined through every molecule that is now Bearnstow. The installation of the knowing in one’s body and with fullness of being, that there is something much greater at work than the individual self. Whatever it is, we are simply its instruments and we must lead with that knowing, protect it and let it express through us, wild and large when necessary, and keep the small self who would settle for conveniences, trends, or worse, popularity, well out of the way; cause the only thing needing mucking damn it, are the stable stalls!

And I watched her last 20 years as she could no longer assert her standards to the full measure she knew needed to sustain her accomplishments. Many now simply marvel at and enjoy Bearnstow, not knowing what Ruth E. Demora Grauert determinedly rehabilitated or built outright, and then fiercely protected and sustained, more than once with a .22 at her side and the deepest voice she could muster. So I understood her fully when she’d look at me and say, “get me out of here.” And I would. And after the rant we would drive wordlessly, find a view and just sit, until the familiar, kind and courageous, “aaaalright,” arrived.

The morning after Reg’s leaving this Earth, a ruby-throated hummingbird, the species that be­came staunch and beloved companions to her on the dining room porch in her later years, paused to sip delicately for a startlingly long time from the water stream pouring from my watering can to seedlings.

It seemed a beloved gesture by a grateful creature for all this woman nurtured and protected: all things, precious and dear and critical to the sustaining of a deeply wise and ethical life that resonates rich and powerfully, well beyond it.

Can you imagine?

A Tribute to Reg by Bobbie Gottschalk
Former camper 1954–1961, and Bearnstow board member

Reg was an illuminator beyond all the great lighting feats she produced for the Nikolais Dance Company. As our camp director, she brought into the light how to build a community, how to learn new skills using the courage she inspired in all of us, how to think differently, how to be patient, how to be inspired by nature, how to live minimally, how to eat healthfully and how to say goodbye at the close of every summer.

All the campers probably have memories that serve as guideposts but here are some of mine: 1. Read everything an author has written before judging, 2. Read at night and then sleep on the new information, 3. Being a girl doesn’t mean being a wimp, 4. Girls can be who they want to be, 5. Respect all religions and all people, 6. Be kind to animals, 7. Be kind to other people, 8. Push yourself beyond what you think are your limits, 9. Keep a sense of humor, 10. Dance authentically.

Reg could scare you more than she was aware, I’ll bet. I will never forget all the times that she frightened me. But, I know I also frightened her sometimes, like when I brought my whole cabin group to the wet ledges by the lake during a thunder and lightning storm.

A few years ago, Reg and I walked together around the empty camp at the end of the summer. Every few steps, one of us would recall something that had happened while I was a camper. (I had spent eight weeks every summer there from the time I was eleven until the time I was 21. First I was a camper, then a counselor-in-training and then a counselor.) That walk around camp — just the two of us — was pure gold!

We had a small orchestra at camp. Reg taught me how to play the trumpet and she played her trombone sitting next to me. From that time on, if I wanted to make Reg smile, I would pretend to play “The German Dances” on an imaginary trumpet, and she would join me on her imaginary trombone!

She was very excited to visit our Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine several years ago. It was a pure delight to show her around the camp. I am sure she knew that in many ways, Seeds of Peace Camp is the logical extension of Bearnstow, for me.

Of the five members of Bearnstow’s Board, three of us were campers when it was an overnight camp for kids. We are aware that our knowledge of Reg is different from those who worked with her in the dance world. I hope what I have written here will add a dimension to the memories of those who never knew her the way we did.

Remembering Reg by Janet Erickson
Former camper 1960–1965; counselor 1967, 1972

I met Reg in 1959, the year before I started as camper at Bearnstow. I remember Reg from the early days mostly as part of “Fran and Reg,” the team that kept us safe, set the rules, enjoyed a good laugh, fixed things, made interesting things happen, and would sell us one stamp or one shoelace from the camp store if that’s all we needed. Over time, as I grew up, Reg became a friend.

This 1962 photo shows Reg and Fran at the burning pit in front of the Big House, with their Bedlington terriers. Burning the camp’s paper trash was one of the daily chores frequently assigned to younger campers (with a counselor).

Reg & Fran burn paper trash in front of the Big House, ca. 1962,
with their Bedlington terriers. Unfortunately, the Big House
collapsed from a winter snow load in the early 70s.
The Big House was an amazing space. Beautiful big floor, airy space, a proscenium arch separating the performing and audience areas, a blue cyc dividing the performing and back­stage areas, a ping-pong table (also used for props) lurking in the wings. In that space, I learned about dance and theatre from Fran, Reg, and the campers and counselors who came out of the Alwin Nikolais–Henry Street modern dance world.

Reg shared materials and ideas from the Nikolais company — I remember full-body stretchy knit tubes making their way into Bearnstow dances one year, and dancing to a tape of the satellites in orbit. Fran taught us basic modern, ballet, tap, and ballroom dance. Reg and Fran taught me to improvise intelligently.

One piece I remember is “Chicago,” a Reg/Fran collabora­tion, set to the Sinatra "Chicago." Petra played piano. For scenery, Fran drew a loop on a big piece of paper and posted it on the cyc to represent Chicago’s Loop, and then explained the Loop to us. Reg did lighting. In one of the scenes, some of us came on-stage with our orchestra instruments, lay down in a circle with our feet in the center, and improvised physi­cally and musically, interacting with something (a hat, maybe?) that went up and down on a string from the ceiling; meanwhile, groups of dancers came in-and-out behind us to dance on the other side of the stage.

Then there was the year when Reg found out that Bearnstow could get certain tax or other financial advantages if she offered an optional academic English course. So she did. The reading list included Darwin’s “Voyage of the Beagle,” “The Communist Manifesto,” Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” Thoreau’s “Walden Pond” — not a typical reading list for 13–14 year-olds in the 1960’s. We also read "MacBeth"; I remember acting out the opening scene as a witch (wearing shorts, red plaid wool shirt, Bearnstow t-shirt and blue hat) on top of a mountain in Acadia National Park, during the camp coast trip to watch the total eclipse of the sun.

I remember Reg being always there. Good sense of humor. Smoking her pipe. Looking at me with her quizzical expression as she spoke directly to me. The pipe was long gone, but her sense of humor and way of speaking were still there when I saw her at Bearnstow last summer.

I miss Reg.

A Reflection by Bebe Miller
Former camper 1957–1966, counselor 1967–68, and yearly visits almost
every year 1988–present; Bearnstow board member and current treasurer

Bearnstow was a delight, a place of things-in-their-places, a warren of paths and secret caves, a school for learning how to tie knots, sink a canoe, identify trees, write a poem, float on your back and watch the sky, start a campfire, dance a waltz, watch Sputnik pass through the stars, and stay up late to see the Milky Way rise over the Ledges. I started as a six-year-old “little kid,” returned every summer through “big kid” years and as a counselor. When my friend Zoe and I rode back to NYC on the bus we started counting the days until the next summer. By the time I was a counselor at 18 I’d spent most of my life either at camp or waiting until I’d be back. Reg and Fran weren’t “parents” (my mother Hazel was there as the camp nurse along with my brother Clair and sister Ruth) but rather a new kind of adult, possessors of another way of being in and of the world. Our family was invited to camp because Reg and my mother became friends at Henry Street Settlement, where we took dance and music classes at The Playhouse. Reg taught me to notice—everything. I am still so grateful for that.

Bearnstow was not a perfect place. The political and social currents of the 1950s and 60s were dampened though not erased, and as our family was at times the first Black family that some campers and counselors encountered, the rub was enough to notice. We kept returning, though; I keep returning. The promise of the place that Reg created is still evident, still magical, still based on inclusivity, still open to all. Anyone who experienced her wonder of the natural world, her curiosity about everything, her rough love, has felt the complicated gift of her full attention. She was not easy. And I miss her so.

All photos courtesy of Bebe Miller

Clockwise from top left: Sharon Kantowitz, Penny Risen, Dean Perlman, Ruth Miller, Clair Miller, Bebe Miller, Greg Trent,
Calvin Johnson (dancer Raymond Johnson’s younger brother), Steffi Wales, Roger Sternfeld, Michael Fisher, and unknown boy

Bebe’s mother Hazel

Pam Lougee, Suzy Cohen, Cy Lougee
(friend of camp), Zoe Berger, and Bebe

Bobbie Risen Gottschalk on a “trip day" perhaps

Penny Risen and Bebe Miller: music class in the Big House
(to give you an idea of its size)

Reg and Bebe’s cousin Bobby Carr, a counselor

Fran and Timmy, her Bedlington pooch

Remembering Bearnstow’s Pickup Truck
An important fixture in the 1950’s and 60’s, former campers share their thoughts.

Janet Erickson — I remember that truck! We’d go on Sunday trips in it. I have two annecdotes: In the very early 1960’s, we’d sit on hay in the back. The hay stopped after a few years due to campers with allergies, so we sat on the floorboards, with our sweatshirts for padding if it was warm. Then, after Mary Jo’s hat flew off during a camp trip, Fran and Reg issued hat elastics to everyone, and we wore them ever after.

Bebe Miller — Janet, what a memory! I remember the hay, and I remember when there was no padding whatsoever. I loved driving home at night from a long Sunday trip (Sundays were our “trip” days), watching the beam of the headlights on the underside of the leaves. My mother Hazel learned how to drive in that truck, sometime in the 1960’s. She would drive those of us who went to church on Sunday morning before breakfast, first in Winthrop and then in Belgrade Lakes. Apparently the Winthrop Catholic church made a not-so-subtle remark about having Black campers come to their church, so we found a different church that was more welcoming. I certainly remember the hat elastics!!

Bobbie Gottschalk — Well, we bounced around in the back during the 50’s! Oh those hats!!! Fortunately, we never lost a camper!

Adriana León Arana. Colima, México. (Univerdanza Danza Contemporánea) — Dear Jim and all: My deepest condolences. My heart is broken by the news, but at the same time, I am happy to have met Ruth and enjoy her so much. I learned many things from her, the first and most important (I think), her deep pleasure for life. I send my complete love and thankful to Bearnstow, and for Reg wherever she is dancing right now.

Arthur Fink — Remembering Ruth Grauert (March 24, 1919–May 20, 2020) — Dancer, mentor, teacher, Creator of Bearnstow — an amazing center where we can be present with the earth and the earth’s creatures, with each other in deep and wonderful ways, with dance and with great dancers and teachers. For me, she was an amazing source of encouragement and creative opportunity. Thank you, great universe, for sending Ruth Grauert to nurture us all, to connect us, and to help us learn from some amazing people. These pictures were taken at Bearnstow’s last resident show with Reg (Ruth Grauert).

The finale of the End-of-Season Concert at Union Hall, Vienna, Maine, August 24, 2019
Pictured are Ellen Oliver, Jonathan Trejo, Eliza Malecki, and Reg (Ruth) Grauert. Photo © Arthur Fink

During a rehearsal break at Union Hall, Reg in a moment of contemplation. Photo © Arthur Fink

Kyle S. Haver — Such a loss of spirit, insight and knowledge... her voice and feedback still echo within.

Malcolm MacDonald — Thank you, Ruth, for touching and guiding so many of us. Your nurturing, critical, eye. Your profound depth of knowledge and understanding have stayed with me all these years. What a great, authentic, holistic life. Brava!

Emily Paine — I would not be who I am today without her influence throughout my childhood and adolescence. Not a day goes by without her wisdom weaving it’s way into my life in some way.

Kevin Pace — Miss you Reg and Fran. Thank you for all you taught me. It truly made me who I am today. Every day I use something you both taught me. Love you both. You can be at peace with Fran and all the animals now

Kathy Gaedje — So Sad to hear this . I am so happy that I was able to see her in Hartford in Nov. What an amazing person she was.

Jeffrey D. Pulis — So sad to hear. I had been looking forward to spending a few weeks with her at the Camp this summer before all of our plans were upended.

Tom Paine — One of the most influential women in my life. I believe she lived one of the best lives anyone could hope for. I hope I can stop by Bearnstow this summer to remember her.

Sharon Kantowitz — Was hoping to spend some time at camp this summer to relive old times. She was one of a kind.

Cindy Lougee — Deepest condolences to the Bearnstow family from the Lougee family (Concord, NH).

Emily Paine — I would not be who I am today without her influence throughout my childhood and adolescence. Not a day goes by without her wisdom weaving it’s way into my life in some way.

Sharon Kantowitz — Was hoping to spend some time at camp this summer to relive old times. She was one of a kind.

Sarah Jane Thompson Aguirre — An impressive long life.

Sue Tungate — So sorry, KJ.

Kate Moore Sarah Nickell — :(

Audrey Le — I was shocked and saddened when I read of Ruth’s passing. I was so looking forward to seeing you in just a few weeks! Please pass along my condolences to her family, her nephew, and her many dear friends. I was honored then — as I am now — to have known Ruth. She was such a life force and inspiration to me — and probably everyone she met. So — Jim, to you, to Peter, to Molly, to Robin, to the dancers, to the many friends who graced the dinner table, and especially to Ruth — I thank you all for including me at Bearnstow last summer. It was a joy of a lifetime.

Jane Jerardi — Just wanted to send a note here to say how sorry I am to hear this news. What a force! I feel so lucky to have met Reg and to have experienced Bearnstow. She bestowed many gifts to all of us — I will always remember her.

Sandra Rivera — Ah!!! A life well lived. I was fortunate to have experienced this extraordinary woman while attending Bearnstow this past summer (2019). I was and will remain in awe of Ruth’s powers of dance artistry and vision of communal celebration through her Bearnstow summer arts camp. I shall always honor and cherish her memory.

Alene Onion — That is very sad news. I spent my childhood at Bearnstow where half the day we played free in the forest building lean to teepees, playing town, and trading porcupine quills, moss, dragonfly nymph exoskeletons, and strangely shaped galls. I got in trouble for bringing plastic ribbon to decorate my teepee and for stripping a pine branch of it’s bark to use as rope but we were rewarded by her visits and lessons on the lichens, mushrooms and insects. It was a dance camp and I’ll never forget the modern dance teachers I was lucky enough to learn from, but it was the forest and her love of it that in part sparked my love and career in ecology. I will miss you dearly Ruth. (Photo of Reg holding my daughter Lyra for the first time)

Molly Hess — So Beautiful Alene, Thank you for sharing that image and your memories. Even in recent years when Reg didn’t interact with the campers as much and didn’t really know the new campers, whenever she got a chance to speak to one of them, she gave them that bright, warm, direct attention like she has with Lyra in that image. She connected so clearly and genuinely with each person and gave a special generosity to kids. Love her and miss her so much. Thank you for returning to camp each summer and passing your knowledge onto this generation’s campers, I hope we can continue that. We will miss it this summer. —xo, Molly

Eric Jones — I’m so sorry to hear this news. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to know Reg and I am forever grateful for her generosity and warmth. I must say thank you to Jim for inviting me to join the Natural History Week at Bearnstow years ago and every year since. My heart goes out to everyone at Bearnstow and all the others who Reg touched. She was indeed a remarkable woman and will be sorely missed.

Andrea (Tholl) Dente and family — I am so sorry to read this. Ruth was my mother’s cousin. I had just emailed Ruth photos of my sons, my husband and me. When I didn’t receive an email back, I was concerned but figured she was busy or possibly struggling with the Virus. What did she die from? Please give her close family our sincerest condolences. To whom may I send a sympathy card? Thank you for informing everyone.

Andy Chiang — We are very shocked and saddened by this news. We will miss her energetic voice in Begen Dance Maker’s gatherings. We are sure that she is free and dancing wherever she is now.

Deborah Foster — I am very saddened to hear for Ruth Grauert’s passing. I only met her last summer, but she made a lasting impression upon me. To say she was inspiring would be an understatement. I send my heartfelt condolences to all who knew and loved her.

Karla Coyazo — There is no goodbye for a being who gave life to so much creation, so much movement, to so much love. Your memory remains in my heart! Gracias por siempre!

Linda W Combs — I am so very saddened to hear of Ruth’s passing. She was a wonderful friend and inspiration. I will truly miss her.

Eliizbeth Keen — I deeply saddened by this news. It seemed Reg would always be with us. Her spirit will live on. With love, Liz

Nancy Salmon — Walking today with Laura Faure she told me of Reg’s death. I’m so sad and so very glad to have spent time with her at Bearnstow these past two summers. What a gift she is. What a long and fruitful, FULL life. I’m sending my condolences and my love to you all. Blessings, Nancy

Pat and Bill Rosenberg — It is a sad day for Mount Vernon and the world. We will miss our remarkable and well loved neighbor.

Robin Gilmore, Bearnstow faculty member 2010–2019 — Oh Reg. She could turn up anywhere at any time and jump right into whatever was happening. That shoulder shimmy was a trademark move along with whistling while she walked. A regular part of my summer workshops is a form called the Medicine Wheel that we practice every day out in the clearing. Reg would often participate or, in later years, watch from her porch. Last summer she said to my group, “You can be doing the wheel wherever you are even without the gestures.” And so she keeps turning for all of us who were lucky enough to be a part of Bearnstow.

Jo Tibby, Mount Vernon, Maine — Dear Ruth, You will always be with me and I will always miss you.

Rowan (Kei) Ching — My dear friend Ruth passed away at 101 years old this week. The summers I spent with her at Bearnstow shaped me into the dancer and person I am today. I am so grateful to have known this amazing woman who brought so many good people together. Reg, you will be deeply missed.

Sara Pearson — Improvising with 98-year-old Ruth Grauert up at Bearnstow 2017. Happy Trails, dear Ruth. You lit my first NYC dance concert in 1975.

Video by Patrik Widrig

Deb Doten, Hallowell, Maine

Oh Reg…

It has been has been almost three decades since we first met in the lobby of Pine Tree Veterinary Hospital. I had brought my Great Pyrenees puppy for his first checkup. You and Fran were checking out at the same time as I was. You were quiet and smiling … just so content to be in the presence of Fran. This was the only time I met Fran. She was full of smiling energy and introduced herself to me and then introduced you. She was constantly chuckling at our beloved pets… my puppy and your cats. I remember blue eyes, wisps of white hair and a brilliant smile. I think this was one of the only times I had known you to be quiet. You both were so happy and connected. It is a really nice memory. That summer Bearnstow was a haven for children. Then Fran became sick and she died.

You carried on after Fran’s death. You would smile and look across Parker Pond with so much fondness in your eyes. Sometimes, a tear. Her picture was on the piano and never moved from its spot.

Bearnstow has changed from a children’s summer camp that was pretty big in its heyday! You told me that kids came from all over New England and New York to stay for the summer. Buses brought kids from Augusta. It was a busy place for you and Fran. I saw the last summer of that.

As Bearnstow’s creatively morphed into an artistic sanctuary for adults you needed to see two weeks a year for the kids. It was art, dance, performing, swimming, horses… it was spiritual and peaceful for all who came down the path. And the shows — they were brilliant!

Reg… you would call every summer to talk about many various things… BUT ALWAYS your hounds. You loved them so. Somehow, you understood these high energy, lovable characters.

I remember waiting for my kids, sitting on your porch and perhaps splitting a cold St. Pauli girl on the hottest of days. We talked about land trusts, family, Bearnstow history, the environment, the Maine Organic Farmers Association, horses, dogs, swimming with dolphins and turtles in Mexico, interns from all over… did I say family, gardens and horses? You gave your opinions and advice gently, clearly but oh so firmly. In later years, you often dozed ever so peacefully as Parker Pond breezes would cool us.

I miss you Reg. I miss your strength, your love of the land and the earth and all the beings that grow and live here. I know you and Fran are dancing, laughing, loving and orchestrating great things in your next lives together. I do believe that you were meant to be soul mates. I am grateful to you and Fran and all the love and light you brought to our to our hearts. Thank you, my dear friend, for sharing the wisdom that all must move through this world with kindness, equality and love.

XO Always,