Choreographer Murray Louis Dies at 89

Murray Louis in Kite (c. 1960s)

Choreographer Murray Louis passed away early yesterday, February 1. He was 89.

After enrolling in one of Hanya Holm’s summer dance sessions at Colorado College, Louis met choreographer Alwin Nikolais. Louis eventually became a soloist with Alwin Nikolais’ Nikolais Dance Theater and, later, associate director of the company. Together, they founded the Nikolais/Louis dance technique, based on four principles of movement: shape, space, time and motion. Alberto Del Saz, who danced with Nikolais Dance Theater and co-directed the Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance, actually calls the technique more of a philosophy—one that builds character as much as strength in young dancers.

In 1953, Louis founded his own company, going on to create more than 100 works. His choreography was known for its comedy and physicality, as seen below in this excerpt from his Glances (1976):


He has been honored with a Dance Magazine Award (1977), two Guggenheim fellowships and, just last year, he received the Martha Hill Dance Fund Award.

Many well-known educators and choreographers, including Phyllis Lamhut, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company founders Shirley Ririe and Joan Woodbury, and Bebe Miller, studied under Louis and still find his influence in their own work. “[Murray’s] use of improvisation is deeply rooted in me and is something I feel is utterly necessary for dance training,” says Miller.

Del Saz invites anyone wishing to offer thoughts and condolences to e-mail

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Photos from top: courtesy of The Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance, Inc.; courtesy of Martha Hill Dance Fund Awards

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