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Choreographer/dancer Murray Louis dies at age 89

by Ellen Jacobs
February 1, 2016
American choreographer/dancer Murray Louis died on February 1 at his home in New York City. He was 89 years old.

Louis, who was also a world renowned teacher and pedagogue, was born in Brooklyn in 1926 and grew up in Manhattan, not far from Henry Street where his company would be founded years later.

After being discharged from the U.S. Army in 1946, Louis went to San Francisco, and then enrolled in Colorado College’s summer dance session, where he met choreographer Alwin Nikolais who became the single most important influence in his career. He moved to New York to dance with the Nikolais Dance Theater in 1949.

While Louis danced with the Nikolais Dance Theatre throughout his career, he also performed with his own troupe, the Murray Louis Dance Company, which he founded in 1953. In 1968, the Louis Company was chosen to represent the U.S. State Department on a two-month tour of India; it subsequently toured throughout the United States and the world. Louis created two works for Rudolf Nureyev’s 1978 Broadway season, as well as choreographing a series of dances for himself and Nureyev when he guested with the Louis Company.

“Brubeck Pieces,” a collaboration between Louis and the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which premiered at City Center in New York in 1984, went on to tour for four years around the world. Louis’s work was recognized with many awards and honors both in the United States and abroad including the Grand Medaille de vermeil de la Ville de Paris in 1979; in 1983 Louis was honored with a Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres by the French Government. He was also the recipient of the 1977 Dance Magazine Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Lucia Chase Fellowship, among others. Louis received honorary doctorates from Boston Conservatory, Rutgers University, Ohio University and Indiana University.

Louis’s work in television and film included a five part film series, “Dance as an Art Form” and a five part video series, “The World of Alwin Nikolais.” Louis and Alwin Nikolais were the subjects of Christian Blackwood’s award-winning film, “Nik and Murray,” which aired as part of the American Masters series on PBS television.

Louis was the author of two books of essays about dance, “Inside Dance,” published by St. Martin’s Press and “On Dance,” published by A Cappella Books..


A memorial to celebrate Murray Louis’s life is being planned for next year.
Murray Louis

Murray Louis

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