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Memoriam Archive 1

Walter Nicks
by John Sefakis

Dancer, choreographer and teacher Walter Nicks died in Brooklyn April 7th after a long career in Modern Dance and working on the Broadway stage. Mr. Nick’s credits include working with Jack Cole on Jamaica, featuring a young Alvin Ailey, and Assistant Choreographer on House of Flowers and Carmen Jones. I knew him as a teacher, who came to my college (Debbie Allen & Walter Nicks pictured) to teach a Dunham tech-nique at a school that taught virtually nothing but Graham (Debbie Allen & Walter Nicks pictured).

It was thrilling to me, since I was a theater major and not enamored of Graham. He not only taught us technique, but how to visualize the space around us, and how to understand our bodies’ capabilities. He eventually brought his fellow Dunham member, Vanoye Aikens to the university, and they, in turn, brought Ms. Dunham down to watch us perform. We were all in awe of her, and that was back in 1970!! For a campus with a distinct lack of diversity (at the time – that has changed since!) it was a breath of fresh air to me.

Mr. Nicks danced with the Benny Goodman Jazz Revue in 1948 went on to choreograph on many stages and landed on television choreographing for Harry Belefonte’s TV specials from ’59 to ’63. He had collaborated, choreographed for and danced with all the great black performers of the 50s and 60s and continued to dance and teach – and work with new dance black dance artists like Debbie Allen (above).

The American Dance Festival honored him for his teaching in 2000, and he was also lauded by the International Association of Blacks in Dance for his contribution to the dance world.

Belinda Wright

Belinda Wright, who danced at the wedding of Prince Rainer of Monaco and Grace Kelly, died in April. She was 78.

She began dancing in London in 1946 with what became the English National Ballet (Belinda Wright & John Gilpin pictured) . Her greatest and most acclaimed role was as Giselle, which she continued to perform until 1977 (in a farewell performance for a Japanese ballet company in Tokyo). Taught ballet and continued to coach until 2000. She is survived by her husband, Jelko Yuresha with whom she enjoyed a long professional and personal partnership, a daughter Anabelle and a son Christopher from her first marriage to Swiss dancer Wolfgang Brunner.


Vivien Gear
by Gregg Meyer

The British dance world has recently lost a very valuable Dance Educator and friend: Vivien Gear died on March 17, just short of her 67th birthday.

An early member of my dance company from the 60's, Vivien had graduated with an MA from the University of London, followed by a supplementary year at the Laban Studio and a Certification of Education from Bishop Otter College in Chichester. She was a loyal member of the company for our lec-dems all over Britain, in non-heated British Rail trains, performing in non-heated venues.

My company was the first Contemporary Dance company in the UK and Jamie Cunningham, who was also in the ensemble, left to become very well-known in the NY post-modern world of the late 60's and throughout the 70's with his Acme Dance Co. Vivien and Jamie were the cornerstone of the company's early days, along with members of the Royal Ballet faculty and London Contemporary Dance company and others (Vivian and Gregg pictured at left).

Viv went on to be a lecturer in Dance at Bishop Otter, and in several London colleges as well as an external examiner for Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Her tenure at Bedford College of Higher Education from 1979-89 left a long-lasting impression on hundreds of dancers now running their own departments from Goucher College in Baltimore, to many colleges in the UK.

During the 70's, I taught Dance as a professor at Washington University, St.Louis. On two separate occasions, I brought Vivien over as artist-in-residence and we ran classes, workshops and presented original works in performance. She helped me teach the kids weekend classes as well as the university students. Then in 1976, she invited me to be guest artist in a small company she created with designer Mike Becket from Covent Garden and musician John Atkins. I performed in several works at their summer season at the Little Theatre in St.Martin's Lane and that was the last time either of us performed together. I retired from dancing in '78.

I am grateful to have had those wonderful decades with my very dear friend, with whom I visited every year; I was about to celebrate her birthday with her next month in Europe and instead am helping to organise the funeral, tributes and memorials. If any of her many former colleagues or students read this article, please do contact me and I'd be happy to talk with you.


(Advisory Board Member)

by John Sefakis

Dance writer and historian Ann Barzel died Feb 12 th in Chicago . She was 101.

Her career began as a dancer, but she soon found other outlets that satisfied her creativity in a more effective way. Ann went on to write and review dance for Dance Magazine and the Chicago Times and shot films of touring ballet companies. She said you could learn much more from watching a company perform from the wings than reading a book about the artist or dance company.

The highly successful 2005 documentary, “Ballet Russes” owes much Ms. Barzel’s films and writing. She shot ABT and its star of the day Violette Verdy, who credited her with her career, as she used a film Ms. Barzel shot as her audition tape to join the company.

Ann donated her dance collection, photos and writing, to the Newberry Library in Chicago in 1996. Most of her dance memorabilia was ballet, and she did not hide her preference. She did, however, have materials on modern dance and other dance forms of the day.

Ms. Barzel left no immediate survivors. Her death was confirmed by dance historian and friend George Dorris.



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