Dance Magazine Contributor John Gruen Passes at 89

July 25, 2016

John Gruen with Natalia Makarova.

John Gruen, longtime contributing editor of Dance Magazine, died at his home in Manhattan on Tuesday, July 19 . He was 89. Prior to becoming a dance critic, biographer and interviewer, Gruen was a music and art critic for the New York Herald Tribune, New York Magazine, the New York Times, Vogue, and Artnews. Having established himself as an intimate chronicler of the New York cultural scene of the 1950s and 60s with candid portraits of artists, composers and writers in “The Party’s Over Now,” Gruen turned to dance in the early 1970s.

His book “The Private World of Ballet” (1975), offered more than seventy interviews with major figures in the world of dance. He was invited to become a regular contributor to Dance Magazine, providing some 200 articles between 1975 and 1997, and wrote dozens of dance-related features for The New York Times. Gruen held interview series with dancers at such distinguished venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hosted radio programs, and authored three additional dance books, “Erik Bruhn: Danseur Noble,” “People Who Dance” and “The World’s Great Ballets.”

In his autobiography, “Callas Kissed Me…Lenny Too!” (2008), Gruen described himself as a “writer, critic, journalist, bon vivant, gadfly, busybody, father, husband, queer, neurotic workaholic.” Additionally, he was a dramatist, composer, and acclaimed photographer represented in the collections of the Whitney and Parrish Art Museum, and published several books of his photography.

Born Jonas Grunberg in France in 1926, Gruen lived with his family in Berlin and Milan before fleeing Fascism and settling in New York in 1939. Gruen attended the University of Iowa where he met artist Jane Wilson (1924-2015). They married and returned east to become significant members of the New York arts scene for five decades. He is survived by his daughter Julia Gruen, Executive Director of the Keith Haring Foundation.