Courtesy Christina Kerman

Ballet, Broadway and TV Dancer Ilona Murai Dies, 96

Ilona Murai (Kerman) died of COVID-19 and dementia on April 8 at the age of 96 at Parker Jewish in New Hyde Park, NY. Born Ellen Josephine Muray in Passaic, NJ, she changed her name to Ilona Murai when she started her career as a soloist for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. At 15 years old, she was the youngest member ever to be accepted into the company.

After eight years there, she went on to dance for the Ballets Russes and worked in three original ballets for Herbert Ross: Caprichos, The Thief Who Loved a Ghost and The Maids. Murai performed in Donald Saddler's Winesburg, Ohio and Herbert Ross' The Rose House and Caprichos at Jacob's Pillow.


On Broadway, Murai was a featured dancer in Inside USA, Touch and Go, Bless You All and By the Beautiful Sea (choreographed by Helen Tamiris), Paint Your Wagon, Oklahoma (European Tour and at City Center) and Goldilocks (choreographed by Agnes de Mille), John Murray Anderson's Almanac, Shangri-La (choreographed by Donald Saddler) and The Girl Who Came To Supper (choreographed by Joe Layton).

Murai was also the star of General Motors' Motorama, and had featured TV appearances on "The Ray Bolger Show," "Omnibus" and "The Seven Lively Arts," choreographed by Agnes de Mille.

In 1969, Murai choreographed a promotional film for Coca-Cola's Bottlers Convention at the Civic Center in Atlanta, Georgia, for a corporate musical called The Tune of the Time to music composed by Marvin Hamlisch.

When Murai and her family moved to Mellville, Long Island, in 1970 she became a choreographer for the P.A.F. Playhouse, and taught at various studios such as The New Dance Group, Lake Placid Music Center, The Nora Kovach Ballet Academy, The New Dance Circle, Northshore Studio of Dance and USDAN Center for the Creative and Performing Arts.

Ilona Murai was married to Sheppard Kerman, a playwright/actor who was known for his eye-popping visual effects for various musicals on Broadway such as Seesaw, Platinum and Beatlemania. She is survived by her daughter, Christina Kerman, a photographer and graphic designer.

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Courtesy Esse

What It Was Like When Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was in the Audience—or Backstage

The 27 years that Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent on the U.S. Supreme Court were 27 years that she spent as one of Washington, D.C.'s most ardent, elegant and erudite supporters of the performing arts. The justice, who died on September 18 of metastatic cancer, was also an avid cultural tourist, traveling to the Santa Fe and Glimmerglass operas nearly every summer, as well as occasionally returning to catch shows in her native New York City.

Ginsburg's opera fandom was well known, but her tastes were wide-ranging. Particularly in the last 10 years of her life, after Ginsburg lost her beloved husband, Marty, it was not unusual for the petite justice and her security detail to be spotted at theaters several nights a week. She saw everything, from classic musicals to serious new plays, plus performances that defied classification, like Martha Clarke's dance drama Chéri, with Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo, which toured to the Kennedy Center in 2014.

To honor Ginsburg, Dance Magazine asked three dance artists whose performances the justice attended to recall what Ginsburg meant to them.

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