Dance History

#tbt: Alwin Nikolais on Inventing Your Own Solutions

Photo by Pierre Petitjean, Courtesy DM Archives

In the April 1968 issue of Dance Magazine, we took a deep dive into the work of Alwin Nikolais.

Imago (1963). Photo by Sosenko, Courtesy DM Archives


Viewing technique as a means to an end, Nikolais did not ask his dancers to embody characters or emote, but to simply dance as part of the onstage environments created by his innovative costume, lighting and production designs—most of which he handled personally, in addition to creating his own music and, of course, choreographing the steps.

Gallery (1978). Photo by Tom Caravaglia, Courtesy DM Archives

"I always seem to be looking for something that hasn't been invented yet," he told us. He would frequently improvise solutions to gain the effect he wanted without waiting for technology to catch up to his ideas.

Imago (1963). Photo by Sosenko, Courtesy DM Archives

Nikolais received a Dance Magazine Award in 1968 and in 1987 was the recipient of both the National Medal of Arts and a Kennedy Center Honor.

Sanctum (1964). Photo by Ken Ray, Courtesy DM Archives

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