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Dean of Libraries Scott Seaman laughs while Murray Louis speaks during an alumni event at the Alwin Nikolais' Total Theater of Motion exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on Wednesday night, Oct. 27 in New York City.

Photographer: Patrick Traylor


Former Ohio University President Vernon R. Alden watches a video display at the exhibit's opening.

Photographer: Patrick Traylor


Ohio University friends and alumni converse during the welcome reception.

Photographer: Patrick Traylor

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OHIO faculty and alumni honor dance innovator in New York City

Famous as an influential leader in American modern dance and an innovative composer of multi-media work, Alwin Nikolais is being honored for his contributions through a centennial celebration of his birth. OHIO shares a special connection to the man who influenced modern dance with his focus on the overall effect of production in the theater.

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts recently launched “Alwin Nikolais’ Total Theater of Motion” in its Vincent Astor Gallery. OHIO friends, faculty and alumni were on-hand for the opening of the exhibit, which is largely on loan from the Ohio University Libraries. The display runs through Jan. 15.

“This exhibit in New York has been in the planning stage for five years. It has been a challenge. It’s really satisfying for me because I’ve worked so long on the collection,” said Judith Connick, special collections librarian and curator of the OHIO collection. “This exhibit shows the spectacular, historic and enduring lives of Murray Louis and Alwin Nikolais.”

Nikolais is considered an innovative genius in incorporating his own lighting, sound, costume and choreography into pioneering stage and television productions that gave rise to the modern multi-media show. Nikolais infused his talent in more than 120 choreographic works and was director of several influential dance companies. Over his 50-plus-year career, he was honored with many dance awards, as well as being named a Guggenheim Fellow and being given a creativity grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

OHIO boasts a vast collection on the dance legend, permanently on display at Alden Library in The Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections. Films, posters, photographs, programs, musical recordings and personal and business papers are just some of the items in the collection, donated by Murray Louis, a partner and principal dancer in Nikolais’ company.

President Roderick J. McDavis, Dean of Libraries Scott Seaman, Connick, donors and alumni recently attended an intimate welcome reception at Lincoln Center in New York City.

“With alumni and friends of Ohio University on hand, we held a celebration fitting of Alwin Nikolais and his remarkable legacy that shaped the world of modern dance,” said McDavis. “Our university is very proud to be the home of this collection and to have been asked to help provide materials for this wonderful exhibit.”

The opening reception also gave guests a chance to speak with Louis.

“It was an intentionally small gathering. We wanted for people to be able to interact with Murray Louis. It was part of the appeal,” said Seaman.

“Alden Library has truly world-class collections,” Seaman added. “Being able to put our collections in New York City at Lincoln Center verifies that, but also highlights to a much larger community outside of OHIO the importance of the collections that are here.”