Shape/Space and Time/Motion

Taught by Ruth Grauert, with Nikolais Alumni Friends, Gerald Otte and Susan Creitz

June 28July 11, 2020
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Grounded in the universal principles of Shape, Space, Time and Motion, this workshop focuses on creative process and performance and is co-taught by Ruth Grauert and Nikolais alumni friends. Daily all-level movement classes offer opportunity for technical development while exploring concepts to be addressed later in the day in creative work sessions. The two-week series culminates in an informal performance of material created by workshop participants. The workshop may be taken for the full two week (preferred), or as the first week only (please indicate on the registration form).

Ruth Grauert evaluates student improvisations in an outdoor class
at Bearnstow. “It gets suspended.” Video by Véronique MacKenzie

  (Click arrow to start video; double-click on image to expand to full screen.)

We will launch this workshop with a fo­cus on honing performance, critiquing and developing new and existing work, through the lens of the Nikolais aes­thetic, and the universal principles of Shape, Space, Time, and Motion. Work­shop participants are asked to bring a work in progress or one they have re­cently completed to be shared and re-examined at the beginning of the first week. Mentored by Ruth Grauert and friends (other alumni from the Nikolais tradition), each participant will be sup­ported in rediscovering the aesthetic content and creative sensibility of the work, aiming toward bringing their chor­eography to a more refined level of performance.

Ruth Grauert and Sienna Brinton improvise during Day Camp, summer 2015
Sienna’s grandmother and mother were both campers, making Sienna a third-generation Bearnstow camper! ~ Photo by Sari Nordman


We soar with the ballet dancer whose leaps lift us. We fade with the danseuse whose port de bras vi­brate with death. We become the blind grand­mother who spins. We rock in the arms of our ances­tress. We go with the kid next door who gets on a bike and flies to the moon. These moments of mo­tion that we behold and cherish are those of creators devoted to the presentation of flying or dying, doing or dream­ing. They have lent themselves to the time/shape/ space/motion of the act. They have made our inner space vibrate with them and our outer space soar. It is this attention to space upon which we will concentrate.

It is not the perfect turnout; rather it is where the knees point. It is not the perfect port de bras but the space the arms enclose. That we fill these far reaches with substance, and inner space with light, is human and speak human to human. This is dance.

Ruth E. Grauert holds a B.A. from Ursinus, 1939, and an M.A. from Columbia, 1941. She is the recipient of the 2005 Martha Hill Lifetime Achievement Award and doctor­ates of humane letters from Ursinus College in 2009 and Centenary College in 2013. Ruth studied with Hanya Holm, Martha Graham, Alwin Nikolais, Anna Sokolow, Truda Kashmann, Muriel Stewart, and Charles Weidman. She was a member Nikolais Hart­ford Company, 194243; assistant to Nikolais, 19481988; stage director for Murray Louis, 19531970; lighting designer and stage manager for Phyllis Lamhut, Beverly Blossom, and others, 1948 on; and she taught lighting at the Nik/Lou lab, 19481995. In 19791980 she taught at the Centre national de danse contemporaine (CNDC) in Angers, France. She is founder and director of Bearn­stow, a summer arts place, from 1946 to present. Her lectures and classes in choreography are based on Nikolais’s theory of danceShape, Space, and Time as the source of dance Motion. She has authored numerous articles on general aes­thet­ics, staging, lighting, and Alwin Nikolais, as well as concert and book reviews and poetry (see

Susan Creitz has been dancing within the Alwin Nikolais family since 1969. She has performed and taught nationally and internationally, created commissioned works, received multiple state grants, and has been the director of three dance/theatre/sound improvisation companies. University appointments include U. of Michigan, Duke, and Muhlenberg College where she worked in the Muhlenberg Dept. of Theatre & Dance for 31 years, teaching Movement Workshop for Dancers & Actors, choreographing, and directing the touring Improv Ensemble, Six Meters. Long-standing collaborations with internationally known peers such as Judi Silvano have created projects ranging from improvisation performance series to the creation of vocal scores for dances/plays and the creation of plays presented in NYC at venues such as the Public Theater’s Director’s Workshop. Susan had the privilege of performing in “From the Horse's Mouth: Remembering Nik” in NYC, presenting her choreography at Hunter College as part of the Alwin Nikolais Centennial Alumni Concerts, and performing in another “Horse’s Mouth” celebrating Phyllis Lamhut. This is Susan’s third time as guest artist at Bearnstow.

Gerald Otte has been part of the international dance world for over forty years. As a member of the Nikolais Dance Theater for eighteen years, rising to soloist and assistant to Mr. Nikolais, he taught as a master teacher in thirty U.S. states and more than twenty countries. He was one of the very first Fulbright Senior Scholars, teaching in Belgium, Portugal and Germany. Gerald also taught in London, Paris, Rotterdam, Louvain-la-Neuve, and Ghent. He choreographed and designed lighting for Gian Carlo Menotti in Nancy, France in a revival of his opera Help! Help! The Globolinks. Having adjudicated dancers and choreographic works in Brussels and in Amsterdam, he was named an Erasmus Professor in Belgium and The Netherlands. In the United States Gerald has been an artist-in-residence in five college and university dance programs. For over ten years Gerald directed his own company, OTTECO INC, choreographing thirty-two works, including five full-evening projects. In the New York area he has served on the faculty of SUNY Purchase and Marymount Manhattan and is currently on faculty at Hunter College. Gerald was elected as the first dancer to become President of The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), the union of opera singers, soloists and choristers, dancers and staging personnel. He served three terms as president and two as first vice-president. Concurrently, he was also the chairman of the governing board of the AGMA Emergency Relief Fund.

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The 2019 Shape/Space and Time/Motion Workshop

Top row: Ruth Grauert, Keila Ching, Liam Shaffer, and Laura Miola; Middle row:
Lucas Rollins-Page, Véronique MacKenzie, Emily Ancona, Susie Creitz, and Nancy Salmon; Front: Divyamaan Sahoo, Heriberto Mendoza, and Diane Chéry

Ruth Grauert performs in Bergen DanceMakers’ Off the Wall at
the Art Center of Northern New Jersey in New Milford, Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ruth Grauert, Chaesong Kim, and Jonathan Trejo improvise at Bearnstow, July 14, 2016.
Video by Dylan McLaughlin

Patrik Widrig, Ruth Grauert, and Huiwang Zhang improvise at the end of
the Pearson-Widrig Workshop at Bearnstow, August 11, 2017. Video by Sara Pearson