A Tribute to Daniel Nagrin: Russian Jewish Influences in American Modern Dance

Dance Scholar Dr Diane Wawrejko, PhD, MFA, CMT, has researched and written extensively on Daniel Nagrin’s influence on Modern American Dance. Dr Wawrejko and Henia Rottenberg, editor at Dance Voices, have recently given the Nagrin Foundation permission to post Dr Wawrejko’s 2009 DV academic paper on Nagrin, A Tribute to Daniel Nagrin: Russian Jewish Influences in American Modern Dance, for which we thank them. An overview is presented here, with links to the full text HTML and PDF formats.

On the first anniversary of his death, this paper is a tribute to my former teacher and mentor, Daniel Nagrin. Nagrin (22 May 1917 – 29 December 2008), actor, Broadway dancer, and minor pioneer of American modern dance, was inspired and influenced professionally by three main people. The first major influence was Russian theatre director Constantin Stanislavski, whose method reached Nagrin through three New York-based acting teachers. The first was Miriam Goldina who studied in Moscow under Yevgeniy Vakhtangov, one of Stanislavski’s best directors and considered his ‘disciple.’ And lastly, through two Group Theatre actors/teachers: Stella Adler who studied with Stanislavski in Paris and married Group Theatre founder Harold Clurman, and Sanford Meisner who taught at the Neighborhood Playhouse. The second major influence was that of his professional partner and modern dance pioneer, Helen Tamiris, who later became his wife. The third were the techniques of Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre (Cohen, 1998 Kissel, 2000 Moore, 1984 Nagrin, 1994 Schlundt, 1998 and Silverberg, 1994). It is argued that these individuals and their artistic processes contributed to Nagrin’s worldview and aided in the development of his system of choreography, which I have termed ‘The Nagrin Method.’ As a result, Stanislavski’s system has influenced American modern dance choreography and performance through the praxis of Russian-Jewish immigrants.

Full text:


PDF (https://nagrin.org/wp-content/uploads/PaperDanceVoices-2009.pdf):

First published in Dance Voices, Haifa Israel, 14 November 2009. Used with permission. http://www.dancevoices.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=118:a-tribute-to-daniel-nagrin-russian-jewish-influences-in-american-modern-dance&catid=21:dance-discourses&lang=en&Itemid=46.

Dr Wawrejko recently presented her paper This and That: Jewishness in the Dances of Daniel Nagrin at Jews and Jewishness in the Dance World, an Arizona State University (ASU) Jewish Studies conference, October 13th-15th 2018. For additional info, see https://nagrin.org/this-and-that-jewishness-in-the-dances-of-daniel-nagrin/.

Dr Diane Wawrejko’s biography can be found at Dance Voices:

Other work on Daniel Nagrin by Dr Diane Wawrejko: