Born in Brooklyn in 1926, Murray Louis grew up in Manhattan, not far from Henry Street where his company was to be founded years later. After his discharge from the Navy in 1946, Mr. Louis, then a San Francisco resident, turned his attention to dance. He enrolled in Colorado College’s summer session conducted by Hanya Holm. It was there that he met Alwin Nikolais, who would become the single most important influence on his career. Mr. Louis returned to New York in 1949. While earning a Dramatic Arts degree at New York University, Louis attended class with Mr. Nikolais at Henry Street Playhouse. That same year, Mr. Louis made his debut as lead soloist in Mr. Nikolais’ newly formed Playhouse Dance Company (later renamed the Nikolais Dance Theater).
In 1951, Mr. Louis was appointed Associate Director to Mr. Nikolais, and became a driving force in the evolution of the aesthetic and pedagogic theory, which today is known as the Nikolais/Louis technique. The Murray Louis Dance Company was founded in 1953.
In 1978, he created two works for Rudolph Nureyev to premiere on Broadway. Murray Louis has been commissioned by the 16th International Festival of Dance at the Theatre Champs-Elysées in Paris, the Taorimina Art Festival in Sicily, and the American Dance Festival. He has been a continuous recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts since 1969. Together with Alwin Nikolais, he choreographed and staged Lenny and the Heartbreakers, a musical for Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival. Mr. Louis has worked extensively in television in the US and Europe, both creating and adapting works for the medium.
Considered one of the world’s great dance teachers, Mr. Louis offers his students a rare insight into the theory and practice of the art. His collection of essays, Inside Dance, was published by St. Martin’s Press. Mr. Louis’ five part film series, Dance as an Art Form, has become a standard introduction series for Educational Arts programs in the United States.