Alwin Nikolais was born in 1910 in Connecticut. He was recognized in his lifetime as a great choreographer and after his death, he’s been remembered fondly for his choreography and lifetime achievements.
As with many musicians in that era, Nikolais began his musical endeavors with the piano. He began playing the piano at a young age and moved on to play the organ in silent films. While he was developing his craft, Alwin Nikolais became gifted and knowledgeable in various concepts including scenic design and music composition as well as acting techniques.
After attending an outstanding dance performance by Mary Wigman, a German dancer, Nikolais decided to enroll in a school and study dance as a craft. He attended Bennington College and was able to train under extraordinary talents such as Hanya Holm, Doris Humphrey and others.
In 1940, Nikolais would be well received in his production Eight Column Line. It was his first ballet. After his outstanding work in Eight Column Line, he would go on to choreograph numerous other shows and productions.
Alwin Nikolais was appointed the director of the Henry Street Playhouse in 1948. This playhouse would later be renamed as the Nikolais Dance Theatre. Nikolais would be joined there by Murray Louis and Louis would become the leading dancer that Nikolais had working with him at the Henry Street Playhouse.
Thanks to an invitation in 1956 to the American Dance Festival, Alwin Nikolais became a force to be reckoned with in the dance industry. His dance theatre would be invited to attend numerous American Dance Festival productions and Alwin Nikolais would become a household name in contemporary dance.
Alwin Nikolais had a career full of performances and standing ovations. His career is speckled with awards and recognition. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts which was an honor adorned on him by President Ronald Regan. His list of awards includes the Tiffany Award, the American Dance Guild Award and the Capezio Award.
Alwin Nikolais died in 1993.He was buried in Paris.