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Modern dance pioneer and former ASU professor Daniel Nagrin anchors Herberger College dance concert and 75th anniversary

Daniel Nagrin.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

August 30, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. - Daniel Nagrin infused jazz style into modern choreography in the 1940s to become one of the great solo dancers and choreographers of American modern dance. The Herberger College Department of Dance will honor Nagrin, who also taught at ASU, with a special concert,Celebrating the Nagrin Legend, Sept. 16-18. The concert kicks off the Herberger College Mainstage performing arts season and a weekend of 75 th anniversary events for alumni and supporters of dance at ASU.

Nagrin, now 88 years-old and living in Tempe, had an influential career as the premier touring male soloist of the 1950s. He danced in Broadway musicals, received a Tony Award, choreographed for feature films, co-founded the Tamaris-Nagrin Dance Company and taught at ASU from 1982-1992. While at ASU, Nagrin blended the vision and experience of professional modern dance into the curriculum, bringing New York choreographers Elina Mooney and Cliff Keuter to the faculty and helping Herberger College Dance create one of the country's premiere modern dance programs.

"This concert reaffirms the professional level of work in the department, and Daniel is a good symbol of that," said concert organizer Mooney, who studied under Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham and performed with the Tamaris-Nagrin Dance Company. "He brought modern dance to a wide audience in the 1950s and broke down the gates for the rest of us."

The concert of mostly solo performances by professional dancers includes two of Nagrin's most celebrated works, Man of Action andStrange Hero , both choreographed in 1948, along with Wordgame, A Cartoon, choreographed in 1968, and Spanish Dance, to be performed by Roxane D'Orleáns Juste of New York's Jose Limón Dance Company.

Virginia-based dancer and teacher Shane O'Hara, who first performed Nagrin's works in 1998 to rave reviews as part of The Nagrin Project, will perform all of the male solo pieces in the concert and is considered one of the few who is able to do so. "He's intense, fast and smart," says Nagrin of O'Hara.

Washington Post review of The Nagrin Project said "As reconstructed by O'Hara, these works prove Nagrin to be a major artist, at the forefront of experimentation over the course of three decades."

Dance Magazine says that "Nagrin's powerful performing did much to abolish the public's notion that 'real men' don't dance."

Celebrating the Nagrin Legend is a rare opportunity for Arizonans to experience modern dance seldom seen but highly regarded.

Mooney and Keuter, who are married and met in 1961 at a Tamaris-Nagrin summer workshop, have a long history of collaboration with Nagrin and choreographed two works for the concert. Mooney's Return is a solo performed by Renee Waters and Keuter's Of Us Two is a duet performed by Candace Ammerman and Amber Robins. Keuter recently retired from ASU and Mooney, who started in 1988, continues to teach choreography and technique.

Tickets for Celebrating the Nagrin Legend are $5-$18 and available online at or through the Herberger College Box Office, 480-965-6447. Show times are Sept. 16 and 17, 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 18, 2 p.m., in the Galvin Playhouse of the Nelson Fine Arts Center, located on the ASU Tempe campus at the Southeast corner of 10th Street and Mill Avenue.

Department of Dance 75th anniversary weekend activities include special workshops, alumni reunions, a Nagrin tribute dinner, a video premiere of a new Daniel Nagrin documentary and other events open to the public. For a complete schedule go to

The Department of Dance is a division of the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. To learn more, visit

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay