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February 8: Pauline Koner on Stage

February 8, 2016

M29985-4 001Dancer Pauline Koner, who toured as a soloist for fifteen years before joining dance companies, and created extravaganzas for the Roxy Theater and other venues — including the glamorous “Holiday on Ice” revue — died at 89 in New York on this date in 2001. A child of the Workmen’s Circle (her father created the organization’s medical plan), she studied ballet with Michel Fokine, a groundbreaking Russian dancer and choreographer, with Angel Cansino, who introduced her to Spanish dance forms, and with Michio Ito and Yeichi Nimura, who combined modern dance with Japanese forms. According to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive, Koner’s solo work featured “a diverse repertory flavored by Spanish, Asian, and dramatic works. After creating groundbreaking works for CBS Television, she became a charter member of the José Limón Dance Company in 1946, continuing to perform with the company off and on through the 1960s — always maintaining autonomy by her billing as a Guest Artist.” She danced, too, with Doris Humphrey, whom she later described as “my dybbuk... She inhabits me.” Among Koner’s dances were Chassidic Song and Dance (1932), in which she presented herself as a khasidic boy, and The Shining Dark (1956), a trio inspired by the life of Helen Keller, “whose only medium of communication was movement,” Koner said, “the manual alphabet... so I dug in and learned the manual alphabet.” Reviewing a Limón concert for Dance magazine in 1955, the critic Doris Hering wrote that ‘Pauline Koner was like some fiery bacchante as she tore through leaps and sharp shifts in direction.’”

“Standing at the edge of Nowhere
I look into the Somewhere
And wonder.

“Standing at the edge of Somewhere
I look into the Nowhere
And wonder.” —Pauline Koner