Other than grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the single best Good Thing that happened to dance in the ’70s and ’80s was Merrill Brockway, who began producing dance for public television in 1976 with Dance in America.
Millions of Americans got to see the greats — we really had great, seminal choreographers then. Graham, Balanchine, Cunningham, Robbins, Taylor. Because I was a dance critic from ’78 to ’86, PBS would send me the review tapes. What treasures! Until then, dance history scholars and would-be dance critics had to hover around 16 mm projectors in darkened rooms. These tapes — we could play them over and over again until the dances were etched in our DNA.
He taped his programs so the dancers could be ‘full figure,’ not showing “dancing feet” as was the custom until then.
And our “sisters and our cousins and our aunts” in Kalamazoo and Great Neck and Puddle Jump Illinois now knew what we were talking about when we talked about Balanchine.
Brockway died at 90 on May 2 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Here is the New York Times obituary.