Daniel Nagrin in Not Him But Me, Library of Congress Daniel Nagrin in his work Not Him But Me(1965). Some of Nagrin's most powerful solos portrayed the experience of social outsiders; one such dance, Not Him But Me, explores a man's place in a racially divided society. (Oleaga Photography. Daniel Nagrin Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)


Known as "the Great Loner of American Dance," Daniel Nagrin was known for choreographing and dancing innovative modern dance solos. Born in New York City in 1917, Nagrin studied dance at the New Dance Group and trained under Martha Graham. While at City College of New York, he organized a club to bring in visiting dance teachers for weekly classes; one of which was his future wife and co-founder of the Tamaris-Nagrin Dance Group, Helen Tamaris. He danced with Anna Sokolow's company and studied jazz dancing under Sue Ramos before choreographing a string of solo routines with a social conscience. In his most well-known solo Strange Hero, Nagrin questioned the motivations of a gangster. Nagrin also starred in Broadway shows choreographed by Tamaris such as Annie Get Your Gun and Plain and Fancy; he earned a Donaldson Award for the latter. In later years, he wrote four books on a dancer's strategies for improvisation. He died in 2008 at the age of 91.


Daniel Nagrin in Indeterminate Figure, Dance Notation Bureau Daniel Nagrin performing in his 1957 work Indeterminate Figure, one of the earliest dance pieces to use a tape collage of sounds as a score. With his interest in video and sound recording, experiments with multimedia, and early embrace of jazz, Nagrin was one of the modern dance world's boldest innovators. (Photograph from the collection of the Dance Notation Bureau.)







Daniel Nagrin in Strange Hero, Dance Notation Bureau Daniel Nagrin performing in his solo piece Strange Hero, 1948. A stylized dance portrait of a gangster, Strange Hero exemplified Nagrin's jazz-inflected, gestural, powerfully dramatic style. Though the work distilled Nagrin's distinct stage presence, it has been successfully revived by other dancers and companies. (Photograph from the collection of the Dance Notation Bureau.)




Learn more in Daniel Nagrin, an essay by Nicole Topich.