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Tom McNally

From the President, Board of Directors

It is with sadness that I tell you Tom McNally – friend, musician, dancer, teacher, colleague, and member of the Board of Directors died Saturday May 23, 2015.  Tom was 103 years old.

Past Board Members Margaret O'Sullivan and Thomas McNally May 1, 1994 at the Humphrey-Weidman Gala at the Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse. Photo by Larry Hall.

Past Board Members Margaret O’Sullivan and Thomas McNally May 1, 1994 at the Humphrey-Weidman Gala at the Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse. Photo by Larry Hall.

Early on in his life Tom developed a passion for music and dance.  He told us about how as a young man he found his way to the Denishawn compound in the Bronx, but not having the nerve to go in, threw himself on the ground.  Tom became a part of the first generation of American modern dancers to step forward on their own in Bennington, Vermont during the mid-nineteen twenties. He became a studio musician and accompanist for many of the founders of American modern dance, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins, Jose Limon, and May O’Donnell.  Tom continued as accompanist and performed with the Humphrey-Weidman group in the 1930s including Humphrey’s La Valse.  He told us about going to the Humphrey-Weidman studio on the top floor of a factory building in Manhattan, and once, when he played for one of Martha Graham’s classes, he complimented her on her fine teaching – she took it as an insult and said she was a performer, not a teacher.  Tom was the longest serving member of the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation Board of Directors, and was involved in the production of our award-winning documentary Charles Weidman: On His Own in 1990 and the CWDF’s presentation of our Humphrey-Weidman Gala at The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York City in 1994.  He was an avid theatergoer for music and dance and still attended performances into his 100s.  Tom was a great raconteur who loved to tell stories about the early Bennington years and all the luminaries from that period of modern dance in America.  He had a wonderful delivery and style, and during our board meetings he would often have us listening and laughing as he recounted all sorts of anecdotes about those early years.

In recent years Tom taught music at LaGuardia Community College and the Brooklyn School of Music, played organ at Lower East Side Trinity Church, and sung with Collegiate Chorale.  He attended all our productions of performances of Charles Weidman’s work including: Easter Oratorio performed in New York City at the 92nd Street Y Legacy Series in 2010; Brahms Waltzes and Lynchtown performed in 2011 at the 92nd Street Y for the 110th anniversary of Charles Weidman’s birth, the 75th anniversary of Lynchtown, and the 50th anniversary of Brahms Waltzes.  He was a tireless supporter in his dedication to the legacy of Charles Weidman and The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation.  We miss him very much.

Robert Kosinski

The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation, Inc.

The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation would like to invite all who knew Tom to send us your remembrances of him, whether through music and dance or not, which we will post on our website, Facebook page, and blog.  We want to do this to pay tribute to his dedication to Charles Weidman and the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation and to celebrate his long life.  Send your remembrances to: charlesweidman@gmail.com or to our mailing address.

Charles Weidman and the New Dance Group

“The story of the New Dance Group is one of constant experiment, of continued branching out, of conceiving new ideas and coming to new conclusions”1

The New Dance Group was founded in 1932 by Nadia Chilkovsky, Miriam Blecher and other students from the New York Wigman School who wanted dance to focus more on social and political causes. New Dance Group stated in their first program that “Dance is a Weapon of the Class Struggle”2 and sought to offer inexpensive dance classes to all ranges of workers and people alike. Classes cost ten cents and consisted of one hour of Wigman technique, one hour of creative work and one hour of discussion.

New Dance Group Class Schedule

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

Gradually the interest in the proletariat “was replaced by a more general sense of humanity”3 and the curriculum branched out to include Humphrey-Weidman, Graham, eurythmics, percussion, folk, ballet and tap, in addition to the original Wigman and Holm technique.

Weidman's "Classroom Modern Style"  Millie Hirsch Rockefeller an, Lucy Biberman

Weidman’s “Classroom Modern Style” Front: Millie Hirsch Rockefeller and Behind: Lucy Biberman

By 1934, Charles Weidman was giving studio talks and appearing on New Dance Group programs. Other Humphrey-Weidman men such as Bill Matons, William Archibald and Jose Limon were also early participants. Humphrey-Weidman technique became a staple, taught by Beatrice Seckler, Nona Schurman, Bill Bales, Joe Gifford and others. Weidman continued his association with the New Dance Group at least until 1960, when he founded his own “Expression of Two Arts” studio on 29th Street.

"Mostly About Women" with Charles seated in front

“Mostly About Women” by Charles Weidman. Top row from left to right: Murray Berkowitz, Millie Hirsch, Lucy Biberman, Joe Whiteaker, Louis falco. Bottom row:Jack Wiener, Miriam Pandor, Charles Weidman, Marsha Gevins, Loretta Abbot, Ralph Davis, Charlotte Walsh.

Weidman's "Mostly About Women"
Weidman’s “Mostly About Women”. Top row left to right: Millie Hirsch, Joe Whiteaker, Lucy Biberman, Murray Berkowitz, Patricia Nachman. Bottom row: Ralph Davis, Loretta Abbot, Jack Wiener, Charlotte Walsh

At the 92nd Street Y’s extraordinary celebration of the New Dance Group this past February, we had the opportunity to learn about Weidman’s later work at the New Dance Group. Dancer and dance educator, Millie Hirsch Rockefeller, presented photos, programs and class schedules from this time, as well as information on two dances not previously included in Weidman chronologies, “The Convert” and “Mostly About Women”.

Portion of program showing "Mostly About Women"

Portion of 1959 program showing redicovered dances: “Mostly About Women” and “The Convert”

Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in "War Against Men and Women"
Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in “War Between Men and Women”

New Dance Group closed their doors in 2009 and now, unsuspecting dancers take class and attend rehearsals in what used to be New Dance Group studios, now DANY Studios operated by The Joyce Theater.

For more information on New Dance Group, check out this article by Victoria Philips.

1Lloyd, Margaret. The Borzoi Book of Modern Dance, Dance Horizons, 1949.

2Philips, Victoria. New Dance Group (1932-2009), Dance Heritage Coalition, 2012.

3King, Eleanor. Transformations, Dance Horizons,1978.

Words by Nadira Hall

Post by Julia Jurgilewicz

Charles Weidman and the New Dance Group

“The story of the New Dance Group is one of constant experiment, of continued branching out, of conceiving new ideas and coming to new conclusions”1

The New Dance Group was founded in 1932 by Nadia Chilkovsky, Miriam Blecher and other students from the New York Wigman School who wanted dance to focus more on social and political causes. New Dance Group stated in their first program that “Dance is a Weapon of the Class Struggle”2 and sought to offer inexpensive dance classes to all ranges of workers and people alike. Classes cost ten cents and consisted of one hour of Wigman technique, one hour of creative work and one hour of discussion.

New Dance Group Class Schedule

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

Gradually the interest in the proletariat “was replaced by a more general sense of humanity”3 and the curriculum branched out to include Humphrey-Weidman, Graham, eurythmics, percussion, folk, ballet and tap, in addition to the original Wigman and Holm technique.

Weidman's "Classroom Modern Style"  Millie Hirsch Rockefeller an, Lucy Biberman

Weidman’s “Classroom Modern Style” Front: Millie Hirsch Rockefeller and Behind: Lucy Biberman

By 1934, Charles Weidman was giving studio talks and appearing on New Dance Group programs. Other Humphrey-Weidman men such as Bill Matons, William Archibald and Jose Limon were also early participants. Humphrey-Weidman technique became a staple, taught by Beatrice Seckler, Nona Schurman, Bill Bales, Joe Gifford and others. Weidman continued his association with the New Dance Group at least until 1960, when he founded his own “Expression of Two Arts” studio on 29th Street.

"Mostly About Women" with Charles seated in front

“Mostly About Women” by Charles Weidman. Top row from left to right: Murray Berkowitz, Millie Hirsch, Lucy Biberman, Joe Whiteaker, Louis falco. Bottom row:Jack Wiener, Miriam Pandor, Charles Weidman, Marsha Gevins, Loretta Abbot, Ralph Davis, Charlotte Walsh.

Weidman's "Mostly About Women"
Weidman’s “Mostly About Women”. Top row left to right: Millie Hirsch, Joe Whiteaker, Lucy Biberman, Murray Berkowitz, Patricia Nachman. Bottom row: Ralph Davis, Loretta Abbot, Jack Wiener, Charlotte Walsh

At the 92nd Street Y’s extraordinary celebration of the New Dance Group this past February, we had the opportunity to learn about Weidman’s later work at the New Dance Group. Dancer and dance educator, Millie Hirsch Rockefeller, presented photos, programs and class schedules from this time, as well as information on two dances not previously included in Weidman chronologies, “The Convert” and “Mostly About Women”.

Portion of program showing "Mostly About Women"

Portion of 1959 program showing redicovered dances: “Mostly About Women” and “The Convert”

Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in "War Against Men and Women"
Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in “War Between Men and Women”

New Dance Group closed their doors in 2009 and now, unsuspecting dancers take class and attend rehearsals in what used to be New Dance Group studios, now DANY Studios operated by The Joyce Theater.

For more information on New Dance Group, check out this article by Victoria Philips.

1Lloyd, Margaret. The Borzoi Book of Modern Dance, Dance Horizons, 1949.

2Philips, Victoria. New Dance Group (1932-2009), Dance Heritage Coalition, 2012.

3King, Eleanor. Transformations, Dance Horizons,1978.

Words by Nadira Hall

Post by Julia Jurgilewicz