The Merrill Brockway Library
at
NDI New Mexico

 

Russell Baker

Executive  Director, NDI New Mexico

 

Tom Maguire

New Mexico Arts Commissioner

Catherine-Oppenheimer

 

Catherine Oppenheimer

Founding Artistic Director, NDI New Mexico

 

Nancy Zeckendorf

Chair of the Board of Directors,

Lensic Performing Arts Center

The Merrill Brockway Library at NDI New Mexico is home to the archive and legacy of television and film producer, and patron of the arts, Merrill Brockway. Merrill gifted his collection to NDI New Mexico upon his passing at age 90 in 2013 for use by students of The Hiland and The Dance Barns in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. His collection has been used to teach a new generation of young dancers about the wide world of dance. The Merrill Brockway Library is both a physical space in The Dance Barns in Santa Fe as well as a digital space on the NDI New Mexico cloud servers. The collection is ever expanding and over the past decade has grown considerably through donations of DVD's, book, images and even VHS tapes.

The faculty at NDI New Mexico use these valuable resources to teach dance history and appreciation. During the Covid pandemic NDI New Mexico developed a new curriculum based on this library called The Complete Dancer. These classes met twice per week, online, and walked intermediate, advanced and adult students through three distinct syllabi. First, focusing on the women of modern dance from Isadora Duncan through Twyla Tharp. Dancers watched videos of works by Anna Halprin, Simone Forti, Pina Bausch, Mary Wigman, Martha Graham, Loie Fuller, Ruth St. Denis, Martha Clarke, Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Doris Humphrey, Yvonne Rainer, Katherine Dunham, Honya Holm and others. Later, attention was given to dance as social justice where students studied works by Alvin Ailey, Bill T. Jones, Donald Byrd, Arthur Mitchell, Alexandra Beller, and Gerald Casel. Finally, a collection of videos from around the world were presented as an introduction to folk and cultural dances. These videos included dances from the Middle East, Europe, and Asia and served as a jumping off point for vibrant discussions on dance appreciation and dance criticism.

Emmy Awards

Outstanding Individual Achievement - Classical Music/Dance programming - 1984

Outstanding Classical Program in the Performing Arts - 1979

Nominations

Outstanding Classical Program in the Performing Arts - 1979

Outstanding Classical Program in the Performing Arts - 1978

Outstanding Classical Program in the Performing Arts - 1977

Outstanding Classical Program in the Performing Arts - 1977

Outstanding Classical Music Program - 1976


Directors Guild of America Awards

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary/Actuality - 1989

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Musical/Variety - 1979

Nominations

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary/Actuality - 1990

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary/Actuality - 1985

View The Library
A Song For Dead Warriors

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Tudor Evening

Agnes the Indomitable Demille

Apollo

Appalachian Spring

Balanchine and Stravinsky

Balanchine Biography Parts 1&2

Balanchine Celebrates Stravinsky

Baryshnikov by Tharp

Baryshnikov Dances Balanchine

Baryshnikov Dances Broadway

Billy the Kid and Les Patineurs

Finding the Circle

Still-Here

Born to be Wild

Changing Steps

Choreography by Balanchine Parts 1-4

Clytemnestra

Confessions of a Corner Maker

Creole Giselle

Dancing for Mr. B.

Dancing’ with Gershwin

Divine Drumbeats

Everybody Dance Now

Goddess Dancers of Cambodia

Hanya, Portrait of a Pioneer

In Memory Of

La Sylphide

La Valse

Le Corsaire

Lieveslieder Waltzes

Made in the USA

Making Television Dance

Marge Champion

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

May O’Donnell’s Dance Energies

Nijinsky to Bejart

Olympics of Dance

On the Move

Pilobolus on Broadway

Romeo and Juliet

Search for Ecstasy

Stars and Stripes- Union Jack

Steps Ahead

The Catherine Wheel

The Dream

The Hard Nut

Three by Balanchine

Three by Three

The Balanchine Celebration Parts 1&2

The Nutcracker

The Dancer Revealed

This is Martha

Three Dances

And Many More!

In His Own Words
By Julie Bloom (New York Times)

September 16, 2011

 

Q. Why did you want to create a performing arts program for TV?

A. You’d had specials with concert dance, but no series, and that was a golden opportunity for me. I didn’t know it was going to be the golden opportunity, but it became clear from the beginning that we were making history.

Q. Why did you keep those tapes?

A. As I remembered, it was late in the 1960s that I became aware that I could copy videotapes. I was trained as a pianist. I was mostly interested in the performing arts, so I taped everything that was available. In the archives there are different versions of the same thing, and I didn’t have very much discrimination, I just taped all I could get.

Q. Why did you decide to donate your library?

A. Catherine [Oppenheimer] was my first friend when I retired to Santa Fe, because she was in City Ballet. And when N.D.I. [of New Mexico] started, I saw what she was doing, and I would go and watch. Balanchine would say, ‘Ballet is not the step, it’s what happens in between the steps.’

And I saw this young man when he was 9 years old, and he was doing “Singin’ in the Rain” with an umbrella, and it was memorable. It still remains with me because he had that mysterious thing in between the steps. So I watched him grow. By the time he was 18, he was in the advanced ballet class, which I would go to as often as I could. He was short, so he would never be in a ballet company, but he was the best one there and had never seen anyone else do any of this. And that’s when I got the idea to give the library to N.D.I.

Q. What about dance appealed to you?

A. I took one class with Martha Graham, and it was very clear in one class that I was not a dancer. But she grabbed my gut, as I write in the book. I love it for several reasons, aesthetically, and also working with the dancers. I found them the best trained of all the professionals; we took very good care of them; they were your friends.

Q. Why did you stop working on “Dance in America”?

A. I worked in television during the 1950s and then ’60s and ’70s, and I knew what I was interested in. Dancing was diminishing in the ’80s, so I stopped in ’88, because I saw that it was all going pop culture, and I didn’t think that was valuable. Now you see what we have today — there is no performing arts. If you watch “America’s Got Talent” or Dancing Couples, or whatever, it’s all tricks. It’s not dancing.

Q. What was it like to work with those major artists?

A. Well, they were my teachers, and it’s like having a personal relationship with a teacher. In the memoir I write about how Lincoln Kirstein said New York City Ballet would never be on anything as vulgar as television. But Mr. Balanchine, he liked movies. Because I had a history of collaboration with artists as a pianist, I knew what my position was, and I wanted to collaborate with the choreographers, and that appealed to him, and he was also interested because I had been trained as a musician, and so we had that connection. He and I talked music.

Q. What was it like being on the set with them?

A. With Balanchine, he, Twyla [Tharp] and Merce [Cunningham] understood television. It’s totally different; a stage is rectangular, and television is flat, so people who knew that, like Twyla and Merce and Balanchine, understood you have to change the dancing. It’s not redoing, it’s just changing to fit the landscape.

Q. Did you ever see yourself as a choreographer?

A. No, the idea was I wanted to do the intention of the choreographer. I didn’t want to make up my own choreography. With Martha, when we were planning “Dance in America,” she said, “I don’t collaborate.” By the time we finished “Clytemnestra,” she had been the top drawer of a collaborator with me. She knew when to push me, when to sit on me, when to listen to me, she knew the whole thing. With a good collaboration, it’s like playing chamber music.

Q. In the book you say, never just show the feet. How did you know to do that?

A. By watching and by knowing what the choreographer wanted you to see. It was interesting with Balanchine. He was not a face choreographer; his favorite dancer was Fred Astaire; and if you notice, all Fred Astaire movies are full figure, and Balanchine ballets are like that. So we devised acceptable shots, and we came up with those together. The British television people thought my shows were boring. Because if you watch TV now, it’s like they’re taking pictures. In dancing you can’t just take pictures, you’re telling a story.

Q. What does it mean to you to turn these archives over and have students watch them?

A. At my age, 88 going on 89, I woke up one morning, I figured out what I want to do with the rest of my life, and I want to be involved in the education of young people. It doesn’t mean I want to go in the classroom, but I want them to see and expand their education, and that’s what I want to do with the library and working with Linda [Szmyd Monich]. We’re expanding to include parents and teachers, so that everybody is aware of the same story, and if we do that, it will spread.

Merrill Brockway, Producer of TV’s ‘Dance in America,’ Dies at 90
By Julie Bloom (New York Times)

May 9, 2013

Merrill Brockway, a director and producer who brought high art to millions of Americans by presenting many of the 20th century’s greatest dancers and choreographers on the PBS television series “Dance in America,” died on May 2 in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 90.
His death was confirmed by his partner of 17 years, John Eric Roybal, his only immediate survivor.
Mr. Brockway’s work introduced many people to George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp and other giants of dance.
Modeled after the dance numbers in Fred Astaire movies, “Dance in America” became known for showing dancers’ bodies mostly in full. Mr. Brockway said his collaboration with Balanchine influenced that approach.
“If you notice, all Fred Astaire movies are full figure, and Balanchine ballets are like that,” he said in an interview in The New York Times in 2011. “So we devised acceptable shots, and we came up with those together.”

He added: “If you watch TV now, it’s like they’re taking pictures. In dancing you can’t just take pictures, you’re telling a story.”
Mr. Brockway was nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards and received two for “Dance in America,” which had its premiere in 1976, beginning with the Joffrey Ballet, and later became part of the PBS series “Great Performances.” He was the original series producer for “Dance in America” and directed and produced the series along with Emile Ardolino and Judy Kinberg through 1980.

He also won two awards for directorial achievement from the Directors Guild of America for “Great Performances.”

From 1967 to 1975 Mr. Brockway produced “Camera 3,” a half-hour program devoted to culture on Sunday mornings on CBS that he called “a walk through the marketplace of ideas.”

Merrill La Monte Brockway was born on Feb. 28, 1923, in New Carlisle, Ind., and began studying piano at age 7. He served in the Army in Europe in World War II as a driver for a chaplain and provided music for the chaplain’s services.
He went on to earn a master of arts in musicology from Columbia University while finding summer employment as music and drama director at Brant Lake Camp, a boys’ camp in the Adirondacks. After graduating he worked as an accompanist for singers, including the soprano Patricia Neway.
In the 2011 interview Mr. Brockway said he had realized that he would never be a professional classical pianist. But he recognized the potential of television, he said, and in 1953 took a $45-a-week position at WCAU, the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. His first job was moving scenery for “Action in the Afternoon,” a daily half-hour western. Within a year he was promoted to director and worked on educational and children’s programs.
He became interested in dance, he said, after a Columbia classmate took him to see Martha Graham. In his 2010 memoir, “Surprise Was My Teacher,” Mr. Brockway wrote: “I saw a tiny lady dancing a solo. She grabbed my gut, swung it around, tossed it in the air, slammed it to the ground, then tenderly picked it up and cradled it. I would be, forever, Martha Graham’s disciple.”
Mr. Brockway went on to work with Graham, one of the many artists who saw television as a way to reach a larger audience. She saw Mr. Brockway as a collaborator who would safeguard an artist’s exacting standards when translating dance from stage to screen.
Mr. Brockway returned to CBS in 1980 to be executive producer of arts programming for the newly formed CBS Cable cultural channel, which was discontinued in 1982. In the early 1990s he produced two independent projects for television, “Les Ballet de Monte Carlo in Monte Carlo” and “The Romantic Era in Guanajuato, Mexico,” and was the coordinating producer for the 1993 film version of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.” That same year he retired to Santa Fe.

In 2011 he donated his archive, which includes about 130 tapes as well as additional documentaries, to the National Dance Institute of New Mexico.
Mr. Brockway once said of “Dance in America,” “It became clear from the beginning that we were making history.” He added, “If you want to see the story you go to television — it’s a very personal way of watching dance.”