writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition

Jane Ward Murray
29 December 1928 - 10 October 2003

Noted Baltimore teacher, writer and former dancer Jane Ward Murray died Friday, October 10, 2003.  A memorial service was held for her at Goucher College on Friday, October 17, where George Jackson read the following remarks:

Jane was one of the graces, an incarnation of a classical ideal of action, contemplation and simply being beauteous, an ideal one encounters rarely in this life. On the street or when she entered a room, people's heads would turn for Jane. "Who is that woman?" one wondered. And if one didn't know, the answer was "She must be somebody, she is somebody". This wasn't only due to her dance training. Dancers, with their turn-out and muscle stretch don't always look graceful off the stage. Not Jane. She moved with assurance, she paused with ease, and the delight she took in people brought out the best in them. One tended to answer her questions truthfully, and go on to tell her more than she'd asked about because she showed such interest and seemed to take it all in. What did she do with those stories and confessions? Did they become a burden with time?

Three decades ago, Jane entered the press room at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Heads turned, eye looked up—including mine. The unsounded question "Who is that woman?" was answered by Jane herself. She didn't hesitate to introduce herself as a dance critic from Baltimore. "But you are a dancer, too" several of us asked in the same breath.

Jane was a dancer. She had a dancer's bearing, a dancer's shape and one sensed that there was dance deep within her bones. She is said to have danced already at age 3. She studied dance, mostly ballet, and her teachers were among the world's best—Pierre Vladimiroff, Anatole Oboukhoff, Muriel Stuart and even George Balanchine and Antony Tudor. But it was these exacting teachers who wanted her as their pupil !

Jane performed, beginning when she was still a student (in a sense, dancers never stop being students because taking class is a career-long ritual). She also performed professionally for choreographers such as Balanchine and Tudor. But her stage career was brief, for she married young and raised a son. What roles might Jane have had? Impossible to say, but just perhaps might she have been lyrical yet with finely articulated strength, someone who would suit both Tudor's romantic understatement and Balanchine's neoclassic clarity, a being at home in a Lilac Garden as well as in a Crystal Palace?

As a dance critic Jane joined two viewpoints that can be poles apart. She was able to see dance as a dancer and as audience. The public consversations she held with dancers and choreographers before audiences of dance writers opened many eyes—as did the ballet technique classes she continued to teach.

Jane, the dance world will miss the things you did—no longer will you share with us your response to the season's premiers and debuts—and most of all we are deprived of bearing witness to a state of grace.

George Jackson
17 October 2003
Goucher College
Towson, Maryland

Originally published:
Volume 1, Number 4
October 20, 2003

©2003 George Jackson




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last updated on October 7, 2003