Arts NSW pays tribute to one of Australia’s most respected and influential dance artists and educators, Keith Bain, who died in Sydney on Wednesday 4 July aged 85.
Equally important to the development of both the contemporary dance scene and professional theatre practice in NSW from the 1960s, Keith was also one of the performing arts industry’s most loved practitioners.
At the time of publication of his book Keith Bain on Movement (2010 edited by Michael Campbell) both theatre and dance artists acknowledged his significance stating:
My dialogue with Keith has never stopped. His teachings are the foundation of my technique – Cate Blanchett.
I think he has hooked more people on dance than anyone – Graeme Murphy.
Keith Bain was born in 1926 and spent his early years in Wauchope, New South Wales. Through his family, Bain was involved in Scottish and ballroom dancing and after graduating from teachers college in Armidale he came to Sydney to teach music.
A successful competition ballroom dancer, he was twenty-seven when he took his first modern dance classes with Gertrud Bodenwieser at her Sydney studios and subsequently went on to dance with the Bodenwieser Ballet. After Bodenwieser’s death in 1959, Bain, along with Margaret Chapple, took over the running of the Bodenwieser Studio in Pitt Street, Sydney and it became one of the most innovative dance centres in the country.
Bain, was the first in Australia to create a comprehensive discipline in the study of movement for performance and beginning in the 1950s pioneered many dance and movement courses. But he is best known for establishing, and for many years leading, the movement studies course at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA). All the luminaries of Australian stage and screen from the 1960s through to the 1980s were trained by him and influenced by his belief in the ”infinite capacity of the human body to convey emotion and defy gravity.“
Bain was also a pioneer in professionalising dance education in Australia, founding Australasian Teachers Contemporary Dance Association (CDA) in 1968, the Society of Dance Artists (SODA) and a co-founder of Ausdance (then AADE) in 1977. In 1986 he established the Dancers’ Picnic, the forerunner to the Australian Dance Awards.
He was chairman of the dance panel of the Australia Council and received many awards for his achievements including the Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Medal for services to dance and theatre in 1977, and an OAM in 1988. In 2011 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Australian Dance Awards for his services to dancers, actors, singers and directors and to the performing arts community of Australia at large.
Bain will certainly live on in all Australians’ memoires through Baz Luhrmann’s much loved film Strictly Ballroom which is based on Keith’s struggles to bring more innovation into competition ballroom dancing.
Keith Bain will be remembered for his seminal role in shaping dance and movement culture in NSW and for half a century of influence on Australia’s performers for stage and screen.
Published: 6 July 2012