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Berk, Ernest (1909-1993), choreographer

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Surname: Berk
Forenames: Ernest
Gender: Male
Date: 1909-1993
History: Ernest Berk: b. 1909, Cologne, Germany; d. 1993. Berk was a solo dancer and innovative choreographer in the field of modern ballet. He was educated at the Rheinische Musikhocheschule (Rhine College of Music) and also learned under the tutelage of Mary Wigman at the Wigman Institute in Germany from where he ran his own dance company. The music of India and China provided special inspiration for Berk's works. Whilst in Germany he produced a ballet for Max Rheinhardt at the Salzburg Festival. He came to the UK in 1935 and produced ballets for the Glyndebourne Festivals, for Covent Garden and various other West End productions as well as acting as choreographer for the first year of the Edinburgh Festival. One of the ballets choreographed by Berk, "Tilustrum", won an honourable diploma at the International Choreographic Competition in Copenhagen, 1947. Berk's company, "Dance Theatre" produced and performed works in various theatres throughout the UK. In the years preceding WWII he founded the "Modern Dance Group" in London and produced "Buddha the Enlightened", a ballet commissioned by John Masefield. He collaborated with the composer Peter Ury who wrote music for several of Berk's works; most notably, "The Family Suite". The German born singer and actress, Agnes Bernelle also featured in several of his works. Berk married Liselotte Heymansohn, a fellow dancer who was also born in Cologne. They had one daughter, Esther, who now carries on the family tradition as she teaches the Lotte Berk method of dance in Berkshire. Ernest and Lotte Berk collaborated on many dance works during their marriage and amicably divorced after 30 years together. Although mainly interested in modern ballet, Berk was also known for his skill as a mime artist and percussionist. He went on to develop a keen interest in electronic music later in life and took up a post as lecturer at the High School of Arts in Berlin, which he held until his death.
Places:
  • Germany
Name authority reference: GB/NNAF/P233930
Collections
  Description Held by Reference Further information
1
1938 - 1984: articles, personal log books, dance theatre programmes and radioscripts
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance: Laban Archive

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