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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

Remy Charlip

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Remy Charlip (1929-2012) was a prolific dancer, choreographer, designer, writer, actor, director, visual artist, and teacher. Born in Brooklyn, New York of Russian immigrant parents in 1929, Remy received early training from various Settlement Houses’ art programs. He formally studied at Straubenmuller Textile High School and at Cooper Union in New York, graduating in 1949. He studied dance at the New Dance Group Studio and at the Julliard School. From 1950 until 1961, he was a performing member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, creating numerous original roles; Remy also designed costumes and posters for the group. Remy also performed with the avante garde theater company The Living Theater and later co-founded the Paperbag Players, a children’s theater group that uses found objects to stimulate children’s imaginations. From 1964 to 1970, Remy worked as a choreographer, performer and director with the Judson Dance Theater, the important postmodern dance group. Soon after, Remy began writing, directing and producing plays for the National Theater for the Deaf. He created over two hundred choreographies, either with his own company, formed in 1977; commissions from Australia, London, Wales and several dance companies in the United States; or collaborations with his Remy Charlip All-Stars group. The All-Stars included several individual performers and choreographers with whom Remy collaborated on several works. Beginning in 1972, Remy implemented his unique “Airmail Dances,” drawings sent in the mail to dance artists for their interpretation.  Remy was also a prolific author, with more than two dozen books in print, including works on somatics based on his certification in Alexander Technique and as a children’s book author and illustrator, receiving numerous awards including Best Picture Book at the Bologna Italy Book Fair in 1969. Remy also received numerous awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Japan-USA Creative Artists Award, and the Irvine Foundation choreography and Guggenheim fellowships. In 1989, Remy moved to San Francisco where he worked with several local artists, including Margaret Jenkins, Lucas Hoving, the Oakland Ballet, and the San Francisco Arts Education Project. Remy received San Francisco Bay Area Isadora Duncan Awards for his choreography, text and design, and a special achievement award for his participation in a benefit for the STEPS Project, supporting men with HIV and AIDS. He was named a National Treasure at the Library of Congress and a Literary Laureate of the San Francisco Public Library, both in 1997. Remy suffered a stroke in 2005 and was honored by the Bay Area dance community with a benefit concert in 2006 titled “Every Little Movement.”  

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