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Brynar Mehl has died

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I just received this in an email:

International Dance Figure and Ballet Master of The Asheville Ballet, Brynar Mehl, passed away unexpectedly Thursday evening Jaunuary 15, 2004 from a heart attack.

Brynar Mehl, dancer, teacher and choreographer, was born in the Great Lakes Region and raised in Southern California where his professional dancing career began under Anna Sokolow. In New York City he danced for her with the Manhattan Ferstival Ballet, under Alica Alonso in her Giselle and Coppelia, and with Charles Weidman at New York City Opera.

Mehl's lifelong teacher and mentor was Margaret Craske, from whom he acquired a sense of the great value of teaching, and with whom he shared an appreciation of the work of Meher Baba. He met Baba in 1962 and considered that the turning point in his life. Other profound influences were choreographer Anthony Tudor and ideokinesiologist Andre Bernard.

Mehl danced with Merce Cunningham and Dance Company in many signature works such as Rainforest and Winterbranch. He created roles in several pieces and was given one of Cunningham's own solos. He toured three continents with the company and helped Cunningham set the direction and establish standards for dance on film and tape in the landmark Westbeth Video Project. He is one of two people credited with bringing the Cunningham technique to Europe.

Mehl also danced in musicals at Lincoln Center, on Broadway, with Agnes de Mille, and in Hollywood with Donald O'Connor, Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers. He appeared on the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como shows.

Mehl taught and created choreography for schools and companies all over the world, from San Francisco to Paris, to Alaska, to London, to Brussels, to Vermont, to Texas. At the time of his death he was Ballet Master for The Asheville Ballet and taught at Fletcher School of Dance, The International Ballet Academy, and Western Carolina University.

His friends, colleagues and students mourn the loss of a gentle and noble soul, a consumate artist, a most generous teacher, and a beloved amie.

Ann Dunn (director, Fletcher School of Dance)

4 Lynnwood Rd

Asheville NC 28804

If anyone who knew him would like to share memories, photos, or tapes. Please send them to Ann soon as possible.

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Brynar had many friends, and many students in the Bay Area -- I took his Cecchetti classes along with MANY others, in the Finn Hall in Berkeley 20 years ago. He taught for Sally Streets at Berkeley Ballet Theater and choreographed a lovely ballet for their company, and taught at UC for David and Marni Wood and made a WONDERFUL solo there for Randy Wickstrom, a young gymnast-turned-dancer who died of AIDS way too soon after....

He'd had a heart attack before -- he told me about it. He said, "I'd probably have died if I hadn't gotten interested in it. oh-- I'm on the ground..... ok; breathe out; what's that sound? yeah....... ok;" Kind of like that..... It wasn’t the words so much as the quality of the breathing as he told the story, the rhythm, the length of the phrases, the sweep of his arm gestures and the look in his eyes as he continually adjusted his equilibrium as he re-lived the experience. He was using his imagination again, it seemed to me, much as he'd used it the first time -- to put himself into a state of heightened awareness of everything within him and without him. I'm sure others can tell this story better than I, I think he told it to all his friends, as an example and a kind of testimony, he bore witness to the reality of the ideal world, that was his calling.

Funny I was thinking about Brynar rather intensely a couple of days ago in response to some posts on BA -- the radiant way he spoke about the architecture of "the natural balances" -- the interacting spirals that underlie the various attitudes and arabesques -- in trying to think about what it is in Sasha Cohen's sense of form that I find so inspiring. Brynar's sense of line was not pictorial but structural -- the line is beautiful because the physics of it is transcendently beautiful. I realized that to talk about it, I'd have to invoke Brynar.

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