Keith Bain tribute

Keith Bain OAM passed away in Sydney on 4 July, 2012. He was much loved and repected by the Australian dance community and will be greatly missed. Keith's inspiration, insights, generosity, humour and vision were valued by many.

Keith's funeral was held at the Eastern Suburbs Crematorium on Tuesday 10 July.

About Keith

Keith began as a ballroom dancer in the country town of his birth, Wauchope. He graduated as Dux of the year from Armidale Teachers College in 1945 and taught at Kogarah Boys High and Temora High where his students experienced quality music, drama and dance.

It was in Temora that he saw the Bodenwieser Dance Group perform, and after talking with the dancers, Keith said that he

...sensed that [he] had the eyes to analyse the work, the head to appreciate it and a body that might someday master it.

Keith moved to Sydney to begin his modern dance career.

When Madame Bodenwieser saw Keith dancing in a production of The Tempest, she invited him to join her classes to develop his technique and it wasn’t long before he was dancing featured roles in the company.

Keith taught at Arthur Murray’s studio by day to earn a living, and danced with long-time ballroom partner Joyce Lofts in exhibitions and competitions, winning Latin American championships in 1960, 1961, 1962. It was Keith's story that inspired Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom.

L: with Coralie Hinkley in Bodenwieser's Central Australian Suite, 1957. Photo: Maxwell Hynes. R: with dance partner Joyce Lofts. (photographer unknown)

After Bodenwieser's death in 1959, Keith and Margaret Chapple (Chappie) continued the Bodenwieser philosophy at the famous Bodenwieser Dance Centre  in Sydney. International dance companies (e.g. Katherine Dunham, Alvin Ailey, Nederlands Dance Theatre) made the Centre their rehearsal space, expanding techniques and styles for Keith, Chappie and students.

L: with Helen Lisle in Concerto Grosse (choreographed by Keith Bain)—publicity shot taken at the Art Gallery of NSW in the early 1960s. R: Keith as the Pied Piper at a Bodenwieser studio recital in 1954. Photo: Eric Cuckson

Throughout the sixties, Keith danced and choreographed for TV shows and danced in ballets for ABC TV. He was much in demand by theatre and opera companies and also became extremely influential on stage movement for actors which he kept developing throughout his forty years of teaching at NIDA.

In 1971 Keith was awarded a travelling scholarship by the Australia Council and Deptartment of Foreign Affairs to study overseas trends in dance, drama companies and schools. Harry M. Miller called him back to choreograph Jesus Christ Superstar, which was brilliant and unforgettable. Keith continued to represent Australia at arts conferences and competitions all over the world throughout the 70s and 80s.

Keith in rehearsal for Jesus Christ Superstar, 1972. Photo: Greg Desmond, courtesy Harry M. Miller Group Manuscript Collection at the National Library of Australia. Superstar was directed by Jim Sharman and choreographed by Keith.

Another milestone was the series of Armidale Dance Summer Schools initiated by Dame Peggy van Praagh and Shirley McKechnie, held in 1968, 1969, 1974 and 1976. Keith was one of the excellent tutors engaged for these events.

Keith was a foundation member of the Australian Association for Dance Education (now Ausdance) and held state and national committee roles for many years. It was Keith who initiated the annual Dancers' Picnic which has become the Australian Dance Awards.

Keith with John Bell at the launch of Keith's book Keith Bain on Movement at the Sydney Opera House, 2010. Photo: Regis Lansac

His book, Keith Bain on Movement, with special introduction by Cate Blanchett and published by Currency House, was launched by John Bell in 2010.

Keith has received many honours and awards including the Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Medal for services to dance and theatre (1977), an Order of Australia Medal (1988) and an Australian Dance Award for Services to Dance Education (2003). He received the dance industry's esteemed honour of induction into the Australian Dance Awards Hall of Fame in 2011.

Keith was a teacher of renown—a teacher with innate skills in communicating, encouraging and inspiring all those with whom he worked. His intelligence, sensitivity and communication skills, combined with his love and dedication to dance and theatre, made him a unique and influential leader. Valda Craig

I think of him so much—of our long friendship and shared experiences, even in our different cities. I think of the years of planning for the wonderful Armidale seminars at the University of New England and of how that all led to the founding of AADE, which became Ausdance. I think of our shared friendship with wonderful people like Peggy van Praagh, Peter Brinson, Martha Hill and Norman Morrice. Shirley McKechnie OAM

Keith was so loved by so many it is impossible to imagine how many lives he touched, and in so many ways. His contribution is vast across both dance and theatre. He was an inspiration to me as a young dancer and a mentor when I lived in Sydney. How he will be missed. Cheryl Stock

Read more about Keith on the National Library of Australia's Trove.

Read Keith's obituary in The Australian.