John Munger, dance enthusiast, dies at 67
- Blog Post by: Graydon Royce
- April 30, 2013 - 5:11 PM
John Munger in his one-man show "Nutbuster!! The Ballet," a take on whatever happened to the "Nutcracker" character Drosselymer.
John Munger was all about dance. He was a choreographer, a dancer, historian, researcher, mentor, teacher, student. He was also described by the people who knew him as a wild man, a gentleman, an articulate and erudite advocate for the art form that he loved dearly.
Munger, who lived in St. Paul, died Tuesday at the age of 67. He had been in hospice recently.
"He was incredibly passionate about the field of dance," said choreographer Stuart Pimsler, who first met Munger nearly 30 years ago. "And he had a generosity about him that cut through any aesthetic preference he might have had."
Munger was born in Rapid City, S.D., and wrote that he was inspired to become a dancer when he was 11, by watching over and over "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers," and then as a freshman in college when he saw the film "A Night With the Royal Ballet."
He studied for seven years with modern dance pioneer Hanya Holm. Munger came to the Twin Cities in the 1970s as general manager of the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and then headed the Minnesota Dance Alliance with Louise Robinson and Bonnie Brooks. He worked primarily in finance, Robinson said, and he often preached the importance of accounting, administration and legal issues.
Brooks, in a post, wrote, "It is impossible to take full measure of this wonderful, complicated, maddening, talented, deeply intelligent man. But this I will say now and stand by forever: nobody loved dance the way John did."
For many years, Munger was director of research and information for Dance/USA. Although the national advocacy group was located in Washington, Munger remained in Minnesota. He became a seemingly inexhaustible storehouse of statistics -- information that helped inform his vision for dance and the role of dance in a community. His research was respected nationally; he authored "Dancing with Diollars In the Millennium," a special publication by Dance magazine that analyzed financial trends among major dance companies in the 1990s.
Munger, however, was not only about numbers. He taught regularly at Zenon and choreographed for his own small troupe, Third Rabbit Dance Ensemble, which performed regularly at Bryant Lake Bowl. As a mentor, he worked with Off-Leash Area, the April Sellars Dance Collective and Three Dances. He loved to blog and review shows at the Minnesota Fringe Festival as well as write for dance publications.
"We loved him," said LeFevre. "You could not be in awe of his knowledge. He was so smart but so funny and irreverent. That combination made him special."
A celebration of Munger's life will be held in the next 2-3 weeks.
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