Bonnie Bird, 1914 – 1995
Bonnie Bird was a member of the original Martha Graham Dance Company. She went on to become Graham’s principal assistant and one of the first recognised teachers of the Graham technique. After this she joined the Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle, at that time one of the most innovative institutions in the USA, as its Head of Dance. There she trained numerous people who became luminaries in dance, her most famous student being Merce Cunningham. In 1938 she married the eminent psychologist Ralph Gundlach.
After the war Bonnie Bird pursued her dual involvement in developing contemporary dance through university dance college programmes and community arts centres. She was a founder member and a president of the American Dance Guild, as well as The Congress on Research in Dance (CORD). All this underlines Bonnie Bird’s fundamental philosophy for dance, in which she stresses the equal importance of the practical and theoretical elements for the training of the professional dancer.
In 1974, at the age at which most people retire, she was invited by Marion North, Principal of Laban to become Director of the Dance Theatre Department. Here she was able to apply and develop her theories on dance training by helping to institute Britain’s first BA (Hons) degree in Dance Theatre studies, and subsequently Britain’s first MA and PhD degrees in Dance Studies.
In 1982 Bonnie Bird founded Transitions Dance Company, Britain’s foremost professional training company for young dancers. She remained Artistic Director until her death in 1995. To celebrate her 70th birthday friends and colleagues from around the world gave financial contributions to start a choreographic fund in Bonnie’s name. This resulted in the establishment of the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund in 1985.