Obituary: Chris Komar

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The Independent Online
The American dancer Chris Komar devoted his professional life and his multifaceted talent to the work of the pioneering choreographer Merce Cunningham. He was named Assistant Artistic Director of Cunningham's company in 1992. Working with him, Komar said a few years ago, "is so amazing to me, and so fulfilling. It keeps adding to my life - and not just to my life as a dancer, but to my whole life."

I remember how open and friendly Komar was on the strength of a casual introduction, and with what warmth and intelligence he readily spoke of Cunningham's work. The intelligence and understanding, which Komar exhibited so plentifully in performing, made him a valuable and valued assistant to Cunningham. Through sharing the teaching and rehearsing of the company and setting dances on other groups, he was instrumental in freeing Cunningham's time for concen-trating on new work. The choreographer said of him, "He has an astonishing memory about details or shapes, how it felt, the proportion, the look of it, the transitions."

Like many contemporary dancers, who do not face the time constraints ballet dancers do, Komar earned a college degree, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance from the University of Wisconsin, after switching from a major in music. He joined the faculty there and danced for two years as a charter member of the Milwaukee Ballet Company.

On seeing the Cunningham company perform in Milwaukee, however, he became convinced it was the place for him, and he went to New York to study with the choreographer. He became a full-fledged member of the company in 1972. More than 20 years later, having been with the company longer than anyone but Cunningham himself, and having appeared in most of Cunningham's works during that time, he was still performing with gusto and focus.

Komar had a wonderful energy, a big jump and a way of landing straight into the most amazing twists that Cunningham could devise. His darting, loose-jointed quickness made him right at home with the birdlike images that pepper Cunningham's work. A poignant memory of him is in Cunningham's contemplative Inlets: a vulnerable figure pausing with elbows pinned back and throat exposed, like Isaac to Abraham's knife.

He began teaching at the widely influential Cunningham Studio almost immediately, and in repertory workshops all over the United States and Europe. He had the primary responsibility for staging Cunningham works, which he did for numerous troupes, including Rambert Dance Company (it has several Cunningham pieces in its repertoire), the Paris Opera Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Werkcentrum Dans in Rotterdam. Before becoming Assistant Artistic Director, Komar had the title Assistant to the Choreographer. He also directed the Rep- ertory Understudy Group, composed of students. In 1992 he created for them a new (actually third) version of Inlets, using chance procedures explained to him by Cunningham, an aspect of Cunningham's work that fascinated him.

Komar's contribution to the field was honoured in 1991 by a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie).

Chris Komar, dancer: born Milwaukee, Wisconsin 30 October 1947; died 17 July 1996.