Remembering Adam Darius

BY KAZIMIR KOLESNIK

I first met Adam Darius when I was an 18-year old directionless youth, harbouring vague leanings towards art and theatre. As with many other students whom he has taught in a long and acclaimed worldwide career as a mime artist, dancer, teacher and author, he inspired me for a lifetime and revealed to me an artistic goal which I would pursue throughout the years ahead.

I remember the day of my transformation very clearly. Wishing to gain admittance into Adam Darius’s school, The Mime Centre in London, I excitedly went to our scheduled interview. It was the summer of 1979 and a fairly hot day. Due to walking the wrong way, I arrived at his north London home late and apologetically breathless.

Despite my lateness, he welcomed me into his house and spoke very kindly and patiently to me. I was extremely nervous to begin, but became even more so when I focused on the walls of what struck me as a theatrical temple. The bright red walls in the hallway were covered with a large collection of primitive masks from different cultures, mementos from his worldwide tours. The walls of his studio were covered, ceiling to floor, with theatre posters of his performances from all corners of the globe. While inspiring me, they were, at the same time, very intimidating for a young country boy from Swindon.

At the end of the 30-minute interview, to my joy he accepted me into his school. And, if I wished, he told me he would permit me to stay a little longer and watch him practice and rehearse for a forthcoming tour.

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Adam Darius in Pierrot, 2014

As this man of slight physical frame left the studio to change into his practice clothes, I waited, not knowing what to expect. Quickly returning, he explained that he was about to warm up with a traditional Russian ballet barre. Immediately putting on some classical music, he began to dance for me alone.

I sat transfixed, watching disbelievingly as his body extended into every possible and impossible direction. This was an aesthetic experience I had never before encountered. I was truly flabbergasted by the strength, control and beauty that manifested before my eyes.

When the barre was over, he asked me my thoughts on what I had just seen. Never having seen a ballet barre before, I had no idea what to say. All I could utter was, “Fluid, uh, very fluid” as his body had seemed like the essence of a river in motion, rippling and undulating across the untouched terrain of my experience.

Then he proceeded to rehearse. This was when my senses were shaken to such a degree that they still have not stopped reverberating as I write these lines almost four decades later.

As the last of three items from his repertoire, he rehearsed a depiction of Christ’s crucifixion, enacted to a collage of the sound effects of war. After a sequence of extraordinary bird-like arm movements, his body finally came to rest, motionless, arched and upside down on the ground. Yet, even in stillness, his body still reverberated from the imaginary bullets being drilled in to his now inanimate corpse. His eyes, staring fixedly into space, propelled towards me, as an unsheathed arrow, the vacuum of death.

The text above, is partially extract from a foreword I wrote 20 years for his book, Acting – a psychological and technical approach. This memory came vividly into my mind when I was sitting beside the hospital bed during the last days of his life, reminiscing with him and his friends about the numerous performances he created and choreographed, the classes he taught all over the globe, and the impact he had on so many people ranging from beginners, like I was at 18, to famous singers, actors and dancers, such as British rockstar Kate Bush, Hollywood actress Kate Beckinsale, British TV-star Warren Mitchell, film star Tom Courtney (e.g., from film Doctor Zivago), Danish ballet dancer, choreographer and director Dinna Bjorn, Finnish prima ballerina Minna Tervamäki, film star and dancer Jennifer Biels (of Flash Dance), British prima ballerina Dame Beryl Grey, and so many more.

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Adam Darius and Kazimir Kolesnik in Yukio Mishima Porto, 2006

If asked of those hundreds of students Adam taught throughout his over 70-year long career, what characteristic best described Adam’s technique, I’m pretty sure they would agree with me in saying it was the fact that he would require everyone to give 150 percent devotion and passion to every movement, sentence or note they were interpreting. He believed that is what is required to become an artist.

Adam Darius lived his life as he preached. He called himself an artist-nomad, living where his art led him. Joining his troupe in 1981, I remained his onstage partner for over 30 years, performing with him in 48 countries in pieces like The Anne Frank Ballet, Death of a Scarecrow, Yukio Mishima, and finally ending our world tours with Basho, A Wind Swept Spirit, with standing ovation with 700 spectators in Kosovo in September 2016, two months before he was diagnosed with cancer.

The last 23 years of his life he spent in Finland where I had settled and, as he did not have children of his own, he became the adopted grandfather to my children and, later, to my second wife’s children as well. He was a man with no prejudice and made friends anywhere he went: neighbours, hotel staff, shopkeepers in the airports, and even with the caring nurses in the hospital where he spent just a few days before he passed away.

Adam Darius, American mime artist, dancer, choreographer and writer, died in Espoo, Finland, on December 3rd, 2017 at the age of 87.

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Adam Darius

5 Responses to “Remembering Adam Darius”

  1. Herbert Stolitzky

    Just learned of my dear cousin’s passing. Adam(Harvey) and I were only a few months apart in age. I lived with his Adam and his family my last year in grade school in Brooklyn, NY while my
    parents relocated. We became very close and I was saddened by his leaving the US in the 1950’s. I followed his successful career as a mime and writer through emails and my dear cousin Rita. We last met in person during a visit to the US in the 1970’s(=/-). My wife and I extend our heartfelt condolences to Kaz and his wife and so many others that I did not have the privilege to know.

  2. rITA cHAZEN

    i LOVED WHAT kAZ WROTE AND HE HAS THE ESSENCE OF MY DEAR COUSIN VERY MUCH…….i WAS ABOUT 7 YEARS OLDER THEN ADAM……AND INTO THE DANCE WORLD WITH mODERN dANCE…..i DID STUDY bALLET AND IN THE CLASS WAS A CHILDHOOD FRIEND jERRY rOBBINS………I WAS INTO mODERN DANCE AND JOING THE hUMPHREY wEIDMAN cO. aDAM WAS VERY INTERESED WHAT i WAS INTO……AND WE BONDEND WITH OUR INTEREST IN THE dANCE…….i TOOK HIM TO HIS FIRST PERFORMNCE OF A bALLET WITH mIA sALVENSKA……..AND i TOOK HIM BACK STAGE NOT KNOWING WHAT WOULD HAPPEN……..BUT mIA sALVENSALVSKA WHAT WAS ONE THE FIRST bALLET FILMS CALLED “bALLERINA’ AND aDAM WAS A DELIGHT AND mADAME sALVENSAKA GAVE aDAM ONE OF HER TOE SHOES………WE WERE ESTATIC AN DANCED TOWARD THE sUBWAY TO bROOKLYN……..A FEW WEEKS LATER i TOOK HIM TO HIS FIRST bALLET CLASS IN cARNEGIE hALL……..HIS FATHER NEVER SPOKE TO ME AGAIN………..WE HAVE STAYED IN TOUCH WITH EACH OTHER…….HE HAD A FABULOUS LIFi E AND WAS WELL KNOW FOR HIS WORK……..A FANTASTIC MAN IN SO MANY WAYS…AND kAZ WAS VERY IMPORTANT IN HIS WORK……..i H AVE LOST AN IMPORTANT PART OF MY LIFE AND SO HAS THE DANCE WORLD ..

  3. Harriet Bushman

    Superb obituary with meaning in every word and phrase. I feel Adam so strongly in everything you wrote and it is a comfort.
    If I, who knew him but recently , feel a vacuum at his passing, I can hardly imagine the mourning and deep sadness you must feel and send you all love.
    Hope very much to see you soon xxxxx

  4. Pauline

    What a beautiful story and what an amazing devoted relationship.
    thank you for this story and photographs!
    Pauline de Groot
    dancer, teacher, choreographer – Netherlands

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