I read of Stuart Hodes‘ passing in The New York Times this morning — and, despite my sadness, have been walking around NYC smiling, inwardly and outwardly, all day long, remembering his angular energy and quick wit and eloquent passion for dance and life. I was privileged to spend an afternoon in lively conversation with him eight years ago when I was in the thick of writing my biography of Martha Graham. The stories Stuart told and the anecdotes he regaled me with found a home in the book.

But the sheer pleasure of being with him struck me when I awoke the next morning:

4/13/2015 7:56 AM dear stuart – one more thing. i am sitting here gathering my thoughts and trying to keep my focus on the arduous and lapidary book i am writing. i am remembering yesterday, in your apartment, and the fact that you are 23+ years older than i am, and you had so much energy and commitment and hope. this is something i have learned from you and am going to think about as the days – years! – go by, to follow your example. thanks again and i will be in touch soon. NB

…to which he replied:

Dear Neil,
    Enjoyed your visit very much, only fear that I do not go far back enough to have contributed much to your project. However, as a genuine researcher/writer, I am sure you will unearth sources no else has and produce a meaningful book. 
    Think I have more than 23+ years on you since you look to me to be somewhere in your 50s. I turned 90 last November, a ridiculous number.
    Love to hear how the project is going from time to time, and welcome contact at any time.
        Warm best wishes,          Stuart

A couple of years passed. Janet Eilber, artistic director of The Martha Graham Dance Company, asked if I had come across any information in my research to determine when they made the move from the original 66 Fifth Avenue studio to the East 63rd Street building. My thoughts turned to Stuart, incarnation of living history, and he responded with his endearing mixture of modesty, humor and acuity:

Dear Neil,
    Yes, Martha [Hodes, his daughter, the historian] told me that she and you had met. We are both your admirers. Exact dates 66 5th to 316 E 63, afraid not.  Sixty-six Fifth, when I began, 1946, Martha was well established. It was a fine studio, sprung floor, rock maple, clean as a salad bowl. But no shower. Somewhere I might have the dates of the move to E 63. It was preceded by a trip there with Martha and Bethsabee [de Rothschild, MG’s student, friend and patron], me, and [dancers] Bob Cohan and Bertram Ross to look around. The big studio (Studio 1) had been a sort of dining and recreation room, with a large part devoted to food preparation. It also had a weight-bearing pillar that Bethsabee said would be removed, and was. Seems to me, however, that it was earlier than the 60s. I’ll ponder that while searching for markers: I have a photo somewhere of Helen McGehee [leading MG dancer] and Mrs. Hatfield (the company seamstress) in the small ground floor studio preparing costumes for a tour. Which tour? Second time to Europe, I think, and that would put it in 1954.
    Two people might know when 66 5th began, Helen McGehee and Yuriko [Kikuchi – MG principal dancer]. McGehee is about five years older than I, but is still, I believe, living in Lynchburg, VA. I really need to contact her, she’s an old friend. When a hard disk self-destructed about 3 years ago, I lost all my email addresses. Maybe able to get McGehee’s from Clay Taliaferro, who lives in Lynchburg.
    Will try to get better information.
    Very warm regards,

PS – Would like to know just how your book is coming along. I am almost always home here at 175 Lexington Ave, where I’ve lived since 1958. It will not be hard to arrange a mutually convenient time.


Stuart Hodes and I did not meet again. At publication, last Fall, I sent him a copy of MARTHA GRAHAM – WHEN DANCE BECAME MODERN. I had wanted to deliver it in person, but Martha Hodes cautioned me that he was doing poorly, not able to receive visitors aside from family.

She did kindly write before Christmas to say that her father’s “bookmark was moving forward in your book – he is savoring it!”

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