Obituary of Henry Kerwin (1934 – 2021) – Toledo, OH

(New stories)
By Mark Zaborney
Blade staff writer

Harry J. “Bud” Kerwin, Jr., a dance teacher and choreographer once widely known on the local performing arts scene, whose influence spanned from his high school in North Toledo to the university where he studied. made a career to the New York scene and beyond. , died on September 1 in the American Village seniors community in Indianapolis. He was 86 years old.

He was in poor health, said Phil Eskew, who, along with his wife Ann, knew Mr. Kerwin well when they were neighbors across the street in Indianapolis for several years starting in 2014.

Mr. Kerwin retired in 1997 as an associate professor of dance at Butler University.

When he accepted a teaching post at Butler in 1971, the former Woodward High School student had previously studied in New York at the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet and with an ancestor of jazz dance styles; opened his own dance school and ballet theater in Toledo, and taught ballet in Woodward, where he collaborated with conductor Samuel P. Szor, who later became known as “M . Music ”for its omnipresence in the direction of orchestras, orchestras and choral groups.

Mr. Kerwin’s Toledo students included the late Patrick Bissell, who became director of the American Ballet Theater, and the late Edward Love, Jr., whose Broadway performances included A Chorus Line and Dancin ‘and who was a choreographer for the John Waters film. , Hair spray.

“While the Toledo Ballet led by Marie Vogt has had a strong and very viable presence, Bud’s programs have also offered a different and valuable contribution to the region’s dance community,” said Robert Bell, President Emeritus of Toledo Symphony.

“When he left Toledo, there was a time with a void in the areas of his unique approach and dedication to teaching and choreography,” said Mr. Bell, who graduated from Woodward in 1956.

Cassandra Macino studied with Gail Grant, also a Toledo ballet teacher, and took up jazz dancing at Mr. Kerwin’s downtown studio. After Ms. Macino opened her own Cassandra de Toledo ballet in 1972, she regularly invited Mr. Kerwin to be a guest instructor.

“He was one of the most patient teachers and always gave my students a full ballet lesson. I have fond memories of Bud,” Ms. Macino said.

Mr. Kerwin, who graduated from Woodward in 1954, was inducted into the Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame in 1998 and said of this honor: “To be a person who has spent his or her life in the arts and to be honored in this way is a life well spent. “

He was born December 17, 1934 to Myrtle and Harry Kerwin and raised in the 1100 block of North Michigan Street.

He told the Woodward Hall of Fame Association that he remembered having few friends at Woodward “because I was very serious about my dance studies at the time.” One of her first theatrical performances was with upper class student Jameel Farah, who later became Jamie Farr.

After high school, Mr. Kerwin attended the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet School of Ballet in New York. This provided him with a solid professional technique, he told The Blade in 1995, and from experience came a glimpse: dancing in a large ballet company was not for him.

“I think you have to be a determined person to be successful,” he said in 1995. “I’ve always been more comfortable working with students in the classroom.”

After teaching above a Galena Street storefront, Mr. Kerwin moved downtown, eventually with a residency at the Bach Conservatory on Jefferson Avenue, then with his own studio across from the Esquire Theater on St. Clair Street.

At Woodward, Mr. Kerwin taught ballet and choreographed the musicals presented by Mr. Szor.

“What Sam was developing was really a performing arts high school on a really popular level,” Mr. Kerwin told The Blade in 1995.

For years, during the Summer Music Under the Stars series at the Toledo Zoo, Mr. Szor led Mr. Kerwin’s group and company, Kerwin Theater Ballet, provided the dancing. His company also presented the Nutcracker Suite every year.

“There was an appreciation for the arts that I don’t think has been equaled since, and Bud and my father were riding the wave,” said Tom Szor, retired music teacher and well-known pianist of the Toledo region. In 2016, Tom Szor helped organize a photo exhibit at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library showing his father and Mr. Kerwin behind the scenes of that era.

From 1966 to 1971, Mr. Kerwin was artistic director of the Columbus Ballet Company while maintaining its school and dance company in Toledo.

In Butler, he became a famous teacher.

“He cared a lot about the students and their future and how best to train them for the profession,” said Michelle Jarvis, who was a student in the Butler dance program upon his arrival. She retired last month as vice-rector for academic affairs and dance teacher.

As a student, “you worked to get his attention. The more you worked for him, the more he would work for you, ”Ms. Jarvis said. “The students were so thrilled when they were chosen in his ballets.”

Mr. Kerwin has been a visiting professor in workshop and dance programs across the country, in Europe and in South America. He choreographed Leonard Bernstein’s Mass under the direction of the composer.

He said in 1995 that Duke Ellington and trumpeter and singer Chet Baker were among his most enduring muses.

“What I would miss if I didn’t choreograph is the ability to create an illusion, a style, to seek out pieces of music that move me and express something to the audience,” Mr. Kerwin told The Blade.

There are no immediate survivors.

At Mr. Kerwin’s request, there was no service. Always at his request, his ashes were to be spread in Amsterdam, where he had for years had a second home. Arrangements were made by Flanner Buchanan Funeral Center, Carmel, Ind.

Tributes are suggested for the Bud Kerwin Endowed Fellowship at Butler University.

Posted by The Blade on Sep 26, 2021.

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