Death of a dancer: Gary Bates 9

Dance · Music

In this image from the Los Angeles dance troupe, Eyes Wide Open Dance Theater, Fred Strickler (top) and Gary Bates (bottom) appear in “Don Quixote,” choreographed by Bates to the music of Steve Reich. Bates, who was a cornerstone member of the Los Angeles dance community, passed away on April 15, 2017.

Bates’ contribution to this community  started in 1960 when he joined the Eugene Loring Dance Players. At the American School of Dance, Loring’s school in Hollywood, he studied with members of the Ballet Russe, Roland Petit’s Ballet Company as well as Broadway and television dancers and choreographers.  His modern dance training came from the Lester Horton Dance Company, including Bella Lewitzky. He also trained with Carmelita Maracci, Mia Slavenska, Jack Cole and Carol Scothorn.

He received his B.A. degree in dance from UCLA in 1968 and a Masters of Arts degree from UCLA in 1976.  He joined the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company in 1968 and danced and taught throughout the United States with her until 1973.

In 1974 he made his solo debut at the Monday Evening Music Concert Series at the Bing Theatre in a 45 minute solo of Peter Maxwell Davies Vesalii Icones . Later that year he and several friends co-founded the Eyes Wide Open Dance Theatre which was a major influence in Los Angeles for the next five years. He was a guest artist with the UCRiverside Dance Company, the UCLA Dance Company, Dance/LA and Lynn Dally and Dancers. He retired from dancing in 1990 but performed again with Marion Scott’s Spirit Dances in 2003 and 2004. In 2004 he received a nomination for his dancing from the 2003 Lester Horton Awards.

He has taught at Florida State University, UCLA, Scripps College, Santa Monica College summer program and Loyola Marymount University from 1968 to 1990. He has also been a guest artist at Cal Arts and UC Irvine. He has also taught in private studios in Los Angeles, Miami and West Palm Beach.

He served on the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs, The Los Angeles County Arts Commission, for the Music Center and the California Arts Council. He served on the board of the Dance Resource Center and was the office manager for several years. He also assisted Don Hewitt with the Dance Kaleidoscope festival through three seasons.

Photo by Charlie Airwaves. Bates bio courtesy The Dance History Project of Southern California. “Don Q” costume by Patrick Scott. Read more ‘death of a dancer‘ posts.

The score for “Don Quixote” to be played at an upcoming concert of Jacaranda.

Steve Reich ‘Drum Summit’ | Jacaranda | First Presbyterian Church Santa Monica | May 20

9 thoughts on “Death of a dancer: Gary Bates

  1. Paula Naggi Oct 11,2021 9:35 am

    Eyes Wide Open was THE contemporary dance company in Southern CA when I was a young dancer studying with Fred at UC Riverside. It was the company my peers and I all loved and secretly aspired to! When Fred announced the company would be in residence at ISOMATA (Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts) for three weeks in the summer of ‘78, my girlfriends and I decided to do the entire summer program—three weeks with EWO and three weeks with Bella Lewitzky. I had already met Gary and seen him perform many times, (he was a compelling performer), but it was at Idyllwild that I got to take class with him—needless to say, I loved his class! And one of the perks that summer was that my friends and I rented a downstairs apartment in the same house the company had rented (owned by Steven Spielberg’s parents no less), so we all got to know our favorite teachers/choreographers/performers a little better. One evening, when invited upstairs, I was amazed to watch Gary swing dance with Mary Ann Kellogg! It was an amazing summer. As a dancer, I grew leaps and bounds! And it was Gary’s class that for me, was revelatory—I made important connections in my training influences and truly blossomed under his tutelage. Some people are born to touch the world with their performances, and are generous off the stage, especially with their students—that describes Gary to a tee. My summer at ISOMATA was one of the best of my life as a dancer. I’ve thought about him with warmth and admiration and gratitude many times over the years. You left us too soon, Gary!

  2. Carrie Sep 25,2018 10:54 pm

    Hi Fred,

    It’s Carrie, not sure if you remember me, but I have Gary and all our insanity (play games) in my ear every day.

    Carrie Marraro

  3. Sarah McCormick-Pogostin Jul 8,2017 4:43 pm

    I know this is kind of late but my heart fell when I found this —Gary was my first experience into Improvisation- Eyes Wide Open Dance Studio was my “dancing church” I was 15 when I came into this studio and smelled the aroma of BBQ wafting in- I knew I was at home! And then seeing the company perform was just amazing –Gary just took demand of the stage and of the movement and I wanted to know how to do that!!! Anytime Gary was performing I had to go! Rest in Peace Gary you shall be missed–

  4. Mike Mauer May 8,2017 6:05 pm

    I met Gary at Brunswick and found him to be a real gentleman with true concern for the well-being of others. I think I last saw him some years ago on the occasion of Jimmy Lord’s memorial. Rest in Peace my friend.

  5. Carla Lubow Apr 26,2017 5:20 pm

    I’d like to add that beyond his dancing and his dynamic energy, as a mentor/teacher Gary always pushed me/his students to go beyond the ordinary….to think outside the box…to be daring and creative. Gary was my technique and choreography instructor within the UCLA Dance program, but I also had him as my Dance Philosophy instructor. In this class he was able to push all of us the explore the creative process that underlies the reasons why we move, dance, compose, choreograph and understand what we value most of all. I hold Gary close to my heart in learning to trust my instincts and yet go beyond!

  6. Karen Goodman Apr 25,2017 2:05 pm

    Thank you, Debra, for bringing the focus to Gary Bates, a beautiful dancer and the most generous, gracious of men. On the day he died and for the several days before, he was on my mind as I was editing clips from my 1997 solo, “Earthling,” for which Gary was my outside eye. In the piece, I can point to different details for which he was responsible. Small, but important. But more than that he helped shape the piece. As many of us knew, he could be trusted to watch with great passion for the work at hand, with the great dispassion of a craftsman there to serve the work not anyone’s ego least of all his, and the compassion to share so deeply, thoughtfully, yet kindly in the creative struggle. As a dancer Gary was fearless. In one indelible moment, he rolled and/or somersaulted down the entire hill behind the stage at the Ford Theater. to begin a glorious solo. I don’t remember the name of the piece, but I sure remember that, as I always will.

  7. debra levine Apr 25,2017 10:39 am

    Thank you for your comment, Rachel.

  8. Rachel Cohen Apr 25,2017 10:31 am

    Thank you Debra.
    Gary altered the course of my life, I never would have become a dancer without a chance encounter at UCLA where I was a freshman, studying Psychology. I didn’t meet him formally until I was a Dance Department sophomore, and after that he taught, mentored, and inspired me until his passing. I was so lucky to have him as a friend. As you and Fred put it so eloquently above and on Facebook, I and so many others are so grateful to have known him. His contagious smile is all I see now, and I am grateful for that as well.

  9. Fred Strickler Apr 17,2017 10:56 am

    Thanks, Debra, for publishing this. Gary Bates was my friend, collaborator, and colleague for nearly 50 years. Gary, Patrick Scott and I were inseparable for maybe 10 years in the ’70s and ’80s, before, during and after Eyes Wide Open. In more recent years, each of us followed our own paths, but never got far from one another, always being interested in what new arena of culture were playing in. When I got news of his passing last Friday night, I wrote a short tribute that I posted on Facebook. So many people knew and loved this man and were grateful for him. As a dancer, he was daring and mesmerizing. Video recordings exist somewhere. Whatever we may discover will be grainy and without color, but the dancing will be magnificent. The only other man I can think of who was that compelling was Daniel Nagrin, a generation earlier. There will be a memorial service soon. I’ll let you know where and when.

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