Merrill Brockway, Emmy-winning Dance in America producer, dead at 90

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Brockway (Photo: Courtesy WNET)

Brockway (Photo: Courtesy WNET)

Merrill Brockway, a producer and director of several PBS arts programs who was best known for his work on the Great Performances spinoff Dance in America, died May 3 in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 90.

Brockway was born in Indiana and began a career as a piano teacher and accompanist before entering TV at the age of 30. He wrote and directed for CBS affiliates in Philadelphia and New York before leaving commercial TV for PBS in 1975, when Dance in America launched.

He worked on the program, produced by New York’s Thirteen/WNET, from 1975–88, capturing some of America’s most renowned dancers and choreographers on film. Dance in America spotlighted the work of Martha Graham, Thyla Tharp, and the New York City Ballet as choreographed by George Ballanchine, among many others.

Brockway received two primetime Emmy awards for his work on Dance in America, in 1979 and 1984.

After Dance in America, Brockway continued in pubTV, directing two episodes of the WNET biography series American Masters, one about Stella Adler (1989), the other Tennessee Williams (1994, which he also produced).

He published his memoir, Surprise Was My Teacher, in 2010 and donated his Dance in America archives to the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, according to the New Mexican.

“Merrill was a key member of the original Dance in America production team for Great Performances, and helped set the standard for excellence in programming that we continue to strive for today,” David Horn, e.p. of Great Performances, said in a statement.

Brockway left no survivors, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

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