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William Couser; Avant-Garde Choreographer

William Couser, an avant-garde choreographer whose Jazz Dance Center blended primitive, folk and jazz techniques and included statements about the condition of the black race throughout history, has died of a heart attack.

His sister, Denise Couser Skambraks, said her 57-year-old brother was found dead in his Los Angeles home of an apparent heart attack earlier this month.

He was raised in Kansas City, Mo., and Memphis, Tenn., where his mother was a professional dancer.

Self-Taught

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“My brother was self-taught and learned to dance by mimicking our mother,” Skambraks said Tuesday.

After Army service from 1951 to 1953, when Couser appeared in Special Services shows, he moved to Los Angeles and danced locally. He started his own troupe, Jazz Dance Center, in the early 1970s.

He performed regularly, most recently in January, and choreographed “Ice Cream Alley,” based on his youth in Memphis. Other compositions included “Collage and Figurines,” “Jazz Story,” about the evolution of jazz dancing from its origins in Africa to modern times, and his latest work, “Sing a New Song.”

Couser, who held a master’s degree in communications from Cal State Los Angeles, was a member of the Artistic Selection Committee for the California Arts Council and hosted a Group W cable television show entitled “Arts and Motion.” He also had taught at Cal State Fullerton and the Inter-City Cultural Center.

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