Andrée Grau 1954-2017

Andrée Grau was an early Associate of the Institute of Choreology (AiChor) graduate in 1976 and got her Fellowship of the Institute of Choreology  (FiChor) in 1985. Whilst undertaking fieldwork for her PhD among the Tiwi people of Melville and Bathurst Islands, she used Benesh movement notation to document the dances of the communities she was studying. She was the first anthropologist to utilise BMN in this way. She gained her PhD in Social-Anthropology from The Queen’s University of Belfast in 1983.

John Baily, Chair RAI Ethnomusicology/Ethnochoreology Committee, said “Andrée was one of your most distinguished graduates”. She also carried out fieldwork in Southern Africa, among the Venda; Aboriginal Australia and India (Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka,Gujarat) and London, looking at performance from cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives. She has published – in English as well as French – in academic as well as professional journals within the fields of dance, music, visual anthropology and social anthropology. She has contributed to a number of encyclopaedias, writing entries for Australian Aboriginal dance and Eastern and Southern African dance. (www.pure/

Tragically on the 27th of September 2017, Andrée was in Clermont-Ferrand, France, teaching a short-term Erasmus course. She suffered a massive heart attack while in a local park.

Early years

Julie Bonnet (Jones) FI Chor MA, tell us how she remembers Andrée:

It was with shock and great sadness that we received the news of Andrée Grau’s sudden death at the end of September.

This is a huge loss to the Benesh community, to the world of academic dance studies, to her friends, colleagues, and, of course, her family.

Andrée and myself were the first Benesh trained students to study for a Master’s Degree in the Social Anthropology Department at Queen’s University, Belfast

Professor John Blacking, head of the Department, was a huge supporter of the notation, and excited that dance now had a notation that would facilitate the analysis of dance in just the same way that music could be annotated and studied.

As an anthropologist Blacking had studied the Venda people in South Africa and was keen that their dance tradition should be investigated and recorded. Andrée was exactly the person to do that. She had the intellect, enthusiasm, and warm personality to make a rigorous and thorough study, which resulted in her being awarded her Master’s degree in 1979. Her PhD followed in in 1983 for her impressive work with the Tiwi people of northern Australia.

In later years Andrée was appointed Professor of Anthropology of Dance at Roehampton University. As well as her Professorial role Andrée published, advised and lectured extensively.

Incisive and intellectually rigorous she was passionate about her subject. She was a Benesh pioneer in her field and a champion for highlighting the significance of dance in the lives of people from every culture.

Individual, stylish and generous Andrée was always stimulating company. She always had a twinkle in her eye, a smile that could light up a room and a bubbling laugh that was never far from the surface. I look back on the times we spent together with huge fondness and gratitude. She will be sadly missed by all those who were fortunate enough to have known her.”

Later years

The head of Dance, University of Roehampton, Dr Ann R David, FRSA, FHEA says “Her contribution to dance scholarship was outstanding and her development of the field of the anthropology of dance unsurpassed. She was a generous, inspirational and visionary colleague and mentor, touching everyone’s hearts with her enthusiasm and passion for life and for intellectual engagement.”

Lui Sit, a former student of Andrée and current Benesh Operation Manager at the RAD remembers her:

I met Andrée in 2010 when she was the Professor of the Anthropology of Dance and Programme Leader for the MA Dance Anthropology at Roehampton University; a position she held up until her death. I was a new Masters student, six months pregnant and wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. Andree immediately dispelled my reservations with her warm and engaging personality. I went on to discover, over the four years I studied with her, what a kind, compassionate and funny person she was. Her knowledge and experience of her discipline was impressive. As a tutor and supervisor she encouraged academic rigour and breadth of view. She expected her students to challenge themselves and their research constantly. She was always on hand to guide and advise us when needed. Her sudden and untimely death has shocked and saddened us all.

She was a unique, trail blazing, one-off individual whom I had the privilege to meet and work under. Her impact on my life was profound.

Thank you Andrée. For everything.”


3 thoughts on “Andrée Grau 1954-2017

  1. We were teachers on Melville island when Andree started her study with the Tiwi. We were good friends and companions doing much together. We were very sad to read this news. Bev and Vince Mulkerin. Australia.


  2. I was deeply shocked when I found out about Andree’s tragic death, as I was trying to contact her so the Tiwi at Pularumpi School could request access her music tapes. Her work is incredibly valuable as many young Tiwi now speak almost exclusively English today. I met her at Pularumpi while I was also doing research there for the Museum and Art Gallery in Darwin. What a tragic loss of such a vibrant and wonderful scholar. My heart goes out to her husband Dominique and her children.


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