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Obituary: Janet Hamburg

Janet Hamburg

Janet Hamburg, professor of dance at the University of Kansas and an internationally known movement analyst and lecturer, died unexpectedly on Sept. 4, 2010 in New York City. Hamburg was preceded in death by her mother Helen; her father Sydney; and her sister Amy. She is survived by her partner of 30 years, Lynn Bretz, of Lawrence, KS; two aunts, Stella Hyman, Wayne, NJ, and Sandy Blackman, Brooklyn; and many cousins, including Sy Wolke and his wife, Caren of New York City, Lil Sitomer, Josh Blackman and wife Liz, all of Brooklyn and Jonathan and Adam Blackman, Los Angeles.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Janet Hamburg Dance Scholarship in care of the KU Endowment Association.

Hamburg was born in New York City and grew up in Great Neck. She graduated with a degree in civil engineering from the State University of New York in Buffalo; after working briefly in transportation engineering for the city of San Francisco she devoted her life to her passion, dance and movement analysis and earned a master’s in dance from Mills College in California.

Hamburg devoted her research and work to the field of movement analysis, in which she was certified by the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York. She received the Laban/Bartenieff Institute’s first Laban Award for Creative Achievement by an artist or researcher in 2004 and was named a senior research associate for the institute.

She developed an acclaimed exercise program for people with Parkinson’s disease, resulting in an exercise DVD/video, Motivating Moves for People with Parkinson’s, originally co-produced and distributed internationally by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation in New York City and recommended by the major national and regional Parkinson’s foundations. The DVD is currently distributed by the Parkinson Foundation of the Heartland.

She joined the KU faculty in 1979, eventually chairing the dance program, now a department, for many years. In 2008, the Kansas City Star called the program “a national powerhouse.” In 2005, KU awarded her a W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence and the Lawrence Arts Commission presented her with a Phoenix Award for Exceptional Artistic Achievement.

Hamburg devoted many years to service to the Lawrence Parkinson’s Support Group and gave presentations to other Parkinson’s support organizations and meetings across the United States. She also worked with senior adults and with children suffering from coordination and sensorimotor problems and resulting social stigmas, producing a video in the 1980s titled A Boy Learns to Skip and Jump. In March, she was one of 32 movement experts invited to present at the Third International Congress on Gait and Mental Function in Washington, D.C.

Her work with athletes was featured on NBC national television and the U.S. Information Agency’s international program Science World. She developed pre-warm-ups for aerobic and resistance workouts, based on the theories of Bartenieff Fundamentals, that were featured in Shape magazine and described her approach to exercise and fitness, “Moving and Motivating with Laban Movement Analysis,” that appeared in the popular press book Mind-Body Fitness for Dummies.

An associate of the Gerontology Center at KU, Hamburg was the director of Senior Wellness and Exercise for the Center for Movement Education and Research in Los Angeles. She was a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist through the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association.

Hamburg taught in the Bill Evans Summer Institutes of Dance and was a frequent guest teacher at the Juilliard School of Music, the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies, and the Sports Training Institute, all in New York City. She was a core faculty member of the New Mexico Laban Certification Program and a guest faculty member for the Laban Certification Program in Berlin, Germany.

She presented her movement research at medical centers and at national and international conferences and published in many journals. She taught movement analysis workshops and classes in Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, as well as throughout the United States.