Professor Emeritus Joseph Gifford Passed Away on September 12

Joe Gifford

“Life is the eternal spring.”  Joseph Gifford

May 14, 1920 – September 12, 2017

Dancer, Teacher, World Traveler, Author and Spiritualist Joseph Gornbein Gifford passed away at age 97 of natural causes in September.

Born May 14, 1920 in Niagara Falls, New York and raised in Michigan, Joe lived most of his life in New York City and Boston with his life-partner Talbot Waterman and African Gray Parrot, Hero.

Following graduation from the University of Michigan, Joe began his performing career in New York City as a member of the Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman Dance Company.  He later formed his own company, the Joseph Gifford Dance Theater, which performed throughout the United States.  Additionally, he danced in several Broadway musicals and taught at the New Dance Group Studio.

Joe later joined the faculty of the School of Theatre Arts at Boston University and established a curriculum in movement training for actors.  And, after ‘retiring’ 25 years later, developed movement workshops for conductors through the League of American Orchestras.  Until he passed, Joe was still teaching musicians and conductors on using their body to master their art.

Joe was a spiritual man and attained the 7th degree in Authentic Reiki®, studied transcendental meditation, and meditated every morning.

A world traveler, he and Waterman visited nearly every continent and regularly attended symphonies, operas, and dance performances.

Joe was the subject of a documentary on his life and teachings, “The Legacy of Joseph Gifford” (2015) and a recently completed video series, “Music of Life” (2017).

His passion for life and boundless energy continued until his death, and he leaves behind a legacy of love, spirit and teaching.

His family would like to thank Joe’s friends for the love and support that was constantly present in his final days.

Joe is survived by his brother Carl (Myra) Gornbein, sister-in-law Reva Gornbein, and several great and great-great nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his partner Talbot Waterman, parents Sam and Esther Gornbein, and siblings Sophie (Marcus) Fordon, Bernard (Ida) Gornbein, and Abe Gornbein.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of Joe’s favorite charities: Doctors Without Borders USA, Inc., Oxfam America, Inc., Amnesty International of the U.S.A., Inc., or WGBH Educational Foundation.

Memorial Service

A Memorial Service for Joe will take place on Saturday, October 21st, at The Photonics Center on the campus of Boston University, 8 St. Mary’s Street. The 3pm event will take place in 206. The reception will begin at 4pm on the 9th floor, the Colloquium Room.

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