From the Archive – Review: Second Concert of Katherine Litz, July 25, 1951

by Elizabeth Jennerjahn

About Elizabeth Jennerjahn + Katherine Litz

Elizabeth Schmitt Jennerjahn was the first of five siblings to attend Black Mountain College. Though she originally intended to study stained glass, she changed her focus to dance.

Jennerjahn first attended Black Mountain College in 1943 and studied art under Josef and Anni Albers. She left in 1945 to study dance with Martha Graham in New York City, but later returned to BMC in 1948 with husband Warren (Pete) Jennerjahn to work with Merce Cunningham. Elizabeth participated as one of the student-teachers, and in 1949 she was involved in the creation of a dance performance which brought to life Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem The Lament for Ignatio Sanchez Mejias. During her years at the college, Elizabeth developed an interest in the multisensory experience of dance performance, incorporating not just music and movement, but light, color, architecture, and technology. In 1949 and 1950, Elizabeth and Pete led the Light Sound Movement workshops, which are described by many Black Mountain scholars as an important link between the college’s early Bauhaus-influenced multimedia theater experiments and the historic Happening of 1952. After leaving BMC in 1951, Elizabeth and Pete lived briefly in Paris before settling in New York City and eventually Sedona, AZ, where Elizabeth continued to work.

A student of Martha Graham and Hanya Holm, Katherine Litz came to Black Mountain College in 1950 following the recommendation of Elizabeth Jennerjahn. She taught dance for the 1950 and 1951 Summer sessions, staying though the academic year into 1952. During this time, she developed her iconic solo “The Glyph,” a multimedia work that included painted backdrop by Ben Shahn, music by Lou Harrison with piano accompaniment by David Tudor, and poetry by Charles Olson. While lesser known than John Cage’s Theater Piece No. 1, “The Glyph” captured the interdisciplinary spirit of Black Mountain College and presented what Litz referred to as a “composite image” captured within performance.

Elizabeth Jennerjahn, Review of Glyph performed by Katherine Litz, 1951. Warren and Betty Jennerjahn Collection. Courtesy of the Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.