KU dance professor Janet Hamburg falls to her death in New York City

Janet Hamburg, pictured in this 2005 file photo, died unexpectedly in New York City on Saturday, Sept. 4 when she fell onto a construction platform.

Kansas University officials today are mourning the loss of a dance professor who gained international recognition for her work in movement analysis and its applications in treating Parkinson’s disease.

Janet Hamburg, who had a member of the KU faculty since 1979, died unexpectedly on Saturday in New York City.

Police said 59-year-old Janet Hamburg died Saturday after falling onto a construction platform. They also said it was a suicide.

In a statement, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little called the loss “deep and painful” for the university community.

“Janet Hamburg was an extraordinary teacher and researcher who had earned her colleagues’ highest respect, here and around the world,” Gray-Little said. “Countless people, particularly those in the Parkinson’s community, benefited immeasurably from her devotion to dance, exercise and movement analysis.”

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

Her research resulted in “Motivating Moves for People with Parkinson’s,” an exercise video and DVD for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Michelle Heffner-Hayes, professor and chair of dance, said that while that work garnered her international recognition, her passion for dance was what leaves an impression at KU.

“Her absence among us is unthinkable. Her permanent mark is on all that we do,” Heffner-Hayes said. “Her support and enthusiasm have been a force, an anchor. She will be keenly missed.”

Hamburg is survived by her partner of 30 years, Lynn Bretz, of Lawrence; two aunts and many cousins. Memorial contributions may be made to the Janet Hamburg Dance Scholarship in care of KU Endowment.