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American Women: Resources from the Performing Arts Collections

Dance Collections

How to dance: A complete ball-room and party guide. Library of Congress Music Division.

The materials featured here include some of the highlights from the Music Division's dance collections.

Dance Manuals

This collection brings together dance manuals from the General Collections, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, and Music Division to form a unique collection that exists only online. Of particular interest here are the antidance treatises that warn young women against the immorality of the dance.

Franziska Boas

Franziska Boas (1902-1988) was a pioneering dancer, percussionist, teacher, ethnologist, and dance therapist. The daughter of the noted anthropologist Franz Boas, she was, like her father, a committed activist for racial equality and social justice. She pioneered dance as therapy; encouraged students to expand their own creativity through improvisation; combined the study of dance with ethnology; and broke down the racial barriers that stood in the way of African Americans wishing to pursue careers in dance. The collection documents her career with choreographic scores, music manuscripts and printed music, her personal and general correspondence, business files, personal files, writings and research by and about Boas, clippings, iconography, miscellaneous items, and audiovisual material.

Marge Champion

Marge Champion (b. 1919) is an American actress, dancer, director, choreographer, and teacher. The collection, which documents her life and career, includes biographical materials, correspondence, photographs, programs, promotional materials, manuscript music scores and parts, articles, clippings, scripts, scrapbooks, awards and posters. 

Miriam Cole

Miriam "Mimi" Cole (1926-2012) was an American dancer and choreographer who performed solo as well as with the Martha Graham Dance Company and other contemporaries. The Miriam Cole Papers consists primarily of programs; clippings, articles, and scrapbook pages; photographs; music for her choreography; and contracts. Much of the material relates to Cole's association with the Graham company: photographs, programs, articles, and other items documenting the Graham European tour in 1954 are especially plentiful.

Alexandra Danilova

Ballerina Alexandra Danilova (1903-1997) was a star attraction with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, whose American tours helped popularize classical ballet in this country during the 1930s and 1940s. After her retirement from the stage, Danilova was choreographer for several seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. Respected as a teacher, she gave classes at the School of American Ballet in New York City from 1964 to 1989. The Alexandra Danilova Collection contains more than two thousand photographs dating from the 1920s to the 1990s, correspondence, writings, including drafts of her autobiography Choura: The Memoirs of Alexandra Danilova (1986), programs, press clippings, and awards. 

Alexandra Danilova in Apollo. [1928?]. Library of Congress Music Division.

Katherine Dunham

Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) was an American dancer, choreographer, teacher, dance anthropologist, and writer. The collection contains correspondence, awards and honors, writings by and about Dunham, business papers, photographs and videotapes, clippings and reviews, programs, promotional materials, and materials related to the Library of Congress Katherine Dunham Legacy Project.

Martha Graham

Martha Graham (1894-1991) redefined modern dance in the twentieth century and influenced countless creative artists through her work. Her prodigious repertoire, original dance technique, distinctive theatrical productions, and fruitful artistic collaborations stand as treasures of the nation's cultural heritage. The Martha Graham Collection is strong in its holdings of music scores, many of which are autograph composers' manuscripts annotated with Graham's notes. There are also extensive holdings of photographs of Graham and her company. Other material includes books from her personal library, press clippings, posters, and correspondence.

Harriet Hoctor

Harriet Hoctor (1905-1977) was a dancer in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in films during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. The collection contains materials that document her professional life in all of these venues. It also contains items related to her early dance training at the Louis H. Chalif Normal School of Dancing in New York and the founding of the Harriet Hoctor Ballet School in Boston in 1945. Materials include correspondence from various notables, including Mary Pickford, Ted Shawn, Walter Winchell, Billy Rose, Milton Berle, and Florenz Ziegfeld; a scrapbook; clippings; contracts; photographs; programs; posters; reviews; publicity materials from various periods of her performing career; choreographic notes; music; personal papers; and costume designs.

Pearl Lang

Pearl Lang (née Pearl Lack) was an American dancer, choreographer, and teacher. The collection includes clippings and articles, programs and publicity, correspondence, choreographic and teaching notes, photographs, interviews and lectures, business papers, posters, music scores, moving images, and other materials relating to Lang’s career in dance primarily as a choreographer for her own company, Pearl Lang Dance Theatre, and as solo performer with the Martha Graham Dance Company. A significant amount of material documents her interest in Yiddish and Jewish culture.

May O'Donnell

May O'Donnell was an American dancer, choreographer, and teacher; she performed in the original casts of seminal works by Martha Graham, and through her own choreography became known as among the earliest choreographers of abstract works. Her husband, Ray Green, composed music for many of her dance works. This small collection offers photographs, playbills and publicity, and reviews and other publications documenting some of her most distinctive achievements.

Gwen Verdon

Dancer Gwen Verdon (1925-2000) is best known for her work in the Broadway productions of Can-Can (1953), Damn Yankees (1955), New Girl in Town (1957), Redhead (1959), Sweet Charity (1966), and Chicago (1975). The Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon Collection reflects her close collaboration with choreographer and director Bob Fosse, whom she married in 1960. Extensive production and project files are arranged by show title. Other material pertaining specifically to Gwen Verdon is located in the “Verdon: Career Miscellany” series. Scrapbooks belonging to both Fosse and Verdon chronicle their respective careers with clippings, photographs, and other memorabilia.