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Dance: Resources in the American Folklife Center

This research guide focuses on dance traditions as they are documented in the collections of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.


Carl Fleischhauer, photographer.Polonia Grove and Ballroom, 4604 S. Archer, Chicago, Illinois. 1977. Chicago Ethnic Arts Project collection. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

This guide provides an introduction to doing research on Dance in American Folklife Center collections. The Collection Policy Statement for the American Folklife Center identifies dance as an area of distinction.

"To dance is human, and humanity almost universally expresses itself in dance."

Judith Lynne Hanna's groundbreaking book To Dance Is Human (1979), quoted above, provides a challenge, as such, to the American Folklife Center. That is, to preserve documentation of dance and movement from as many traditions as possible. Among our collections are dances from American diasporic communities, such as those found in the Chicago project below, to indigenous traditions such as the East African communities documented by Roxane Connick Carlisle. As well, the massive Choreometrics project, part of the Alan Lomax Collection, was a 30-year cross-cultural study of world dance. Papers and a descriptive finding aid from that project are online.

Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection

The Chicago Ethnic Arts Project survey was conducted in 1977 by the American Folklife Center at the request of the Illinois Arts Council to assess and document the status of ethnic art traditions in more than twenty ethnic communities in Chicago, and was jointly sponsored by both organizations. The collection is online through the Center's website and AFC staff have also created a StoryMap titled Homegrown Pride. The collection documents dance traditions among African, Croat, Filipino, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Puerto Rican, Serbian, and Slovak immigrant communities in Chicago.

The following guide offers general research strategies for use of the American Folklife Center collections.