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Todd Harvey, Reference Librarian, American Folklife Center
Created: May 26, 2022
Last Updated: May 26, 2022
The American Folklife Center (AFC) produces guides for the purpose of directing users to resources and collections in support of research on a range of topics connected to folklife, cultural heritage, and ethnographic documentation.
This guide is part of a series of topical guides focusing on "areas of distinction" within AFC collections, as articulated in the Center's Collection Policy Statement. These topical guides are intended to be curated access points for AFC's rich resources, rather than comprehensive of definitive listings.
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.
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.