Foundations of Dance Research: Digitizing for Access (Foundations)

Material Description

Five of the included collections document the life and work of Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, seminal figures in the development of distinctly American dance practices. Their Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts (established 1915) became an important training ground for distinguished modern dancers and theatre figures (Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Jack Cole, Louise Brooks), and influenced the next generation of dance innovators (Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Katherine Dunham, and Twyla Tharp). AU collections contain a St. Denis memoire manuscript, choreographies by St. Denis and Shawn, performance programs, posters, and photographs. JPD collections contain St. Denis family correspondence, letters between Shawn and dancer Barton Mumaw, and annual newsletters sent by Ted Shawn. BAM Hamm Archives documents the history of BAM and the artists and works BAM presented. Audio and video recordings capture statements of world-renowned artists (Philip Glass, Bill T. Jones, Edward Albee, Jhumpa Lahiri, Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham, Paul Simon, Pina Bausch, and many more). MP+D's Demystavision collection contains videos of performances by contemporary dance companies (Carlos Carvajal's Dance Spectrum, San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Zaccho Dance Theatre, Eiko & Komo, Anna Halprin Dancers' Workshop). MP+D's Tony Kramer collection contains materials about Lucas Hoving, who studied with Martha Graham and performed with Kurt Joos, Jose Limon, and on Broadway. Tapes contain interviews with Hoving and capture one of his landmark performances. JPD's La Meri Collection contains correspondence, clippings, scrapbooks, notebooks of choreography, and videos of the work of this ethnic dancer, choreographer, teacher, and scholar. DHC's "From the Horse's Mouth" collection comprises a documentary of the creation of a structured improvisation/oral history revealing the work and style of varied artists, cultural movements, and 17 years of performances. This series represents an early innovation in artist-driven archiving, where artists find creative ways to preserve legacies.


Foundations will digitize materials in 10 collections held by 5 collaborating institutions (Partners) named below. The digital assets to be created in this Project will illuminate significant dance developments in this country during the 20th century. In addition to digitizing the materials, Partners will increase discoverability of and access to the materials by updating online finding aids and catalog records to link to the digital assets, embedding descriptive, technical and administrative metadata in the digital assets, displaying the assets on their own websites, contributing the assets to aggregating websites and online digital libraries. Dance Heritage Coalition will be the lead partner assuring adherence to technical and scholarly standards: aggregating the digital assets through its online secure media network; adding information about and links to the assets within its online finding aids database: and announcing these newly-available resources at conferences, through listservs, in publications, and on websites.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



Dance Heritage Coalition


  • Dr. Libby Smigel (Dance Heritage Coalition, Inc.)
  • Ms. Imogen S.
  • Ms.

Collaborating Institution(s)

Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC); Adelphi University (AU); Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM); Museum of Performance + Design (MP+D); Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives (JPD)

Date Range

1890 - 2015

Geographic Scope

Throughout the United States and International


  • 12 Mixed Archival Collections