Preserve: Teaching Archives to Dance Companies

By Shepard, John | Fontes Artis Musicae, April-June 2011 | Go to article overview

Preserve: Teaching Archives to Dance Companies

Shepard, John, Fontes Artis Musicae

In the United States in 1990, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation jointly sponsored a study which resulted the next year in a report entitled Images of American Dance: Documenting and Preserving a Cultural Heritage. The report states that the study's purpose was

   ... to learn what comprises the existing system of dance
   documentation and preservation, how transactions are conducted
   within the system, and to what extent the needs of the dance
   community are being met. By focusing on the needs of users, it was
   hoped, the study would better equip both the artistic and archival
   communities in their efforts to build, strengthen and/or extend
   dance documentation and preservation efforts at the local, regional
   and national levels, thereby ensuring that the legacy of dance
   endures. (2)

For the work of the study, the Project Personnel developed sixteen survey questionnaires, tailored to categories of constituents: presenters (that is, impresarios), choreographers, dancers, company managers, institutional archivists, dance scholars, "teachers of the academic aspects of dance," "teachers of the creative aspects of dance," critics, collectors, filmmakers, photographers, creative collaborators (that is, composers, or designers of sets, costumes, or lighting), service organizations or artists' managers, film and video distributors, and programmers of dance related shows on television and radio. (3)

Field researchers in six metropolitan areas used these questionnaires to conduct 160 interviews with individuals and several more meetings with staff of dance festivals, major dance archives, and projects of documenting commercial musical theater. The metropolitan areas were Los Angeles (with an additional field researcher assigned to the Latino dance community), Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. "Two follow-up meetings in New York City and Washington, D.C. during the second phase of the research further tested and elaborated upon the findings....." (4)

As an introduction to the background and rationale for the project, the report makes some statements that remind us both of the state of dance documentation in the U.S. before 1991 and of the nature of dance that makes documentation essential. The report quotes two words from a passage at the opening of the dance critic Marcia Siegel's first book, which deserves to be quoted at greater length. Siegel wrote

   Dance exists at a perpetual vanishing point. At the moment of its
   creation it is gone. All of a dancer's years of training in the
   studio, all the choreographer's planning, the rehearsals, the
   coordination of designers, composers, and technicians, the raising
   of money and the gathering together of an audience, all these are
   only a preparation for an event that disappears in the very act of
   materializing. No other art is so hard to catch, so impossible to
   hold. (5)

The 1991 NEA/Mellon report further asserted that

   ... dance ... stands as a neglected stepchild vis-a-vis the other
   art forms. Left out of history books, absent from discussions of
   aesthetics and philosophy, overlooked by sociologists, ignored by
   institutions of higher learning, dance as a discipline has been
   relegated to the margins of serious intellectual interchange in
   this country.

       To a large extent, this is because, for much of its
   history, the dance field has had no easy way of recording itself
   and has left few legible documents in its wake. Poetry and fiction
   can be affixed on the printed page; visual art can be set on canvas
   or in stone; drama can be passed on through scripts; music has a
   widely understood notational system. But until recently, dance has
   lacked the means to create tangible, widely accessible records of
   its history. (6)

The report concluded that this paucity of records consigned dance to a "limbo of illiteracy," borrowing a phrase from John Martin's 1950 New York Times article about dance notation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Preserve: Teaching Archives to Dance Companies


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.