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Posts from the Jerome Robbins Dance Division

"Hey Up There" Looking Down on Dancers

“Hey up there”

Broadway precision chorus lines were a staple of musical comedies and revues. A straight line of precision tappers, kickers or steppers could excite the audience in the orchestra, looking slightly up, or balcony, from which they were looking slightly down. But Broadway-trained Hollywood dance directors were giving audiences a multitude of angled points-of-view thanks to cameras and booms.

In the 1930s, the Vandamms went all out to give 

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Over 4,000 Dance Prints and Designs Now Available

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division just completed a two year project to catalog our backlog of dance related artwork. We are thrilled to announce that a total of 4,349 objects were cataloged and are now available to the public for research. Retired staff member Susan Au was hired for this project and she researched, cataloged, and rehoused these materials. This blog post is taken from her final report on the project. This project was made possible through funds generously donated from the Friends of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, which is co-chaired by Anne Bass and Caroline Cronson. Read More ›

The Line King's Vandamms

It has been a while since the last blog post. I have been busy with the installation and opening tours related to our final Fall exhibition, The Line Kings’ Library: Al Hirschfeld at The NYPL, which is on view in the Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery here through January 4, 2014. It, the Vandamm exhibit and Michael Peto: Stage in 

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Or She to Hecuba... Vandamm's Greek Plays

Thorndike's 1919 production of The Trojan WomenDuring the War, Florence Vandamm had not lost her skill at showing character and movement. Her career was, in many ways, redefined by the portraits commissioned by Suffragist actress Sybil Thorndike in 1919. She photographed the cast of the 1919-1920 Holborn Empire (Theater) season of classical Greek and modern plays presented by Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson.

The images were used for press reproduction and in the season program. Thorndike chose to present the Gilbert Murray translations of The Trojan Women and 

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A Vandamm Postcard from London

Before leaving London in 1923, Florence Vandamm photographed Sybil Thorndike in at least five additional roles. Thorndike was known for her ability to play comedy and tragedy, so there was a wide range. She appeared in the suffrage play Jane Clegg for Edith Craig's Pioneer Players, 1922, reminding her audience that conditions remained despite the political victory. Thorndike also played in and presented modern comedies, such as Advertising April in 1923.

Theater promotional postcards were re-emerging after World War I restrictions on dark room materials.  

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Lamine Thiam's Dance Oral History Interview

Lamine Thiam teaching dance classThis past spring in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, we were very pleased to produce an inspiring Oral History Project interview with Lamine Thiam. A world-renowned dancer, choreographer, drummer and actor, Mr. Thiam specializes in West African Dance from his native Sénégal and neighboring countries. We digitally filmed Carolyn Webb's interview with Mr. Thiam, so that it is now among the first dance videos to 

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Time Machine: Personal 8 mm Film and Video by Jerome Robbins

I have an inordinate love of 8 mm film. Not just because of its familiar 4:3 TV aspect ratio that so many of us were raised on, but because it was the first medium many of us used for time travel. The persistent click of the pull down claw is a rhythm from memory that can lull us into the past. Occasionally, I feel that I have been the subject of an archival Ludovico Technique and have watched so many pas des deux that when ordinary non-dance material offers me 

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Florence Vandamm

Perhaps the most widely published and least understood visual record of 20th century performing arts, the output of the Vandamm Studio has largely been utilized only as illustrative backdrop for the retelling of Broadway history. The prints, contact sheets, and negatives of theater, music and dance in London (1908–1923) and New York (1924–1963) are among the Library for the Performing Arts's most requested treasures.

Few are aware that the visionary photographer and portraitist who lent her talent and name to the studio was a woman and one who opened her 

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Time Machine: Beauty and the Interval Between

Motion pictures are really a form of compressing time. A shutter opens and closes capturing still images. We are complicit in this magical deceit extrapolating what happened in the interval between. This brief hand colored black and white Edison film in which Annabelle Whitford Moore dances a la trilby or barefoot is my favorite moving image in the library's collection; it is both mechanical and handmade. In this simple embellishment of a magical invention the changing colors hover amorphously over their intended areas 

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Srimathi Gina: A Life Devoted to Indian Classical Dance

A photograph found loose in a binder of Indian classical dance terms and definitions; although the photograph is unmarked, the dancer is believed to be Gina Blau.One needs to only glance at the papers of Gina Blau (also known as the performer Srimathi Gina) to see that her study of Indian classical dance was truly her life's passion. From the highly detailed (and copious) writings in her many notebooks, to the intricate drawings of various hand positions—or 'mudras'—of Indian classical dance, there is a thoroughness and sense of 

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Secrets Revealed: Media from the Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive

I'm Tara D. Kelley, the Audiovisual Specialist for the Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, and I've been keeping secrets from you.

Over the past few months, I've been surreptitiously selecting media for preservation, viewing streaming video files, and producing records for the New York Public Library's catalog. In February, I began submitting these selections for review, preparing for the day when the wonders of Mr. Baryshnikov's collection would be revealed to you.

Well, the secret is finally out! You can now watch streaming files of the first sixteen Baryshnikov 

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The Time Machine of Moving Image Collections

Time Machine: if you could see what I have seen with these eyes.

Time travel is possible within the narrow bounds of my studio. It is remarkable that this can be accomplished with such primitive accessories. Wires and cables are sometimes strewn about reminding me of the Chris Marker film La Jetée. I have had the privilege of moving through time with many artists, through their early choreographies and refining rehearsals. I have watched the curtain open on their stage 

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View the Jerome Robbins Dance Division 2012 Annual Report

When people talk to me at dance events, they often ask a series of questions. How is the Dance Division doing? Does the Dance Division still accept materials? How does the Library store them? Preserve them? What about digitizing the videos? These can take a long time to answer, but there is one place I can point to with much of this information. That is the Jerome Robbins Dance Division's Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2012 (PDF), which is now 

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Freedom to Dance: The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, Part 2 - White Oak Dance Project

The cover of one of the many White Oak Dance project programs within the collection.When Baryshnikov founded the White Oak Dance Project with choreographer Mark Morris in 1990 the focus was to give choreographers a venue for developing new works, as well as creating a touring arm to present them. The project also revisited modern works from previous decades, presenting 

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The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive

Mikhail Baryshnikov signing the Library's Deed of GiftFor some twenty years, the Jerome Robbins Dance Division curators have been speaking with Mikhail Baryshnikov, one of the most celebrated dancers of the Twentieth Century, about the possibility of acquiring his collection.

So, we were thrilled, when on July 14, 2011, Mikhail Baryshnikov donated his archive to The New York Public 

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Freedom to Dance: The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, Part 1

Baryshnikov showed great promise at a young age.Recently, when friends ask me what collection I am working on and I give my answer — "The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive" — I've been receiving unexpected reactions. Everyone seems to have a Baryshnikov story. People who I know have never been to the ballet, who couldn't name another dancer if pressed, have something to say. My younger friends were not even born when he 

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Homage to Jean Léon Destiné

Jean Léon Destiné, master Haitian dancer, choreographer and drummer, died on January 22, 2013. The staff members of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division mourn his passing. And as the Dance Division Curator, I will truly miss him. He was also a great friend of the Dance Division. During his long career as advocate and artist for Haitian dance he donated materials to the 

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Dance on Fire: Spring Programs at the Library for the Performing Arts

The Dance Division is ON FIRE this spring with programs and exhibitions featuring dance from around the world, all at the Library for the Performing Arts! An exhibit on flamenco, 100 Years of Flamenco in New York, will open on March 12 in the Vincent Astor Gallery, and another on Cambodian ballet, Memory Preserved: Glass Plate Photographs of the Royal Cambodian Dancers, will open on March 28 in the Plaza Corridor Gallery. Be sure to visit to check those 

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Recording the Life of a Dancer

An oral history interview is a lot more than just any old conversation or sound recording. Although the definition of oral history is dynamic, it usually refers to the collecting of individual histories, according to specific ethical and methodological guidelines, and the responsible preservation and archiving of those recordings. While human history has been collected and shared orally for thousands of years, oral history as a modern organized activity is said to date only to 1948 when Allan Nevins began the now highly respected

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"It's Great! But Why is it Here?" Musical Revue Research Guide, Part 2

In the Research Guide, Part I, I advised that the easiest way to find information at LPA is by name or title. I advised that the research can benefit by compiling a list of every person in or involved in a production and serendipity can come your way. That third dancer from the left can become a star and/or obsessive collector or just happen to have the right piece of information in a clipping file. Sometimes, however, you can do your research prep and be looking in a 

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