Phone: (212) 870-1657
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Download the Dance Division's FY12 Annual Report
The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library is the largest and most comprehensive archive in the world devoted to the documentation of dance. Chronicling the art of dance in all its manifestations - ballet, ethnic, modern, social, and folk - the division is much more than a library in the usual sense of the word. It is part museum, part film production center, and part consulting service to the professional dance community. It preserves the history of dance by gathering diverse written, visual, and aural resources, and it works to ensure the art form's continuity through an active documentation program.
Founded in 1944 as a separate division of The New York Public Library, the Dance Division is used regularly by choreographers, dancers, critics, historians, journalists, publicists, filmmakers, graphic artists, students, and the general public. Working with the division's vast resources, a user can reconstruct an Elizabethan court dance, a 19th-century Italian tarantella, or a 20th-century Ceylonese devil dance; determine what makeup Nijinsky wore in Scheherazade; learn the problems Picasso faced in working on the ballet Parade from letters in his own hand; or compare the modern dance styles of Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and Doris Humphrey.
While the division contains more than 42,000 reference books about dance, these account for only 3 percent of its vast holdings. Other resources available for study free of charge include:
Films and Videotapes
The thousands of films and videotapes in the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image preserve the ephemeral art of dance. Material ranges from the earliest Edison reels to the latest television broadcasts; from ethnic dances to ballets by Balanchine; from Broadway musicals to dance therapy and notation.
Audio interviews, which can often be more informative than edited and published memoirs, bring to life the personalities and forces that shape the course of dance history.
Clipping and Program Files
Articles culled from hundreds of American and foreign newspapers and arranged under easily accessible subject headings create thousands of clipping files. These, with program files, substantially simplify the process of primary-source research.
Prints, original designs, posters, and photographs – from Mary Wigman's design for her own production of Le Sacre du Printemps, to renderings by artists such as de Chirico, Bakst, Chagall, and Noguchi -- provide rich insights into details of costume and set design, as well as performance style.
Manuscripts and Memorabilia
More than 1 million manuscript items, ranging from choreographic notes and diaries to contracts and financial records of major companies, provide vivid details about the history of dance. Such rarities as an early dance treatise by the Italian-Jewish dancing master Giorgio Ebreo and Madame Pompadour's personal copy of libretti for divertissements performed at Versailles for Louis XV exemplify the division's rich resources.