About the Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Phone: (212) 870-1657
Fully accessible to wheelchairs
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, the Division acts as much more than a library. It is part archive, part documentation center, and part educational service to the dance community. By gathering diverse written, visual, and aural resources, the Division preserves the history of dance. The Division also 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. While the division contains more than 44,000 books about dance, these account for only a small percent of its vast holdings. Other resources available for study free of charge include papers and manuscript collections, moving image and audio recordings, clippings and program files, and original prints and designs.
Consists of an extensive array of books, encyclopedias, periodicals and commercial DVDs which illuminate all aspects of theatrical and non-theatrical forms of dance. The collection is especially strong in dance history, dance instruction, and biographies of leading dance figures.
Circulating and reference materials can be found on the Library’s 1st and 2nd floor.
Popular Research Collections
Archival manuscripts and Rare Books
Twentieth century developments in the field of dance are chronicled through more than 1 million manuscript items. Ranging from choreographic notes, letters, and diaries, to contracts and financial records of major companies, such materials provide vivid primary source documents left by historical dance figures. Among the Division’s over 44,000 research books are rare books from the last five centuries.
Clippings, Program Files and Journals
In addition to an unsurpassed journal collection, articles culled from hundreds of American and foreign newspapers and arranged under names of choreographers, dancers and companies create thousands of clipping files. These, with program files, substantially simplify the process of primary-source research.
Iconography, Prints, and Designs
Prints, original designs, posters, and photographs provide rich insights into details of costume and set design, overall production development, as well as performance style. The Division’s collection of images portray a range of performances, set designs, companies and dancers, both notable and lesser-known, from the 17th century through current day.
Materials from the Research Collections can be accessed on the Library’s 3rd floor. Most materials, including moving image and audio recordings, are available to researchers on a daily, first-come, first-served basis, without appointment. For further information, please consult our Frequently Asked Questions.
Jerome Robbins Audio and Moving Image Archive
Dance Audio Archive
Home to more than 4,000 unique and rare audio recordings that capture the voices and ideas of performers, choreographers, composers, designers, and dance scholars from the mid-20th Century to the present. These recordings, mostly acquired through donations, encompass a wide range of original content, including:
- Radio Broadcasts
- Panel Discussions and Public Lectures
- Classes and Workshops
- Dance Magazine Awards Ceremonies
Moving Image Archive
The moving image archive of the Dance Division began when choreographer Jerome Robbins donated six cans of film—along with a gift of a small percentage of his royalties as author of the musical Fiddler on the Roof—to the Division in 1965. Half a century later, the archive has grown to over 25,000 titles of moving image materials on a variety of film, video and digital formats through donors’ gifts and original documentations. Past projects undertaken by the Moving Image Archive and Dance Original Documentations offer innovative solutions to the recording of performances, the preservation of at-risk recordings, and providing our researchers with broader digital access. Examples include:
- The Collaborative Editing Project to Document Dance
- The Bhutan Dance Project, in collaboration with Core of Culture, is a project to record and preserve the Kingdom of Bhutan’s disappearing dance traditions.
Dance Original Documentations
Unique to the Dance Division is our program to document live dance performances. Through in-house efforts of original documentation since 1967, our Moving Image Archive has created, and added to its collections, footage of over 2,600 dance performances primarily in New York City.
A distinct, searchable collection of over 500 in-depth audio interviews that have been initiated and recorded by the Library in an effort to add to the existing primary source material available to researchers in dance. Listen to excerpts of selected Oral History Project interviews on our Oral History Channel.
Several collections in NYPL’s Digital Collections portal represent the growing number of materials being digitized by the Division:
Education and outreach
The educational mission of The Jerome Robbins Dance Division is to support the creation of one-of-a-kind, inquiry-based learning experiences to complement curriculum taught in a classroom or studio. We use materials from our collection to frame dance practice in a historical context. Our focus is on community memory as it relates to the human experience of physical expression. We are delighted to enter a new phase of educational stewardship and would like to share that excitement with your students or organization. To enhance the learning experience we offer:
Guided tours of the building including catalog instruction
Class visits to complement classroom learning
Viewing of Special Collections footage
Exhibit tours with an emphasis on core subjects and project-based learning
If you are ready to book your visit, please fill out the visit request form.
Guided-visit appointments: Please allow three weeks between requesting the visit and the visit date.
Self-guided visit appointments, exhibits only: Please fill out the visitor form. Allow two weeks between requesting the visit and the visit date. The capacity for The Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery(Plaza Level) is 40 students. The capacity for The Vincent Astor Gallery (Lower Level) is 20 students.