The Dance Oral History Project Playlist

By Cassie Mey, Librarian III
April 21, 2020
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Where Dance Speaks

The Dance Oral History Project consists of over 500 in-depth interviews that have been initiated and recorded by the Jerome Robbins Dance Division since 1974. These spoken memoirs vividly surface the personalities, relationships, and creative processes that shape the course of dance history. In the following excerpts from recent Project interviews, narrators describe the personal, cultural, and artistic influences that have inspired them as dancers and choreographers, as well as some of the challenges they faced over the course of their careers. 

1. Sandra Rivera interviewed by Kiri Avelar, 2019

The Interview with Sandra Rivera was conducted by Kiri Avelar in 2019. In this excerpt, Rivera speaks about her experiences as a young dancer that inspired her work Barrio Girl: A Life Through Dance (2001).

2. Ishmael Houston-Jones interviewed by Alex Fialho, 2019

The Interview with Ishmael Houston-Jones (in-process) was conducted by Alex Fialho in 2019. In this excerpt, Houston-Jones speaks about living in Philadelphia as a young choreographer in the mid-1970s, his artistic influences at that time including the Beat Generation poets, and his aspirations to live in New York City.

3. Dyane Harvey-Salaam interviewed by Stephanie Berry, 2019

The Interview with Dyane Harvey-Salaam (in-process) was conducted by Stephanie Berry in 2019. In this excerpt, Harvey-Salaam speaks about performing Eleo Pomare’s Roots at the 1975 tribute to Syvilla Fort, and performing with her daughter Khisekh in Abdel Salaam’s Coming Forth by Day (1990) with the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre.

4. Janet Adler interviewed by Lisa Tsetse, 2019

The Interview with Janet Adler was conducted by Lisa Tsetse in 2019. In this excerpt, Adler speaks about her first childhood tap and ballet classes, and her dream of becoming a dancer in the early 1950s.

5. Pat Catterson interviewed by Ara Fitzgerald, 2019

The Interview with Pat Catterson was conducted by Ara Fitzgerald in 2019. In this excerpt, Catterson speaks about Bessie Schonberg’s encouragement while studying choreography with her during an American Dance Festival summer session in 1966 at Connecticut College.

6. Heather Cornell interviewed by Anthony Morigerato, 2018

The Interview with Heather Cornell was conducted by Anthony Morigerato in 2018. In this excerpt, Cornell speaks about her tap apprenticeship and performing with the Copasetics, especially with Charles “Cookie” Cook, in the 1970s-1980s.

7. Muna Tseng interviewed by Lesley Farlow, 2018

The Interview with Muna Tseng  was conducted by Lesley Farlow in 2018. In this excerpt, Tseng speaks about developing her solo Water, Water for her debut evening-length concert as the Muna Tseng Dance Projects in 1986 after parting ways from dancing with Jean Erdman.

8. Brenda Bufalino interviewed by Tony Waag, 2018

The Interview with Brenda Bufalino was conducted by Tony Waag in 2018. In this excerpt, Bufalino speaks about the sound production challenges she faced while performing as a soloist and directing her company, American Tap Dance Orchestra, in the late 1980s-1990s.

9. Simone Forti interviewed by K.J. Holmes, 2018

The Interview with Simone Forti  was conducted by K.J. Holmes in 2018. In this excerpt, Forti speaks about the inspiration behind creating her News Animations series in the early 1990s, including her father’s habitual reading of the news during World War II and participating in protests against the Gulf War.

10. Maurice Hines, Jr. interviewed by Tony Waag, 2017

The Interview with Maurice Hines, Jr. was conducted by Tony Waag in 2017. In this excerpt, Hines, Jr. speaks about replacing his brother Gregory Hines as the lead in Sophisticated Ladies in 1981.

11. Donna Uchizono interviewed by Levi Gonzalez, 2016

The Interview with Donna Uchizono  was conducted by Levi Gonzalez in 2016. In this excerpt, Uchizono speaks about the influences of practicing surfing and encountering visual art while living in California during the 1970s.

12. Arthur Avilés interviewed by Ramón Rivera-Servera, 2016

The Interview with Arthur Avilés  was conducted by Ramón Rivera-Servera in 2016. In this excerpt, Avilés speaks about his Maéva/Middle March (2000) and the inspiration behind naming his company, Arthur Avilés Typical Theater.

Credits and Acknowledgements

The Dance Oral History Project playlist is compiled by Cassie Mey, Oral History Producer, with contributions by Emma Rose Brown, Audio and Moving Image Assistant. Additional project assistance from Tara Fedoriw-Morris, Digital Production Manager, Tanisha Jones, Assistant Dance Curator, and Linda Murray, Dance Curator, are all gratefully acknowledged.

The Dance Oral History Project interviews are made possible with assistance from the New York State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Schlesinger Family.