Dance Oral History Project

The Dance Oral History Project actively documents the lives and legacies of dance artists through the initiation and recording of in-depth oral history interviews. These unedited testimonies bring to life the personalities, creative process, and relationships that shape the course of dance history.

Dance Oral History Project Participants 2023
Recent participants (Lto R): Sahasra Sambamoorthi, Sridhar Shanmugam, Janaki Patrik, Kamala Cesar;
LaTasha Barnes, Barbara Billups, Ephrat Asherie, Break Easy,  Tina Pratt,  Chris Harder;
John Towsen, Hank Smith, Tony Waag, Jenai Cutcher, Diane Grumet, Jacqulyn Buglisi

All of the project’s recordings and transcripts are accessible on the third floor at the Library for the Performing Arts.

A dynamic collection of over 600 interviews taken since 1974, oral histories enrich the Jerome Robbins Dance Division’s archive with the voices of dancers, choreographers, educators, collaborators, scholars, and producers working in a wide array of genres and styles within the broader dance field. The project holds a strong focus on New York based dance artists but also encompasses dance practitioners across the United States and globally. In all, the Dance Oral History Project reflects the rich ecosystem of the dance field.


The project generally focuses on late-career and retired dance artists, usually over the age of 60. Criteria for participation include notable achievements in the dance field and demonstrated influence in passing along the art form to future generations. We also consider whether a person’s story is at risk in some way due to illness, diminishing participation in a dance form, and underrepresentation in the archive.

Do you have a nomination or know someone who would like to participate? If so, please email

All interviews are confidential until they are released to the public by the narrator. Any further access restrictions placed by the narrator will be indicated in the interview’s catalog record.

Dance Oral History Project Narrators 2021-2022
Recent virtual narrators (L to R): Ella Thompson Moore, Kim Holmes, Donald Byrd; 
Cholly Rock, Anne Benna Sims, Judith Smith;
Buddha Stretch, Violeta Galagarza, Float Master John

Special Projects

Street, Club & the Birth of Hip-Hop

In 2020, we launched an ongoing series of oral histories to focus on groundbreaking and prominent figures of street, club, and early hip-hop dance styles from the 1970s and onward. The project partners annually with artist liaisons, active in preserving the legacy of hip-hop dance styles, in order to identify and select participants. Artist liaisons include legendary B-girl and co-founder of Full Circle Souljahs Ana “Rokafella” Garcia, Ladies of Hip Hop Executive Director Michele Byrd-McPhee, award-winning dance artist LaTasha Barnes, and notable B-girl and oral historian MiRi Park.

Watch a panel conversation celebrating our initial participants: We Out Here: Street Dance Oral Histories & Hip-Hop Culture

COVID-19 Dance Worker Narratives Project

During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, we organized a remote interview project to immediately document the personal experiences unfolding within the dance community. We broadly invited all dance artists, teachers, students, and workers in NYC and across the United States to conduct online interviews with their peers for inclusion within the Dance Oral History Project.

Learn More

Our Steps, Our Stories: An Irish Dance Legacy Archive

These oral histories were recorded alongside Library for the Performing Arts residencies undertaken by Jean Butler, Irish dance practitioner and contemporary choreographer, along with the Our Steps Foundation. The interviews preserve the stories of Irish dance master practitioners, teachers, and former dancers from across the Irish dance diaspora, including the U.S., Canada, Ireland, and the U.K.

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Aids Oral History Project

In the late 1980s - 1990s, a major focus of the Project were the lives and work of dance professionals at risk due to HIV and AIDS.  More than twenty initial interviews were recorded as part of this effort.  Some of the narrators chose to speak about their HIV status but not all did.  The interviews do not make up a separate collection, they are held within the archive of dance oral histories.  In recording current oral histories, some of the  narrators  also reflect back on the original AIDS plague years and its impact upon their lives.

See list of related oral histories here.


The Dance Oral History Project was launched in 1974 by the Jerome Robbins Dance Division as part of its ongoing efforts to address gaps in the documentation of this ephemeral art form. Interviews were first initiated around the lives and careers of Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Lucia Chase, Alexandra Danilova, Ninette de Valois, Martha Graham, Alicia Markova, and Leonide Massine. Since then, the project has recorded interviews with choreographers and dancers working in a wide array of dance genres and styles about their own lives.

Lesley Farlow and Emma Rose Brown, 2019


Listen to Lesley Farlow (L), the founding Oral History Coordinator, describe the early years of the project to Emma Rose Brown (R), former Oral History Assistant.



Susan Kraft and Cassie Mey, 2019


Listen to Susan Kraft (R), second Oral History Coordinator, talk with Cassie Mey (L), Oral History Producer, about the impactful experience of conducting one of her first interviews for the project with dancer Chris Komar.




Contact Us

Dance Oral History Project, Jerome Robbins Dance Division