Midwest Dance Collection

Chicago Opera Ballet dancers Orrin Kayan and Jeanne Armin, 1960.  Dance MS Barzel Research, Series 2, Box 18.
Chicago Opera Ballet dancers Orrin Kayan and Jeanne Armin, 1960. Dance MS Barzel Research, Series 2, Box 18.

Throughout its 125-year history, the Newberry has collected a variety of materials relating to the performing arts, including dance treatises dating from the 15th through 19th centuries. Since the early 1980s, with the guidance of Chicago dance documenter, collector, and journalist Ann Barzel, the library has become a significant center for the study of dance history in Chicago and the Midwestern region. Barzel’s own massive dance collection – 500 document boxes of photographs, subject files, posters, programs, and other paper materials; 3,200 books; 70 periodical titles; and 30,000 feet of her own 16 mm. films of local and touring dance companies dating from the 1930s – forms the nucleus of the library’s Midwest Dance Collection.

As part of the Midwest Dance Collection, the Newberry also collects dance-related personal papers, ephemera, books, and archives of dance studios and dance companies centered in the greater Chicago area, as well as material relating to national and international companies as they perform locally. The ever-growing Midwest Dance Collection now comprises 79 discrete collections, including the personal papers and memorabilia of individual dancers, journalists, photographers, publicity agents, and choreographers, and the records of dance companies, schools, festivals, and dance advocacy groups. Of particular note are the papers of Margot Grimmer, Edna McRae, Ruth Page, Elisa Stigler, Ernestine Stodelle, and Mark Turbyfill. The records of the Stone-Camryn Studio, Chicago City Ballet and School, Doris Humphrey Society, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, MoMing Dance and Arts Center, Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble, Performing Arts Chicago, and Chicago Dance and Music Alliance are also available for research.

Additional dance-related materials are to be found throughout the Newberry collections, notably in its strong Midwestern manuscript and archival holdings documenting music and theater, and in extensive sheet music and theater program collections. Most importantly, dance’s cultural heritage may be studied within the context of the library’s broad and deep special collections focused on the history and culture of Europe from the Middle Ages and the Americas (including indigenous peoples) from the era of discovery.

Abstracts for the Newberry’s Midwest Dance Collection are available online.  Many collections also have online inventories; see the Abstracts page for more information.