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Visions and Voices: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Archival Collections

A guide to research on dance to accompany the Visions and Voices program featuring Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

National and International Archival Collections

Listed below are archival collections related to dance in all its forms. Note that many dance festivals, events, and performance companies maintain their own archives. Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from organization websites.

  • Association of German Dance Archives [in German] -- a consortium of five dance archives and collecting institutions–-Archive of the Academy of the Arts, Performing Arts Dance Archive, Leipzig, German Dance Archive, Cologne, German Dance Film Institute, and the Bremen Mime Centrum in Berlin---dedicated to documenting and preserving the legacy of dance, movement and choreography in Germany and to the restoration and digitalization of outstanding parts of the collections and to inquiry into the existence of further important collections in private hand or in public institutions such as TV broadcasting stations, theaters, or municipal archives.
  • Carson-Brierly Dance Library -- a special collection held at the University of Denver that serves the Rocky Mountain dance community, including historians, researchers, students, teachers and devotees in preserving and providing access to materials relating to social, theater, ethnic, ritual, dance-drama, and related dance studies.
  • Dance Collection Danse -- created by Canadian dance artists working in the 1940s and 1950s for the purposes of preserving their works through reconstruction, notation, videotape and photography, this group is devoted to building and preserving unique collections in theatrical dance and to sharing these materials with the public through exhibitions, publications, and educational programming. The archive includes over 800 hours of oral history interviews with Canada's early dance artists.
  • Dance Heritage Coalition -- an alliance of institutions that maintain significant collections of materials documenting the history of dance. Its mission is to preserve, make accessible, enhance and augment the materials that document all periods of the artistic accomplishments in dance. The organization also pursues collaborative projects among the dance communities, library and archival fields, scholarly institutions, and individuals that ensures access to materials, the continuing documentation of dance employing both traditional methods and developing technologies, preservation, and education within and beyond the field of dance.
  • Dance Notation Bureau -- founded in 1940, the Bureau is the only American institution of its kind to record and archive dance using a symbol system called Labanotation, first published by Rudolf Laban in 1928. The organization has produced and houses Labanotation scores by artists such as George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Antony Tudor, Bill T. Jones, Doris Humphrey, William Forsythe, José Limón, Laura Dean, and about 270 others. Each year the Bureau assists in staging around 150-200 performances based from its archive of scores.
  • Digital Dance Archives -- provides public access, via a single web platform, to five distinct collections of modern, postmodern, and contemporary works from the National Resource Centre for Dance (NRCD), as well as Siobhan Davies RePlay. These collections represent over one hundred years of British dance performance, creation, and research and include photographs, films, drawings, and other ephemera.
  • Online Archive of California -- a searchable online directory providing detailed descriptions of primary digital and print archival collections maintained by more than 200 contributing institutions, including public, special, and academic, libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums throughout California as well as special collections maintained by each of the University of California campuses. Users can browse the collections alphabetically or use the site’s search box. Note that, in most cases, you should contact the institiution first to ensure that any print materials you want to look at are accessible and available when you visit.
  • Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress -- online portal to the vast and diverse collections in the custody of the Music Division at the Library of Congress that includes close to 500 special collections in music, theater, and dance. Information about resources for the study of dance can be found here.

Archival Materials in the USC Libraries' Special Collections

The Special Collections department of the USC Libraries maintains several important archival collection of dance-related materials.* To use these resources, you can visit the Special Collections department on the second floor of Doheny Library or email specol@usc.edu. Note that it is best to contact the department first so that materials that you want are available when you visit.

  • Don Bondi Collection -- programs from performances of ballet, modern dance, and musicals; pamphlets and journal offprints discussing dance and dancers.
  • Fred Astaire Manuscript Collection -- collection consists of the manuscript and galley proofs of Fred Astaire's book Steps in Time, published in 1960. Fred Astaire (1899-1987) was a world renowned dancer, choreographer and film star.
  • Grell/Colefax Russian Ballet Archive -- consists of films, books, photographs, sound recordings, posters, costumes, and artwork related to Russian ballet, chiefly the Bolshoi Ballet Company. Collected by Los Angeles resident Dwight Grell from the early 1950s through the 2000s. Many of the materials are in Russian. This collection represents a broad range of subjects: Russian and Soviet Dance; choreography and costume design; and Russian and Soviet culture, including popular culture, as reflected in programs, print materials, and photographs.
  • Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival -- dance and souvenir programs for Ted Shawn and his Men Dancers, 1934-1938, and for the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, 1954-1955 and 1957-1958; publicity materials and dance programs, circa 1940-1949, for dancers Barton Mumaw and Foster Fitz-Simons; stylized drawings, circa 1936, of Ted Shawn, Barton Mumaw, Frank Overlees, Dennis Landers, Foster Fitz-Simons, Fred Hearn, and Wilbur McCormack; and photographs of Ted Shawn (1954) and Barton Mumaw (circa 1941).
  • Lewitzky Dance Company -- based in Los Angeles, California, the Lewitzky Dance Company was formed in 1966 by Bella Lewitzky and gave its last performance on May 18, 1997. The archive consists of papers, films, photographs, costumes, programs, posters, stage plots, and sound recordings. It covers the Company's archived and working papers from all offices, including the Manager, Booking and Production offices.
  • Rudy Perez Archive -- archive of the papers, clippings, programs, books, videos, costumes and photographs from the work of modern dance choreographer Rudy Perez, currently based in Los Angeles.


* Content descriptions are from Finding Aids written by the  USC Libraries, Special Collections department.