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Choreography Archives & Preservation

For choreographers approaching new projects, it’s often a good idea to know what has been done before. That’s where archival and choreographic research comes in. As the demand for preservation of our precious dance resources grows, more of our 20th-century choreographers are looking for ways to preserve their works, their methods and artistic processes and organizations and libraries are not only service as resource centers for preservation, but also for artistic depositories for choreographic works across genres and styles. 


Dance Heritage Coalition is a national alliance of institutions holding significant collections of materials documenting the history of dance. Its mission is to preserve, make accessible, enhance and augment the materials that document the artistic accomplishments in dance of the past, present, and future. 




The Library of Congress’s Performing Arts Reading Room in Washington, D.C., is the access point for the vast and diverse collections in the Music Division. Numbering approximately 20.5 million items and spanning more than 1,000 years of Western music history and practice, these holdings include the classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, iconography, microforms, periodicals, musical instruments, and close to 500 special collections in music, theater, and dance.  Among them are collections of 16th to 20th-century dance instructional and etiquette manuals and ancillary research materials, and the Library’s American Memory website “An American Ballroom Companion, Dance Instructional Manuals, ca.1490-1920,” which is a major resource, used worldwide by students and scholars. Additionally, the collections include papers and materials of pioneers in American modern dance: Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation Collection, Erick Hawkins Collection, Helen McGehee and Umaña Collection of Dance Materials, Katherine Dunham Collection, Lester Horton Dance Theater Collection, Martha Graham Collection and Martha Graham Legacy Archive, May O’Donnell Archive, Miriam Cole Collection, Pola Nirenska Collection, Robert Ellis Dunn Collection, and Ruth St. Denis Archive.



New York Public Library’s Jerome Robbins Dance Division Audio and Moving Image Archive is a virtual space for dance enthusiasts and researchers alike to browse, search, compare, and comment on dance videos and images — then share their discoveries with others! Make note that the items can be viewed ONLY ONSITE at the library:


The BAM Hamm Archives reveal the 150-year history of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and also tell a story of the communities — civic and artistic — that made BAM what it is today. The archives contain approximately 3,000 linear feet of materials dating from 1857 to the present, including newspaper clippings, photographs, books, playbills, promotional material, video, architectural plans, posters, administrative records, production elements, art and other materials related to BAM. The archives and its staff provide a rich and unique resource for researchers interested in BAM artists, the history of performing arts in the United States, and in Brooklyn’s social history. 


The Dance Notation Bureau (DNB) archives include an online Notated Theatrical Dance Catalog, which is available from the DNB website; the notation of modern American dance masterpieces, including works of Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Mark Morris; the transcription of handwritten scores to LabanWriter, a computer software application that functions like a word processor, allowing Labanotation scores to be edited and stored on a computer in publication quality format; and the presentation of notation workshops to teach professional dancers to read the Labanotation score to stage a work. The DNB continues to serve the dance community at large by preserving, contracting, and notating important dance works for future generations. 


The Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute at Ohio State University serves as an archive for performers, playwrights, choreographers, designers, producing organizations, and theater and dance companies, among others, and advances the study and inspiration of the performing arts. In association with the Department of Theatre, the institute acquires, preserves, and makes accessible materials documenting the performing arts for the purposes of scholarship, education, and enjoyment; provides an active teaching component; serves as a source for new works creation, development, and reconstruction; and enriches patrons’ experiences of these materials, which reveal our performing arts culture and history. 

The Harvard Theatre Collection in Cambridge, Mass., encompasses nearly every aspect of the history of stage performance throughout the world, with special emphasis on the history of the English and American stage and the history of dance. The areas of popular entertainment, such as circus, minstrelsy, magic, fairgrounds, vaudeville, and cinema, and music theater, including opera, are also well represented. 


The Museum of Performance + Design (MPD) in San Francisco, Calif., is an independent institution with a research library and archive dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available to the public information and materials on the performing arts, with special emphasis on the performing arts history of the San Francisco Bay Area.  




The Isadora Duncan Archive and its mission is to maintain and continually expand a comprehensive and non-commercial website which will serve as a centralized resource for locating information and materials on the technique, choreography, philosophy and history of Isadora Duncan and subsequent generations of Duncan practitioners.



German Dance Archives Cologne (Deutsches Tanz Archive Köln) was founded in 1948 by the dancer and teacher Kurt Peters. Today, the Deutsches Tanz Archiv Köln is part of a global network of institutions and initiatives that aims to preserve knowledge of the art of dance. As a center of information, documentation, and research, the Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln is carrying out a task of national importance.


Harald Kreutzberg 
Aus: 'Drei irre Gestalten' 
Photo: Hans Robertson, 1927 
© VG BildKunst, Bonn


Dance Collection Danse is the Canadian national dance archives and publisher dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of Canadian theatrical dance history.