Dance comprises an entire world of spiritual and secular ideas, stories, emotions, and human experience, understood and expressed through movement. The rich history of dance in America serves as a reflection and a record of the nation's increasingly diverse, dynamic culture.
In the Fall of 1999, the Dance Heritage Coalition solicited nominations for America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: the First 100. Over 900 nominations from across the full range of American dance artistry, forms, and traditions were submitted and vetted through a three-stage process of selection committees made up of experts from across the country.
The list of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: the First 100 is intended to heighten public interest in the magnificence and richness of America's dance heritage and the imperative to document and preserve it for future generations.
An irreplaceable dance treasure has:
- Made a significant impact on dance as an art form
- Demonstrated artistic excellence
- Enriched the nation's cultural heritage
- Demonstrated the potential to enhance the lives of future generations
- Shown itself worthy of national and international recognition
From 2003 to 2009, the Irreplaceable Dance Treasures were celebrated in a national touring exhibition through a collaborative exhibition to which the DHC archives contributed still images and video clips. This exhibit, which opened at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (New York City), traveled to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival (Becket, Massachusetts), the Museum of Performance & Design in San Francisco, and the Ohio Cultural Center in Columbus (in association with the Theatre Research Institute at The Ohio University). This national tour garnered interest of hosts outside the DHC archives: later the exhibition was sponsored by Dance Bridge in Boulder and the Denver Public Library (in association with the Carson-Brierly Dance Collection at the University of Denver), both in Colorado, and a final installation at the Hofstra University Museum, Hempstead, New York.
View the installation of the Treasures Traveling Exhibition at 5 sites
The traveling exhibition elicited such interest from the public and dance community that the DHC sought to find a life for the exhibition after it closed. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded the DHC support to create an Online Exhibition of the Dance Treasures. This online exhibition includes fresh perspectives on the Treasures, and additional images, references, and resources. In December of 2012, the DHC named 13 more legendary American Treasures.
In 2016, DHC launched an updated and expanded version of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures, including all original elements of the exhibition as well as new pages celebrating 13 Treasures named in 2015 and interactive features for browsing, learning, and testing dance history knowledge.
View the new site and give us your feedback:
The following essays by Martha Ullman West were commissioned as companion pieces of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures.
|Alvin Ailey||Suzanne Farrell||Mark Morris|
|NEW! Josephine Baker (coming soon)||Federal Dance Project||Arthur Murray|
|American Ballet Theatre||Bob Fosse||Daniel Nagrin|
|American Bandstand||Frederic Franklin||NEA Dance Program|
|American Dance Festival||Loïe Fuller||Native American dance|
|Fred Astaire||Savion Glover||New Dance Group|
|Charles "Cholly" Atkins||Martha Graham||New York City Ballet|
|George Balanchine||José Greco||Nicholas Brothers|
|Balasaraswati||Anna Halprin||Bronislava Nijinska|
|Ballet Russe||Erick Hawkins||Alwin Nikolais|
|Mikhail Baryshnikov||Margaret H'Doubler||Rudolf Nureyev|
|Michael Bennett||Martha Hill||Nutcracker, The|
|Bennington School of Dance||Gregory Hines||Ruth Page|
|Busby Berkeley||Hip-Hop||Anna Pavlova|
|Adolph Bolm||Hanya Holm||Eleanor Powell|
|Trisha Brown||Lester Horton||Pearl Primus|
|John W. Bubbles||Hula||Jerome Robbins|
|Irene and Vernon Castle||Doris Humphrey||Bill "Bojangles" Robinson|
|Charleston, The||Sol Hurok||The Rockettes|
|Lucia Chase||Michael Jackson||Ruth St. Denis|
|Christensen Brothers||Jacob's Pillow||San Francisco Ballet|
|Jack Cole||Jerome Robbins Dance Division, NYPL||Savoy Ballroom|
|Honi Coles||Robert Joffrey||Bessie Schönberg|
|Aaron Copland||Bill T. Jones||School of American Ballet|
|Merce Cunningham||Master Juba||Ted Shawn|
|Asadata Dafora||Judson Dance Theater||Oliver Smith|
|Jacques d'Amboise||Gene Kelly||Anna Sokolow|
|Dance Notation Bureau||Lincoln Kirstein||Square dance|
|Dance Theater Workshop||Bella Lewitzky||Swing dance|
|Dance Theatre of Harlem||José Limón||Maria Tallchief|
|Alexandra Danilova||Eugene Loring||Helen Tamiris|
|Chuck Davis||'Iolani Luahine||Paul Taylor|
|Carmen de Lavallade||John Martin||Twyla Tharp|
|Agnes de Mille||Sophie Maslow||Jennifer Tipton|
|Edwin Denby||Matteo and Carola Goya||Antony Tudor|
|Jane Dudley||Donald McKayle||Edward Villella|
|Isadora Duncan||Meredith Monk||Charles Weidman|
|Katherine Dunham||Lillian Moore|