Visiting the Institute of Museum and Library Services at the Society of American Archivists conference in Chicago in August.
l to r: IMLS 21st-Century Librarian Program Officer Kevin Cherry, DHC Executive Director Libby Smigel, and DHC Board Chair Nena Couch, curator of the Theatre Research Institute at The Ohio State University.
Program will provide trustworthy advice to artists and dance companies and create new resources for community-based archiving
September 23, 2016
Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC) today announced the launch of "Ask an Archivist," a new service that will provide guidance to artists and dance companies through free phone or on-line consultations on how to save and share their legacy materials. This program is generously supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.
For more than a decade, DHC has offered direct assistance to dance companies and independent artists, providing archive assessments, inventories, digitization services, and help with organizing, preserving, and developing sustainable long-term plans for legacy records. In 2010, with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, DHC developed templates and workflows for archive assessments and inventories, and evaluated the needs and challenges faced by dance companies in preserving and using the records of their work. Artists at all stages of their careers benefit from good records management practices, which enable them to actively use their archives for re-staging, marketing, education, engagement, creative repurposing, and fundraising. DHC receives a steadily increasing number of queries from artists and dance companies seeking information or guidance on archiving issues, from what to do with obsolete format videos or decades' worth of paper records, to how to effectively manage digital assets.
The establishment of the "Ask an Archivist" program enables DHC staff to provide one-on-one consultations and conduct follow-up to ensure archiving projects stay on track. Acting Executive Director Imogen Smith will lead the program; she has directed DHC's artist services since 2011 and has worked with artists around the country to create assessments and inventories, prepare AV materials for digitization, and create legacy plans. Additional specialized advice will be provided by members of DHC's Board of Trustees, who are experts in the field of dance archives and represent major dance research collections nationwide, and by David Rice, DHC's Director of Digital Projects, a nationally recognized consultant on audiovisual preservation and web archiving.
In addition, DHC will develop and test a suite of online tools and resources, augmenting the NEA-funded Artist's Legacy Toolkit and Records Management Guide currently available on DHC's website. Curricula for artist-targeted workshops and webinars, and a manual of best practices for community-based archivists working with performing artists, will lay the groundwork for an expansion of shared archival services to dance communities in the future.
This project implements findings from two DHC-led planning grants funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. "Planning Artist-Driven Archives" and "Strengthening Living Archives" both revealed the importance of empowering artists to envision and take control of their own legacies; creating flexible, adaptable solutions for diverse stakeholders; and working with regional communities to strengthen local arts ecosystems. (The project white paper "Strengthening Living Archives: a Plan for Empowering Artists and Communities" is available on DHC's website.) In focus groups and surveys, artists consistently described lack of resources, time, and expertise as the primary challenge they faced in documenting and preserving artifacts of their performances. Increasingly, artists work independently, without the infrastructure provided by an established company. Few artists or small arts organizations can afford to retain a dedicated archivist or videographer, or purchase equipment needed for high-quality documentation and secure storage of digital assets.
With "Ask an Archivist," artists nationwide, including the emerging and under-resourced, will have access to trustworthy advice from dance-savvy archivists about handling digital, AV, and other artifacts. The program will help build community networks through social media and project blogs, sharing of case studies and linking of peer groups. By raising awareness of available resources and strengthening expertise within the dance community, the project will build grassroots capacity and encourage knowledge-sharing throughout the field.
Community Archivists to provide in-person services for 3 regional dance communities & DC Humanities Council supports artist focus groups
National webinars on archiving will be open to all
May 7, 2015
Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC) today announced a $35,000 award from the National Endowment for the Arts through the "Art Works" program. DHC will provide archival assistance to dance companies and artists by placing Community Archivists in New York, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon. Community Archivists will offer in-person assistance and workshops to participating companies. DHC will also create online resources and webinars to ensure this program reaches all 50 states. NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, "The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States. Funding these new projects like the one from Dance Heritage Coalition represents an investment in both local communities and our nation's creative vitality."
DHC also announced a $1,500 award from the DC Humanities Council for "Planning Frameworks for Cultural Programming about DC's Dance." This project will convene DC-area artists and dance companies to explore ideas for using digital video of their work in public programs about dance in DC.
Since the early 2000s, DHC has provided direct assistance to artists and dance companies to help them manage their records and to preserve and share their legacies. Dance companies are "living archives" that create new records of their activity while using these records constantly for re-mounting works, marketing, fundraising, and engaging audiences. They have a critical need for trustworthy advice and hands-on help. A Community Archivist can provide services to multiple companies within a single region: visiting regularly to answer questions, offering workshops, conducting assessments and inventories, and preparing audiovisual materials for digitization. "As a member of the Chicago Dance History Project's steering committee, I am so pleased to see the Dance Heritage Coalition's plan for placing a Community Archivist in Chicago come to fruition," said Michael J. Kramer, DHC member and visiting faculty at Northwestern University. "The Chicago part of this story is particularly underappreciated, underdocumented, and understudied. This DHC program will facilitate the preservation of and access to the artistry of individuals as well as the fascinating story of shared cultural experience in our collective dance community."
For the focus groups in DC, DHC will encourage companies to use their legacy collections to engage the public with programming that showcases the artistic, historical, and cultural significance of their work. Partnerships with Knock on Wood Tap Studio and Capitol Tap Company, Silk Road Dance Company, and Atlas Performing Arts Center, along with other attendees, will ensure a breadth of dance styles and genres in the conversation. DHC will produce "frameworks" that can serve as models for companies to adapt for sharing their own stories with the public. Laurel Victoria Gray, artistic director of Silk Road Dance Company, said, "This project spotlights the rich diversity of dance in DC. By celebrating our creative legacy, these public programs will open the door to new cross-pollination."
These two projects will build grassroots capacity and peer-to-peer support networks, since workshops and focus groups will bring the dance community together to share knowledge and resources.
May 4, 2015
New webpages devoted to these subjects, with essays, resource lists and curated visual materials, will be added to the DHC's online exhibition, America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures. The development of this exhibition is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures are selected through a process of nominations, voting by the public, and vetting by experts in the field. In the latest round, it was originally planned to name 12 additional Treasures; because of extremely close vote tallies, the DHC Board of Trustees decided to ratify a "baker's dozen" of 13 new Treasures.
The honorees are:
Josephine Baker: Dancer, singer, and actress who became a celebrated star in France, appearing in theatrical revues and films that popularized jazz and African-American culture in Europe. Iconic for her sensational performances and "exotic" costumes, she was also a spokesperson for racial tolerance and civil rights.
Ann Barzel: Dance writer and historian who pioneered filming of live dance, creating unique records of otherwise undocumented performances.
Joan Myers Brown: A teacher and advocate for dance and communities, she founded PHILADANCO (The Philadelphia Dance Company), the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, the International Association of Blacks in Dance, and the International Conference of Black Dance Companies.
Clark Center for the Performing Arts: Created by Alvin Ailey in 1959 as a multi-racial, multi-ethnic arts community in New York City, the Clark Center was an incubator for many significant dance artists, offering training in diverse dance forms and support for emerging companies through the New Choreographers program.
Eye on Dance: Influential television program launched in 1981 by Celia Ipiotis and Jeff Bush to help propel dance literacy. Episodes focused on diverse themes, included in-depth interviews and performance footage, and were supported by extensive research.
Michio Ito: Japanese choreographer and performer considered an overlooked pioneer of modern dance. Despite his artistic and popular success in New York and Los Angeles, Ito was interned as an enemy alien during World War II and subsequently deported to Japan.
Alonzo King: Internationally recognized choreographer, teacher, and director of Alonzo King LINES Ballet, who has expanded the range of ballet with a global perspective and multi-cultural collaborations.
La Meri: Ethnic dancer, teacher, lecturer, and writer, she had an encyclopedic knowledge of world dance forms, including Hawai'ian, Spanish, Indian, Chinese, Burmese, and others. As a mentor to countless students including Jack Cole and Matteo, her influence continues to be widely felt.
Lar Lubovitch: Modern dance choreographer and company director who has demonstrated remarkable versatility in creating works for major ballet companies, ice dance shows, Broadway, and film.
Isamu Noguchi: Japanese-American sculptor who created groundbreaking modernist set designs for Martha Graham and George Balanchine.
Pilobolus: Inventive, collaborative dance company founded at Dartmouth College, now internationally known for imaginative, athletic, often humorous work.
Ginger Rogers: Fred Astaire's best partner, she brought dramatic depth to their duets and contributed to some of the most enduring dance films to come from Hollywood.
Urban Bush Women: Brooklyn-based company with the mission of revealing stories of the disenfranchised through dance, exploring women-centered and African-diaspora perspectives, and seeking social justice.
Of the new honorees, dance scholar Martha Ullman West observes, "It is said that no one is irreplaceable, but there are always exceptions to any rule: Isamu Noguchi changed set design for dance forever by making it three dimensional and interactive. Ann Barzel sneaked her 16mm camera backstage in Chicago and filmed performances of Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free and George Balanchine's Symphony in C that we can still watch. As a dance historian, critic, and occasional teacher, I find America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures an irreplaceable resource for myself and my students."
"The response to DHC's latest call for nominations and voting was overwhelming." DHC Project Manager Imogen Smith, who has worked on earlier phases of the Treasures project, remarks, "The number of votes and the enthusiasm expressed in comments from those who weighed in demonstrates how the Treasures list has come to be valued in the communities of dance practitioners, educators, and scholars. Being named as a Treasure is recognized as a significant honor."
The list of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures encompasses individuals, organizations, and dance styles, and 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. The online exhibit celebrating the Treasures is "an invaluable resource in the dance history classroom," reports Rosemary Candelario, assistant professor of dance at Texas Woman's University. "When I train future dance educators in my pedagogy courses, I highly recommend that they use the Dance Treasures in their classes as examples of high-quality and pithy dance research that is accessible for the undergraduate dance student."
The original list of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: The First 100 was selected in 1999, based on nominations from the dance community and vetting by selection committees made up of experts from across the country. Twelve more Treasures were added to the list in 2012. From 2003 to 2009, the first 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures were celebrated in a national touring exhibition, created through the collaboration of DHC member archives, which contributed still images and video clips from their collections. The exhibit appeared at seven sites around the country, including museums, libraries, and cultural centers.
DHC converted this traveling exhibition to a permanent online resource, launched in July 2012, which celebrates the Treasures and provides accessible scholarly writing, still and moving images, and research guides for each subject. Each Treasure has an individual page, with introductory text written by scholars Norton Owen and Lynn Garafola for the traveling exhibition, images and video clips, and links to new essays by an array of dance scholars and critics, and resources for further research. The exhibition is intended as an educational resource to improve dance literacy, as a tribute to the achievements and legacy of American dance, and as a sampling of the best in dance history and critical writing. The exhibition has been embraced by educators as a teaching tool that provides a substantial and engaging introduction to dance history for students.
Along with the addition of pages for the 13 new Dance Treasures, this phase of the project will include enhancements to the site's navigation tools and educational resources. DHC invites you to explore the exhibition and celebrate the richness of American dance!
Digital resource will save online dance writing and performance videos; San Francisco Bay Area will serve as test site
May 1, 2015
Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC) announces a $35,000 award from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of the Knight Prototype Fund to develop "Culture Conversations," a prototype for linking born-digital media and related arts writing.
"The average life of a webpage is a hundred days." This startling statistic appeared in an article about the Internet Archive by Jill Lepore, published in The New Yorker of January 26, 2015. Since writing about dance, along with other forms of arts criticism, now takes place mostly online, and frequently outside of well-established newspapers or magazines, the instability of webpages clearly presents a stark challenge to the survival of today's dance writing. Where will scholars of the future learn about the dance of our time? How will potential audiences be engaged by and educated about the art form?
While some online resources like the Internet Archive are saving vast amounts of web content, this content isn't easy to find. DHC will create a fully searchable subject-specific online site that will present dance writing and link it to streaming videos of related dance works. By linking direct documentation of performances with context and critical viewpoints, DHC will help save the lively conversations that surround and support the creation of dance and other arts.
"We need to make sure that the 21st century has lasting voices about dance," said Libby Smigel, DHC Executive Director. "American writers across the country told the story of modern and postmodern dance as they witnessed it. Their writing spurred audiences to tell their own stories in letters to the editor. These print media have lasted. We hope this prototype project will make blogs and their comments and other digital dance writing last for future readers."
"Through Culture Conversations, we hope to learn more about the potential of curated archives for preserving digital media," said Chris Barr, Knight Foundation director for media innovation, who leads the Prototype Fund. "The tool may uncover lessons on how other communities might save material that could be lost to the ever-changing web."
The Knight Foundation Prototype Fund provides funding for early-stage media and information projects and is specifically designed to promote experimentation and learning. The proposal for "Culture Conversations" was chosen from over 500 applications to the Fund. To develop and test the resource that DHC envisions, this prototype will focus on selecting recent material from the San Francisco Bay Area, a diverse and vibrant community of dance practitioners, critics, and cultural heritage organizations.
"No one has done more to protect the work and vital history of Bay Area dance than Dance Heritage Coalition," said Dave Archuletta, executive director of Joe Goode Performance Group. "We are very excited to learn of this new endeavor to link dance writing to video, in an effort to preserve the work of both artists and critics for future generations. For anyone who has worked in the dance field, the challenge of archiving and documenting work is all too familiar. Too often, we have allowed our work to disappear into the ether without a trace, or to let our rare videos and critical documentation corrode in inaccessible basements. DHC has been a vital resource to Joe Goode Performance Group and many other Bay Area organizations, enabling us to protect our archives and to make them accessible. We welcome this new initiative with excitement, and look forward to working with DHC to raise the visibility of Dance as an art form, while creating a resource for the public at large."
Culture Conversations builds on many of Dance Heritage Coalition's existing programs and strengths, including outreach and services to artists to help safeguard their legacies, as well as close ties to the community of dance writers and scholars. The project builds on DHC's long-term initiative to create an online resource for digital dance videos so that full recordings of seminal works can be viewed for study and teaching. For the project, DHC will partner with technology consultants Dave Rice and Tessa Fallon, recognized leaders in the field of audiovisual preservation, web archiving, and web design, who have a strong commitment to digital preservation of cultural heritage. Lessons from the prototype phase will be applied to an expansion of the resource to other regions, with the ultimate goal of creating a nationwide database of dance writing. The project will also provide a model for other arts to save their own cultural conversations.
Pictured: Libby Smigel and Judith Hamera
Libby Smigel, executive director of Dance Heritage Coalition, was awarded the 2014 Dixie Durr Award for Outstanding Service to Dance Research by the Congress on Research in Dance. This peer-nominated award recognizes "the indispensable aid rendered the field of dance studies by people who sustain existing structures, institutions, and organizations for dance research." (CORD website) Libby accepted the award, presented by Judith Hamera, at the joint conference of the Congress on Research and Dance and Society of Dance History Scholars in Iowa City on November 14, 2014.
For more information on the Dixie Durr awards, visit the Congress on Research in Dance.
The Dance Heritage Coalition is pleased to launch "Artist-Driven Archives," a new blog advancing a vision of archives as a vital component of dance-making.
The blog features cases studies of artists exploring innovative ways to document, preserve, and enhance their creative legacies. Along with video, audio, images, and posts, the site includes notes on focus groups hosted by the Dance Heritage Coalition and background on the Artist-Driven Archives project. Users are invited to submit questions, comments, and ideas to the site.
"Planning Artist-Driven Archives" addresses the dance field's need for a new vision of how its heritage can be preserved through the involvement of artists in developing their own models to document their legacies and creative processes. In November, 2013, the Dance Heritage Coalition convened artists, archivists, arts presenters, and dance scholars in three focus groups to explore visions, models, and challenges for artist-driven archiving. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The blog, which will regularly add new case studies, is intended to continue and expand the conversation. Initial case-studies feature David Gordon, Bebe Miller, and Sarah Maxfield.The Dance Heritage Coalition is grateful to the artists who have contributed to this project.
Visit Artist-Driven Archives and take part in the conversation!
April 2, 2014
The Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC) has named the 2014 recipients of Fellowships in Dance Preservation and Archives for master's degree students, supported by a generous three-year grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The 2014 Fellows are Brittany Austin, Heather Darnell, Natalie de Almeida, Katherine Isham, Ellen LeClere, Keahiahi Long, Lotus Norton-Wisla, and Ailina Rose. Year 3's eight finalists were selected from a large applicant pool of highly qualified candidates and represent the geographic, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the field's young professionals, as well as the diversity of interests encompassing digital collections, traditional dance forms, audiovisual preservation, and community engagement.
The fellowship program will kick off with a week of orientation workshops and site visits for the cohort, held for a second year in the dance- and library-rich city of Chicago. Fellows will receive training in dance-related librarianship and archival practices at one of the DHC's nationally distinguished dance archives, a practicum placement at a smaller dance collection like a dance company or historical society, and travel to national conferences. Fellowships for Summer 2014 are $10,000 each.
This grant was the first time that this IMLS program had supported a dance-specific project, and only two other previous awards in the history of the grant program had singled out performing arts librarianship. "Dance is a part of our nation's rich cultural heritage," said Susan Hildreth, IMLS Director. "It is important that we share this knowledge and ensure these valuable resources are available to the widest audiences."
DHC Executive Director Libby Smigel observed, "This new crop of fellows is ready to take on the challenges of helping an underfunded field save and share their multiformat legacy materials. Each of their applications demonstrated a strong connection to the arts as well as a range of personal and professional talents that will help carry forward the important work of Susan Hildreth's words."
2014 Fellowship Placements
American Folklife Center, Library of Congress - Lotus Norton-Wisla, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dance Notation Bureau - Natalie de Almeida, University of California, Los Angeles
Houghton Library, Harvard University - Heather Darnell, University of Maryland
Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives - Brittany Austin, San Jose State University
Museum of Performance + Design - Keahiahi Long, University of Hawaii
Museum of Performance + Design - Ailina Rose, Pratt Institute
Newberry Library - Katherine Isham, University of Texas, Austin
University of Minnesota - Ellen LeClere, University of Wisconsin, Madison