June 16, 2021

Research Resources: USC Libraries Releases “Dance Heritage Video Archive”

From USC Libraries:

Through a first-of-its-kind partnership between the USC Libraries and the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, the USC Digital Library recently debuted a collection of 1,200 video recordings of culturally significant dance performances, rehearsals, media productions, and interviews with pioneering choreographers and dance artists. The project is made possible by generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The newly available Dance Heritage Video Archive includes treasures like an irreverent 1977 performance of “Swan Lake” by Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in Berkeley, California; interviews with renowned tap performers Yvonne Edwards, Deborah Mitchell, and Germaine Ingraham; and a 1957 performance of Alwin Nikolais’s “Cantos.”

Among the many other highlights are a 1988 performance by Magnificent Force of the piece “Hip Hop Hands,” a Royal Danish Ballet performance of “Greening,” a 2004 performance of Donna Uchizono’s “Butterflies from My Hands,” and performances highlighting New England contra dance and other regional U.S. folk traditions.

The recordings trace the evolution of ballet, experimental dance and performance, folk styles, hip hop, and numerous other forms of human movement. They also document the creative contributions of dance artists like Ze’eva Cohen, Douglas Dunn, Terry Fox, Lawrence Goldhuber, Anna Halprin, Heidi Latsky, Pearl Primus, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem—among many others.

The resource was originally created over a 15-year period by the Dance Heritage Coalition through digitization activities at three hubs in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. A special area of focus for the project was obsolete, at-risk media such as Beta, Umatic, and VHS tapes.

A generous grant from the Mellon Foundation is supporting work by the USC Libraries and USC Kaufman to migrate the collection to the USC Digital Library and—for the first time—make substantial portions of it widely available for online public access.

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The project team is working closely with artists represented in the DHVA collection to secure the necessary permissions to make more recordings available. Thus far, 266 recordings have been made publicly available via the USC Digital Library. The remaining recordings are accessible on a password-protected basis for dance educators, libraries, and other research and teaching purposes.

In future phases of the project, the USC Libraries and USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance team will continue to seek out and digitize at-risk recordings, with a special focus on Southern California dance heritage. The team is now conducting outreach to dance artists and performing companies in the greater Los Angeles region about this phase of the project.

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Direct to Dance Heritage Video Archive

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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