Dance History

News: Barbara Morgan Photo Archive Comes to UMass Amherst

Photographer Barbara Morgan is well-known for chronicling the development of modern dance from the 1930s to the ’50s. Her portfolio includes such luminaries as Erick Hawkins, Pearl Primus, Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham. Now 38 of her historic images are in the charge of the UMass Amherst College of Humanities and Fine Arts.

Morgan’s grandson Nils Morgan and his wife Kara Rillings Morgan donated the collection after discovering the link two UMass professors had to his grandmother’s work.

Nils Morgan, who had been seeking out universities to receive the photos, first approached professor Paul Dennis after learning that he had danced with the José Limón company. Limón’s image is prominent among Barbara Morgan’s work. Dennis forwarded that message to Peggy Schwartz, who, it turned out, had worked closely with Nils’ father Lloyd years earlier to exhibit Pearl Primus photos, some of which had never been seen before. Currently Schwartz and her husband Murray are co-authoring The Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus.

Faculty will use the photos as part of a history of 20th century dance course and students can use the exhibit as a “teaching” gallery, much like the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY. UMass’ dance department plans reconstructions of Primus and Doris Humphrey works for its December 2010 concert to go along with the exhibit. For more: www.umass.edu

Neuromuscular expert Deborah Vogel with Jordan Lazan, right. Photo by Jim Lafferty

By strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle, a dancer can help prevent or correct existing pronation. Having strong intrinsic foot muscles keeps the arches aligned, preventing them from dropping inward.

Here, Vogel shares three strengthening exercises to help correct and prevent pronation. She advises dancers to include these in their cross-training regimen.

Mobilize your ankles. (Step 1)

For this ankle mobilization exercise, having a TheraBand wrapped around your ankles puts pressure on your feet to pronate. By resisting that action and keeping your feet centered through the relevé, you're essentially training the ankle where center is.

  • Sitting up straight in a chair, with your feet planted on the floor a few inches apart, tie a TheraBand in a loop around your ankles. You can place a yoga block vertically in between your knees to maintain space between your legs.

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Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts

Ellen Robbins' modern dance classes for kids and teens are legendary in New York City. Robbins, who has been teaching kids how to dance since the 1970s (and whose pupils included the actresses Claire Danes and Julia Stiles), takes the standard recital model and turns it on its head. Her students—ranging in age from 8 to 18—are the choreographers for the annual concert she produces at esteemed NYC venue New York Live Arts.

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Photo by Grant Halverson, courtesy of ADF

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"I was so overwhelmed seeing all the dancers do Afro-Cuban dance with live music. It was the moment my soul reconnected to Cuba and to my roots," says Ruiz of his first trip back. "I started weeping." He saw that, while Cuban companies and schools have amazing knowledge and passion for dance, they needed access to train with teachers in a variety of techniques, and choreographers outside of Cuba. "Cuba is still struggling economically, so the dancers also don't have good ballet shoes or costumes, and The Windows Project was my way to begin to help," he says.

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