Dance Like Nobody’s Watching: Dance Memorabilia in the CHS Collection

March 28, 2017 · Collections ·

Outdoor Dance Floor, Colt Park, Hartford, September 5, 1921, gelatin silver print on paper, Connecticut Historical Society collection, 1981.66.17

The month of March may be known for basketball’s Big Dance, but it also commemorates special anniversaries in dance. This Friday commemorates the 94th observation of Dance Marathon Day, and March marks the 35th anniversary of the Connecticut Ballet, among other special dates in the coming months. Connecticut Historical Society’s collection includes a variety of dance cards, performance programs, photographs, and manuscript materials surrounding this art form.

“The One and Only Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at Bushnell Memorial Hall”, Hartford, May 1-2, late 1940s, Connecticut Historical Society collection, Ephemera Dance Performance Programs.

Both dance cards and performance programs have been used to exemplify form and function from the late 19th century to the present; dance cards featured a fabric loop to fit a lady’s wrist, a small pencil to write her dance partners’ names, and made from materials like wood, leather and paper board. Popular dances, including the “two step”, the “lanciers”, the “quadrille”, the “grand march”, and the “cotillion”, were noted on the cards.

As dance cards faded into obscurity by the 1930s, performance programs became a modern replacement for showcasing the latest dances, choreographers and modes of expression.

Pioneers like Truda Kaschmann (Hartford) are credited for having ushered dance into the Nutmeg State. The 1942 program for The Elements of Magic features the performance Clay Ritual, which Kaschmann choreographed. Prima ballerina Anna Pavlowa (Russia) visited Connecticut in the 1910s and 1920s, having performed divertissements that she too choreographed, such as the New Egyptian Ballet (1923). Later programs featured talents such as the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Nutmeg Ballet, and performances covered the state. This spring, as the NCAA championship winner is chosen, perhaps you’ll also think of the many dancers who have graced Connecticut’s stages over time.

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