Charles Weidman and the New Dance Group

“The story of the New Dance Group is one of constant experiment, of continued branching out, of conceiving new ideas and coming to new conclusions”1

The New Dance Group was founded in 1932 by Nadia Chilkovsky, Miriam Blecher and other students from the New York Wigman School who wanted dance to focus more on social and political causes. New Dance Group stated in their first program that “Dance is a Weapon of the Class Struggle”2 and sought to offer inexpensive dance classes to all ranges of workers and people alike. Classes cost ten cents and consisted of one hour of Wigman technique, one hour of creative work and one hour of discussion.

New Dance Group Class Schedule

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

Gradually the interest in the proletariat “was replaced by a more general sense of humanity”3 and the curriculum branched out to include Humphrey-Weidman, Graham, eurythmics, percussion, folk, ballet and tap, in addition to the original Wigman and Holm technique.

Weidman's "Classroom Modern Style"  Millie Hirsch Rockefeller an, Lucy Biberman

Weidman’s “Classroom Modern Style” Front: Millie Hirsch Rockefeller and Behind: Lucy Biberman

By 1934, Charles Weidman was giving studio talks and appearing on New Dance Group programs. Other Humphrey-Weidman men such as Bill Matons, William Archibald and Jose Limon were also early participants. Humphrey-Weidman technique became a staple, taught by Beatrice Seckler, Nona Schurman, Bill Bales, Joe Gifford and others. Weidman continued his association with the New Dance Group at least until 1960, when he founded his own “Expression of Two Arts” studio on 29th Street.

"Mostly About Women" with Charles seated in front

“Mostly About Women” by Charles Weidman. Top row from left to right: Murray Berkowitz, Millie Hirsch, Lucy Biberman, Joe Whiteaker, Louis falco. Bottom row:Jack Wiener, Miriam Pandor, Charles Weidman, Marsha Gevins, Loretta Abbot, Ralph Davis, Charlotte Walsh.

Weidman's "Mostly About Women"
Weidman’s “Mostly About Women”. Top row left to right: Millie Hirsch, Joe Whiteaker, Lucy Biberman, Murray Berkowitz, Patricia Nachman. Bottom row: Ralph Davis, Loretta Abbot, Jack Wiener, Charlotte Walsh

At the 92nd Street Y’s extraordinary celebration of the New Dance Group this past February, we had the opportunity to learn about Weidman’s later work at the New Dance Group. Dancer and dance educator, Millie Hirsch Rockefeller, presented photos, programs and class schedules from this time, as well as information on two dances not previously included in Weidman chronologies, “The Convert” and “Mostly About Women”.

Portion of program showing "Mostly About Women"

Portion of 1959 program showing redicovered dances: “Mostly About Women” and “The Convert”

Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in "War Against Men and Women"
Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in “War Between Men and Women”

New Dance Group closed their doors in 2009 and now, unsuspecting dancers take class and attend rehearsals in what used to be New Dance Group studios, now DANY Studios operated by The Joyce Theater.

For more information on New Dance Group, check out this article by Victoria Philips.

1Lloyd, Margaret. The Borzoi Book of Modern Dance, Dance Horizons, 1949.

2Philips, Victoria. New Dance Group (1932-2009), Dance Heritage Coalition, 2012.

3King, Eleanor. Transformations, Dance Horizons,1978.

Words by Nadira Hall

Post by Julia Jurgilewicz

Pauline Koner Centennial Celebration

On May 17th, 2013, dance lovers and connoisseurs will have a rare opportunity to see the choreography of Pauline Koner. Preeminent Koner expert, Evelyn Shepard, has lovingly and painstakingly reconstructed three important Koner works that will be presented at the 92nd Street Y’s Fridays at Noon series.

Pauline Koner

Dancefusion Company will perform Concertino (1955). The  dance takes place in the time of the Renaissance where “a lady and her ladies-in-waiting  are first at court” where they present themselves as “elegant, formal, conversational.” Next  a solo reveals “the woman behind the elegant façade” and is followed by a lively dance where “the wear and tear of court formality are forgotten.”

Ryoko Kudo and Pablo Francisco Ruvalcaba of the Jose Limon Dance Company will perform Poeme (1962), a ”tender yet provocative” love duet,”influenced by Chagall*, whose women, when transported emotionally, fly in the air or soar upside down.”

"Dance" by Marc Chagall

“Dance” by Marc Chagall

360 Dance Company will perform The Shining Dark (1956), a trio inspired by the life of Helen Keller. In Pauline’s words: “ I had long been thinking about Helen Keller whose only medium of communication was movement—the manual alphabet…so I dug in and learned the manual alphabet”. The dance is comprised of four sections: “World of Nothingness,” “World of Awakening,” “Panic of Loss,” and “Remembered Image.”

Danelle Morgan in Pauline Koner's The Shining Dark; photography © Jashiro Dean

Danelle Morgan in Pauline Koner’s The Shining Dark; photography © Jashiro Dean

While dance maverick Pauline Koner is impossible to categorize, we consider her part of the Humphrey Weidman family. Pauline Koner’s initial dance training was with Michel Fokine. Early on she pursued her own solo career, while also performing extensively with Michio Ito and then Yeichi Nimura. In the mid 1940s, seeking guidance in the choreographic process, she began a long association with Doris Humphrey.  Especially memorable for her role as Emilia in Limon’s Moor’s Pavane,  Koner was also a guest artist with the Jose Limon Dance Company from 1946-1960.

Jose Limon rehearsing with Pauline Koner

Jose Limon rehearsing with Pauline Koner

Less known is Koner’s association with Charles Weidman. Inspired by Abner Dean’s** drawings, Pauline became intrigued with creating a satire on “the insanities, complexities and hilarities of living.” As the characters “crystallized”, she naturally thought of Weidman. “I approached Charles with trepidation. After all he was a senior member in the hierarchy of modern dance. Charles accepted and I was thrilled.” Thus, Amorous Adventure was born. Pauline played “A Kind of Wife” and Charles  ”A Sort of Husband”, while Lucas Hoving portrayed “Variations from the Norm.” After it’s premiere in 1951, Winthrop Palmer wrote: “Pauline Koner’s Amorous Adventure …was a delightful spoofing of comic eugenics and the battle of the sexes with never a moment of social significance, for which it deserves a gold medal…”

Drawing by Abner Dean

Drawing by Abner Dean

Also a noted teacher, Koner developed her famous course “Elements of Performing.” Her elegantly articulated concepts of breath, suspension, rebound, and weight could easily be part of a primer on Humphrey Weidman technique.

Don’t miss this chance to see Pauline Koner’s artistic creations. Films will be shown in the lobby starting at 11:00 AM, followed by live performance and panel discussion at noon.

Friday May 17, 2013

92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center

1395 Lexington Avenue, NY, NY

To learn more about the event, visit the 92nd St Y website here.

All quotes from Solitary Song by Pauline Koner, Duke University Press, 1989

Also recommended: Elements of Performance by Pauline Koner, Harwood Academic Publishers, 1993

*Marc Chagall (1887-1985) was a Russian born artist known for his use of many artistic mediums including painting, stage sets, book illustrations, and ceramics to name a few

**Abner Dean (1910  – 1982) was an American cartoonist who often depicted extremes of human behavior