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Dance Research Guide: Videos in special collections; video distributors

a guide to outstanding dance resources for research and enrichment

Videos from other sources

Finding tools

The TCU Library's Video Databases page is useful for finding online streaming video. The Worldcat database can be quite useful for locating video materials and ascertaining where they are held, around the United States and beyond.  In Worldcat's Advanced Search use the "Visual Materials" limiter and possibly also the "Archival Materials" selection.  Aside from notes in the catalog record descriptions, the "Libraries" tab indicates where the material can be accessed.  Also available from the databases list, ArchiveGrid appears to be an alternative interface to Worldcat (both are from OCLC) - it provides detailed descriptions of archival collections held by libraries, museums, historical societies, and other archives worldwide.  Archive Finder, a database describing collections of primary source material all over the United States and the UK, is usable by up to four persons at one time.  The Accessible Archives database contains digitized historical books and periodicals. Archives Unbound, from Gale Databases, is still another resource.

Performing Arts Resources - this serial publication from the Theatre Library Association offers detailed articles on materials available to researchers in the performing arts.  Available also in print through 1997.


American Dance Festival Moving Images Collection

Recent American Dance Festival content is now going into the Dance in Video database.  For the large amount of earlier video documentation that exists there are approximately 2,000 films and videos from 1930 to the present residing at Duke University's Lilly Library.  The ADF repository at Duke captures dance performances, classes, panel discussions, showings, interviews and special events.  Not all videorecordings are in the Duke University library catalog, but hundreds are.  While the American Dance Festival doesn't sell copies of its moving images except for those offered at, remote users can arrange for interlibrary loan of videos.

To locate recordings, select "Advanced Search" and put "American Dance Festival" (use quotes) in as an AUTHOR search; from the Format drop-down box select "Videos and DVDs."  In the search results screen categories appear on the left that allow you to subdivide results by categories such as "Modern Dance" "Choreography," "Dance Festivals" (ADF recordings arranged by date), and performing group - for example Pilobolus Dance Theatre.  As of September 14, 2010 749 hits were obtained for an author search for "American Dance Festival," obviously much less than the "2,000 films and videos" referred to at (the link above).  Instructions indicate that for items not appearing in the Duke University library catalog inquiries must be made to the ADF Archives via

ARC Videodance / Eye on Dance

Arts Resources in Collaboration, Inc. (ARC) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1976 to advance the public's access to knowledge about the arts and culture.  ARC's network of interrelated programs includes the EYE ON DANCE & THE ARTS television series and Video Library, one of the largest primary source video collections on dance activities in America.  Prized for its educational and historical value, EOD charts the people and trends defining dance.  Over thirty-five percent of the programs feature artists-of-color and underdocumented contributors no longer living or recorded in any other media.  This major educational archive serves as a resource for university dance instructors, researchers, students, critics, and the dance-interested public.  The complete catalog is available at and purchase - or rather permanent lease (such are the terms) is available at  Some major dance libraries such as Ohio State University and New York Public Library house full sets of Eye on Dance programs.  Until ARC digitizes full transcripts of the 300+ titles in the series (hopefully by 2012), descriptions of video programs can be read from NYPL catalog records or those at Ohio State.  For those wishing to probe the background of this important dance video series, the Library of Congress has an Eye on Dance archival collection.

New York Public Library Dance Collection

Of special interest is NYPL's growing digital collections, including the Jerome Robbins Dance Division Moving Image Archive.  With regard to physical materials, due to the fragility (and often rarity) of NYPL's materials, it's unlikely that the Dance Circulating Collection at NYPL offers videos through Interlibrary Loan, though some other materials may be borrowed - the term "circulating" as applied to video materials at NYPL seems to mean checking the materials out for use within the NYPL.  For in-depth research, a trip to New York City to access NYPL's video materials is worthwhile.  To peruse the possibilities try using NYPL's Advanced search; to search more than one format, press the "Ctrl" key while clicking on DVD, VHS, etc. or, to get video of any format, place the term "videorecording" (all one word) in a keyword box, then add other terms appropriate to your research interests.  You will probably want to select "Dance Research Collection" from the "Collection" drop-down box in order to focus your search more closely. 

Collections at the Library of Congress

A search for Dance among LoC's digital resources yields information on a number of collections of interest to the dance scholar. The Dance link in the "Subjects" division of LoC's Guide to Performing Arts Resources offers an older listing from among LoC's vast special collections in the realm of dance. LoC's so-called "Encyclopedia" is the master finding aid for its Performing Arts collections.  From the Name Index, for instance, one can locate resources on "Shawn, Ted."  Among the amazing collections held by the LoC is the Katherine Dunham Collection, with Video & Motion Pictures that are viewable online, and The New Dance Group Collection (The New Dance Group, founded in 1932 by students of Mary Wigman, fostered the creation of group and mass dances expressive of the working class and, over time, offered classes utilizing the techniques of Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Lester Horton and Merce Cunningham.  Choreographers included Pearl Primus, Anna Sokolow and Talley Beatty, among other luminaries.)  SEE ALSO Historic social dance materials at LoC, featured below.

Dance Film Archive, Ohio State University

Several items in this remarkable collection are available for rental or, occasionally, purchase.  Caveat: many titles seem to be available only as 16mm film.  In the main, however, items held at Ohio State University must be searched using the OSU main library online catalog; the exhaustive Dance Videos page no longer appears. An idea of the extent of collections is gained from the Dance, Mime, Movement web page (Theatre Research Institute). A Dance Film Archive page lists some OSU holdings that are available for sale. OSU Dance's digitization project is featured on a separate web page.

American Archive of Public Broadcasting

This new resource offers a materials in a variety of media, including video, in addition to curated online exhibits. Under the Special Collections tab a "browse" link leads to selectable subjects like Dance. Using the "Media Type" filter simply select video.

Historic social dance materials - Library of Congress

Social Dance videos and research materials from the Library of Congress - This resource exemplifies social dance forms from about 1490 to 1920. A portion of LC's collection, entitled An American Ballroom Companion, Dance Instruction Manuals, 1490-1920, is linked from the main page, and features an Articles and Essays page . A digitized books list is sortable by various criteria including title. The Contributors list includes authors and can be alphabetized. The Conceptual Categories list addresses various themes. Since this is a vast collection, it's a good idea to peruse the excellent introductory material, particularly Western Social Dance: an Overview of the Collection, where you can find essays by era, and How to Read a Dance Manual. The Video Directory leads to video clips illustrate the basic footwork, without costumes, and do not always feature couples. The best viewing experience is obtained by selecting MPEG versions of videos; however, these files can take some time to load.

Providing an additional dimension to the study of social dance, the American Antiquarian Society's An Invitation to Dance: the History of Social Dance in America is featured in an online exhibit highlighting that repository's primary source materials.  Don't miss the "Next page" links at the bottom of the screens!