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Saturday, October 29 & Monday, October 31

Día de los Muertos: The Dance of Life and Death

Saturday, October 29, 8PM
Wentz Concert Hall
North Central College
171 E. Chicago Ave
Naperville, IL 60540

Monday, October 31, 7:30PM
Symphony Center
220 S Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60604

Tickets & More information: www.chicagosinfonietta.org/1617season/dia-de-los-muertos/

The Chicago Sinfonietta accompanies what may have been the first narrative dance film ever made, Danse Macabre.

CFA offers up a beautiful high-resolution rendition of Danse Macabre, a 1922 film from the Ruth Page Collection. The young Ruth Page plays “Love,” Adolph Bolm plays “Youth,” and Olin Howland plays “Death.” The extraordinary Mei-Ann Chen conducts music by Camille Saint Saëns to accompany the film.

From the Chicago Sinfonietta’s description:

In our darkest moments of loss and bereavement, our enduring love shines through and lights our way forward. Feelings of loss give way to cherished memories, and like the beautiful melodies of great music, these images and sounds fill our hearts and help us to dance again. Our Día de los Muertos concert will explore these themes through evocative music and stunning, rarely scene silent films, culminating in the infectious rhythm of Rivera’s PizziCuban Polka (Chicago premiere) and Galindo’s Sones de Mariachi that will send you home with a spring in your step – a true celebration of life.

Hours:

8PM & 7:30PM

Ruth Page Collection Fully Catalogued

Guest poster here—it’s Pamela Krayenbuhl, announcing that I have completed the cataloguing process for the vast Ruth Page Collection of dance film and video. It has been a long journey, but now that I’ve earned the advantage of hindsight, I am pleased to provide a general overview of the collection and highlight a few gems of particular interest (out of hundreds!).

Ruth Page was a trailblazer in the field of American concert dance, and helped to establish Chicago as a center for American ballet even before George Balanchine founded the School of American Ballet in New York City in 1934. The films and videos of the collection here at CFA visually document her long career as a choreographer and company director, from the Page-Stone Ballet of the 1930s to the Chicago Opera Ballet in the 1950s and 60s, and the Chicago Ballet in the 70s—though there were also several interim company titles such as The Ballet Guild of Chicago, The Ruth Page Ballets, and Ruth Page’s International Ballet. Over the years, Page’s choreographic style and subject matter changed a great deal. Below, in a 1957 video from Series II of the collection, Page explains the arc of her early career to Ken Nordine for a Chicago television program.

Many of the works Page describes to Nordine—both the earlier, jazzier Americana ballets and the middle period of opera ballets—are represented in this collection. Series I in particular houses films of the more thoroughly documented older works, often in performance but sometimes in rehearsal as well. Series II shifts toward later works by virtue of its video format, though video conversions of the earlier films are present as well. Series III fills out the narrative with filmed interviews with Page and many of her collaborators over the years.

The archive suggests that, by the 1970s, Page shifted her focus from showcasing her own choreography toward curating works by other artists on the bodies of her company dancers. This decision seems to have been fueled at least in part by funding difficulties and the lack of a consistent ‘home stage’ for the company; Page (along with various co-directors and presidents such as Ben Stevenson and Geraldine Freund) tried to draw in audiences by importing both guest dancers and choreographers from around the world. This resulted in a wide variety of works being funneled through Chicago. One example of the company’s innovative approaches to its problems is the work Scat, which was choreographed for the Chicago Ballet by former New York City Ballet dancer Lois Bewley. Below is a video of a rehearsal of the work, which was choreographed specifically to be performed ‘in-the-round,’ and which the company then premiered in such a space at the Drury Lane Theater in Chicago’s Water Tower Place during early 1977.

Here are some additional examples indicating the fascinating range of Chicago Ballet rehearsals recorded during the 1970s:

  • Caliban (Act I; Acts II & III) – A full-length rock-n-roll ballet (inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest), choreographed by James Clouser and set to music by the band St. Elmo’s Fire. It was premiered by the Houston Ballet in May 1976; its Chicago premiere occurred on Thursday, October 13, 1977 at the Medinah Temple.
  • Façade – A ballet choreographed by prominent British choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, to music composed by William Walton. Its one act of seven to ten divertissements is based on the 1923 avant-garde performance work Façade – An Entertainment by Walton and Edith Sitwell. This Chicago Ballet version was staged in 1975 by Richard Ellis and Christine Du Boulay.
  • Moonscape – A modern dance work choreographed by Jan Stockman Simonds, set to music by Michael Horvit and inspired by her husband’s work with NASA. It was premiered by the Houston Ballet in June 1975; this video represents either a dress rehearsal or performance of the piece on April 15, 1976 by the Chicago Ballet.
  • Rhythms – A modern dance work choreographed by company member Richard Arve for Ruth Page’s Chicago Ballet in the early 1970s.  It uses several tracks of popular music from the era, including “Embryo,” “Children of the Grave,” and “Into the Void” from Black Sabbath’s 1971 album Master of Reality and Morton Subotnick’s 1968 The Wild Bull (Part A).
  • Water Study– A canonical modern dance work choreographed by modern dance luminary Doris Humphrey in 1928, set not to music but natural human breathing and pulse rhythms. This video of a reconstruction of the work was recorded on January 26, 1978—perhaps for a 50th anniversary performance by the Chicago Ballet.

The Ruth Page Collection also includes not only rare performance recordings of such famous dancers as Talley Beatty and Marjorie Tallchief (in 1957 & 1959) in works by Page, but also a number of equally rare tapings from television that were of interest to Page…and any dance enthusiast. Two of my personal favorites are this 1978 copy of Twyla Tharp’s Making Television Dance and this segment of Paul Taylor choreography, beautifully (and hauntingly?) performed by Rudolph Nureyev and Bettie de Jong, from a 1971 CBS special entitled Singer Presents Burt Bacharach.

I will leave you with one final morsel, which most clearly encapsulates (for me) Page’s long-spanning, rich, and varied career. It also speaks to how fortunate we are that so much of it was recorded on film and video. This particular tape is divided into two parts: first, one of CFA’s four episodes of the 1960s television program Repertoire Workshop from Chicago, and second, a compilation of film excerpts in both color and black & white (mostly rehearsals or intimate home-studio performances) from the first half of Page’s career—some of them including Page herself as a dancer! The difference in style between Page’s televised choreography for Carmen and José during the first half, and then the pas de trois and her own outdoors solo from an earlier version of this same ballet during the second half, demonstrates a fascinating stylistic development over the 20+ year interim between the two.

It has been a privilege for me to spend so much time with the Ruth Page Collection. Now that the project is complete, I am rather sad to be leaving Page’s world. The research process of digging through old reviews from the Chicago Tribune, dancers’ bios from around the country, and choreographic records of all kinds really gave me a sense of how influential Page was, not only for Chicago dance audiences, but for artists and audiences all over the world. There is definitely something for everyone—costumers, set designers, choreographers, anthropologists, and beyond—in this collection. Tell your friends!

Pamela Krayenbuhl is a Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellow and PhD candidate in Screen Cultures at Northwestern University. Her dissertation examines the intersection of dance cultures with commercial film & television cultures in midcentury America, with a particular focus on race and masculinity. She also dances with and choreographs for the Chicago-based Modet Dance Collective, which she co-founded in 2013.

Ruth Page Collection Update + a Surprise Find

RUTH PAGE COLLECTION UPDATE…

We’re almost finished uploading all of the Ruth Page films to the Ruth Page Collection Finding Aid (we have about 25 films more to go). After that we will be uploading the collection’s videos, whose formats range from 2″ and 1″ open reel formats to the more familiar cassette varieties of Betacam and Betacam SP.  Thanks to a grant from the NEA and Donnelley Foundation, we were able to ship the tapes out to Bay Area Video Coalition to have digital preservation files made of each video. Be on the lookout for these uploaded videos in the upcoming months! The content of the videos range from oral history type interviews with Ruth Page collaborators to taped rehearsals and performances.

Pamela Krayenbuhl

I’d also like to remind you all that none of these Ruth Page Collection films or videos are fully cataloged quite yet (more on our decision to publish these materials early here). But we have good news! Thanks to another grant from the NEA, we’re currently in the beginning stages of cataloging. As we’ve mentioned before, describing a dance collection can be tricky and requires a deep understanding of dance and dance history.  We are delighted to welcome Pamela Krayenbuhl on board to complete this project. Pam is a PhD student in Screen Cultures and a Mellon Foundation Fellow in Interdisciplinary Studies at Northwestern University, and holds an MA in Screen Cultures and a Graduate Certificate in Critical Theory from Northwestern as well as a dual BA with highest honors in Rhetoric and Interdisciplinary Studies from U.C. Berkeley. Her research focuses on screendance, primarily dance film, while her other academic interests include intermediality, adaptation, authorship, and American popular culture. Pam is also a ballet dancer, choreographer, photographer, and poet. Pam’s dance background and academic interests will certainly prove invaluable throughout the year long process to catalog CFA’s Ruth Page Collection dance films and videos.  

A SURPRISE FIND….

While uploading the remaining films we came across what we think to be a pretty rare find. It’s a 16mm camera original reversal print featuring another pioneering Ruth of dance – Ruth St. Denis (1879 – 1968). In the reel (embedded below) Ruth performs her famous East Indian Nautch dance….enjoy!

 

 

Premiere of Jeff Parker Film Scores

For tomorrow’s FIRST STEPS program at Columbia College we enlisted the talented Jeff Parker (pictured above) to score all of the silent Ruth Page films and home movies, including:

DANSE MACABRE (1922), BOLERO (1930), VARIATIONS ON EUCLID (circa 1938),  FRANKIE & JOHNNY (1938), and Ruth Page Home Movies shot in Bali, Indonesia (circa 1928)

We have been blown away at the quality of Jeff’s work and are really really excited to share his scores with the public for the first time. Each score melts naturally into the film, making the previously silent images feel more alive and accessible rather than interrupted or interfered with.

Jeff Parker is a guitarist, composer, educator, and sculptor of sonic textures. Since 1990, he has focused on being adaptable in musical environments that are constantly changing. His sonic palette may employ techniques from sample-based technologies, analog and digital synthesis, and conventional and extended techniques from his 35 years of playing the guitar.

Recognized as one of contemporary music’s most versatile and innovative electric guitarists, his music is characterized by ideas of angularity and logic, as well as an instantly recognizable tone on the instrument. He works in a variety of mediums, from Jazz to contemporary music, using ideas informed by innovations and trends in both popular and experimental music. He creates works that explore and exploit the contrary relationships between tradition and technology, improvisation and composition, and the familiar and the abstract.

He is a founding member of the critically acclaimed and innovative groups Isotope 217˚ and Chicago Underground, and a longtime member of the band Tortoise. He has released several collaborative albums under his own name. Currently he has been focusing on solitary work and solo performance – to cultivate and establish an idiosyncratic relationship between electronic and acoustic compositional properties in music and sound. (bio courtesy of Jeff Parker)

You can see and hear it all at FIRST STEPS – Thursday, May 1st (7PM) at Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash, 8th Floor). More on the program here

Giving Thanks

CFA has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. This week we learned that CFA was awarded three grants – one from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), one from the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and another from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

The NEH grant ($6000) will go towards purchasing steel archival shelves for two massive collections – the Frank Koza Newsreel Collection and the Robert & Terry Davis Travelogue Collection. Combined, these two collections have over 2,700 film & audio elements. We are delighted (and thankful!) to give these collections a nice and stable home within our temperature controlled vault.

A treat from CFA’s Robert & Terry Davis Collection, OBEY YOUR AIR RAID WARDEN (1942, Robert Davis & Harry Hilfinger):

We are also excited to announce that the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation matched our recent NEA grant of $20,000 with $34,500 to digitize the remainder of the Ruth Page Dance Collection. This collection contains dance rehearsals and performances that date back to 1922 including footage of Rudolph Nureyev soon after his defection from the Soviet Union, Balinese dances filmed during Page’s 1928 Asian Tour, and performances of The Merry Widow on the Ed Sullivan Show. It also contains the original and master tapes of numerous interviews with dance critics such as Clive Barnes and John Martin, dancers such as Larry Long, Delores Lipinski, Anne Kisselgoff and Maria Tallchief, and a comprehensive series of interviews and oral histories with Page herself that date from 1957 through 1987.

A portion of the inspected 16mm films in CFA’s Ruth Page Collection

Combined, the NEA & Donnelley grants will help fund the digitization of over 900 unique moving image and audio items, including 16mm films, rare video formats (including 2″!), Betacam SP tapes and a handful of 1/4″ audio reels. This Donnelley Foundation grant also allows CFA to strengthen our digital storage and digitization workflows, making it easier for us to get these digitized materials streaming on our website and therefore accessible to you.

And speaking of access…also in the works is a Midwest dance program, featuring the work of Ms. Page alongside the provocative work of the talented dancer-choreographer Sybil Shearer (1912-2005). (More on this 2014 screening soon!)  In the mean time, though, you can view 63 freshly digitized Ruth Page films & videos on our site, including two recently restored 1928 Ravinia performances (here and here), a handful of television appearances by Ruth Page & Co (view one here), home movies filmed during Page’s 1928 Asian Tour (view one here) as well as a sprinkling of rare 1″ and 1/2″ video tapes digitized by Bay Area Video Coalition.

And! last night we learned that the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation awarded CFA an $8000 grant for 2014 General Operations. SO SO THANKFUL! Chicago Film Archives is a 501(c)(3) non profit and depends on grants like these AND the support from our followers to thrive. Please consider donating to CFA here. Each contribution both large and small is critical to our continuing work.

NOGUCHI AND PAGE COMBINED

Already Ruth Page revisits an old friend. If you happen to be on the east coast, there is a collaboration of two artists you don’t want to miss. The work of Ruth Page and Isamu Noguchi can be seen starting tomorrow at the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York.

Space, Choreographed: Noguchi and Ruth Page was developed in a collaboration between The Noguchi Museum and The Ruth Page Foundation, building on a group of drawings Japanese-American artist, Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), made of the great American avant-garde dancer and choreographer Ruth Page (1899-1991) posing in a sack dress he designed in 1933 to transform her into a dynamic embodiment of his 1932 sculpture Miss Expanding Universe.

That piece had emerged from Noguchi’s extensive efforts to find a distinctive way to abstract the human figure- efforts greatly enhanced by his contact with modern dance, and Page’s form in particular- his study of ink wash painting with the Chinese painter Qi Baishi, and his best friend, the eccentric futurist genius Buckminster Fuller, a sort of Three Musketeers of American ability and aspiration, had been captivated by a series of lectures popularizing Edwin Hubble’s recent discovery that the universe was neither static nor tidily Copernican. It is hard to conceive a better visual metaphor for Hubble’s new picture of the universe, a pulsating amoeba of out-rushing matter, than Page in Noguchi’s sack dress.

The exhibition explores Noguchi and Page’s personal relationship and their two professional collaborations: the constellation of objects and performances that includes Miss Expanding Universe, the dress and the dances it inspired and Page’s post- World War II dance The Bells, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s poem of the same name, for which Noguchi designed costumes and a set. (description courtesy of the Noguchi Museum)

Chicago Film Archives continues to unearth, preserve, catalog and digitize the many performances and rehearsals in its Ruth Page Collection. This work is wholly sponsored by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Below is a 1938 performance of EXPANDED UNIVERSE, featuring costumes by Noguchi. Head on over to our Ruth Page Collection finding aid to view a growing number of digitized films (63 and counting!) from the collection.


EXPANDED UNIVERSE  aka VARIATIONS ON EUCLID [circa 1938, 16mm., B&W, SIlent, found in CFA's Ruth Page Collection]

 

Space, Choreographed: Noguchi and Ruth Page

September 25, 2013 through January 26, 2014

Noguchi Museum
9-01 33rd Road, (at Vernon Boulevard)
Long Island City, NY 11106
718-204-7088

Digitizing the Ruth Page Collection (an experiment in accelerated access)

a sampling of the many film prints & elements in CFA’s Ruth Page Collection

Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), we have begun digitizing the dance films of the Ruth Page Collection. With over 400 16mm films & elements (!) of performances, rehearsals and television appearances, these films document the dance legacy and artistic circle of choreographer, Ruth Page. As a rare archival treat, we are publishing the collection’s digitized films as soon as they become digitized.

“Why wouldn’t you post them immediately after digitization?..what’s so crazy about that?” you may ask. Well, normally we digitize the films (thankfully, we have the equipment to do this in-house) and then hand each digitized film over to a cataloger who adds descriptive information (i.e. where and when it was filmed, the people or credits involved in production, etc) to the film’s individual catalog record. After this valuable information is added to our database, we upload a video file and publish the film’s item-level record & streaming media to our site’s Collection Portal. These item records are accessible under its associated collection finding aid or searchable on their own through various “Browse Items” search terms. In other words, published items or films are available through traditional provenance-based access, or the top-down model, as well as searchable at the item level.

Ruth Page in BOLERO, which was filmed at Ravinia in 1928

The time and resources to produce in-depth item-level cataloging records is immense, especially for collections (like the Ruth Page Collection) that are filled with unique, one-of-a-kind materials that have not been previously cataloged elsewhere. Due to its specialized subject matter, the Ruth Page Collection also requires detailed research from CFA staff & dance scholars in order to be thoroughly understood and therefore successfully presented.*

In order to get these films out there and accessible N-O-W, we’ve decided to bypass this cataloging step and post the streaming videos online with very little cataloging information. To answer some questions upfront: Yes, this may be a bit messy at first (as titles often evolve, and mislabeled duplicates frequently reveal themselves once an entire collection is digitized) and yes we plan to research and more-fully catalog all of the films from the Ruth Page Collection once the digitization phase is complete….we just wanted to accelerate our work flows and get these films out there to you, the public, as soon as we could. Since these item records have very little cataloging data and are therefore not very searchable at the item-level, the best method to view them is from the Ruth Page Collection Finding Aid, which includes a linkable table list of all the digitized films at the bottom of the page.

two frames from “Alice (Act 2)” circa 1951

We invite you to not only view & share these films, but also to become a part of our experimental work flow to get these videos to you.** Check back from week to week as we continue to digitize and publish films from the collection. Thus far we’ve published 63 films & videos, including two recently restored 1928 Ravinia performances (here and here), a handful of television appearances by Ruth Page & Co (view one here), home movies filmed during Page’s 1928 Asian Tour (view one here) as well as a sprinkling of rare 1″ and 1/2″ video tapes digitized by Bay Area Video Coalition (more on this collaboration and the Page Collection’s video formats soon!). None of these films or videos have been accessible online until now, and we are beyond delighted to share them with you! And as the transfer technician (with admittedly little to no dance background) on this project, I’m starting to accumulate some personal favorites… including Alice (Act 2), which has some pretty amazing costumes.

 

*Let’s also not forget the steps that come before digitization! – inventory & hand inspections also take up a tremendous amount of time and resources. Thanks to the NEA and the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, CFA was able to successfully complete these tasks for the Page Collection. To review, CFA’s processing work flows include: acquisition, inventory, arrangement, hand inspection (describing the physical condition of each film and placing it into new, archival containers), digitization, cataloging and last but not least, collection and item level web publishing.

**this method isn’t that crazy or experimental in the archival field. Notions of productivity-driven processing have emerged in the past decade, including Mark A. Greene & Dennis Meissner’s frequently cited “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing” (The American Archivist, Vol. 68, No. 2 (Fall – Winter, 2005).

Some more great news today for CFA and the Ruth Page Dance Collection…

A portion of the inspected 16mm films in CFA’s  Ruth Page Collection

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded CFA another grant to further process the Ruth Page Collection. This means the 16mm films and videotapes in the collection will be digitized, giving the folks at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, dance scholars, historians, student dancers, and anyone who has an interest in artistic movement access to these materials.  Thank you to the NEA for recognizing Ms. Page as a Chicagoan who made her mark worldwide in the field of dance. As the coming year unfolds, be on the look out for her performances on our website. And special shout outs to our talented intern, Harry Eskin, who hand inspected the collection’s tricky production elements AND to the young video makers from Whitney Young High School who are making a short biopic about the renegade and very American choreographer Ruth Page. Read the official NEA press release here.

Celebrating International Women’s Day (all year round) at CFA

At CFA we celebrate ladies all year long, but days like International Women’s Day give us a great excuse to further celebrate the abundance of inspiring women associated with our collections -  Katharine Bowden (an early graduate of Valporaiso University), Margaret Conneely (amateur movie-maker extraordinaire), Sylvia Davis (producer of an early 1950s Chicago WBKB-TV wrestling show), Terry Davis (international travelogue filmmaker), JoAnn Elam (activist and feminist filmmaker),  Millie Goldsholl (head of the film department at Goldsholl Design and Film Associates), Evelyn Kibar (our favorite amateur film protagonist), Helen Morrison (photographer and filmmaker), Ruth Page (choreographer named by the Dance Heritage Coalition as one of America’s 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures), Sybil Shearer (modern dancer and choreographer) and the countless uncredited women affiliated with our collections. Days like IWD also encourage us to celebrate…us – a women run organization (it’s nice to set aside some time to celebrate ourselves, right?!).

We invite you to explore the collections these women were a part of. Follow the bold links to see each collection’s finding aid (some with streaming video!):

Charles and Katharine Bowden Collection

Katharine Ertz-Bowden was an early graduate of Valparaiso University in Indiana. In 1897 she earned a Diploma in Public Speaking with a BA in Science from Valparaiso. A few years later she married fellow graduate Charles L. Bowden who had been an “expert photographer with Eastman Kodak,” and together they organized the two-hour film and lantern slide lecture A Pictorial Story of Hiawatha. The Bowden’s lecture included the screening of a Longfellow inspired pageant performed in Desbarats, Ontario by the Garden River Ojibway community in 1902 – 1903. From the spring of 1904 until 1910, the Bowdens presented the lecture in over twenty states to tens of thousands of spectators at small town opera halls, churches, school auditoriums, and under the expansive tents raised for summer Chautauquas. Our Charles and Katherine Bowden Collection contains the preserved and restored archival materials from 7 original 35mm nitrate reels discovered in the Valparaiso University Special Collections Library by Judith Miller.

Margaret Conneely Collection

Chicago movie-maker Margaret Conneely (1915-2007) was active in amateur filmmaking both locally and internationally for nearly half a century. In the 1950s, Margaret’s films won awards from major amateur contests in both America and Europe, and by the 60s she had become a highly regarded competition judge, attending amateur film festivals around the world. She wrote articles on amateur film that appeared in local club newsletters, the Journal of the Photographic Society of America (PSA) and even the New York Times. Margaret was also the staff cinemetographer at Loyola University Medical School, and assisted on numerous film productions for the school (our favorite being, Student Life at Loyola University Medical School). Margaret’s films are fanciful looks at family life as women’s rights and the first stirrings of the sexual revolution complicated by traditional expectations of wifely duties. Highlights from her collection include The 45, Chicago: The City to See in ’63, The Fairy Princess, and Mister E (all streamable on our site!).

Robert & Theresa Davis Collection

Terry and her husband Robert filmed international and domestic travelogues from the late 1940s until the 1990s. Their films featured distant sites set in Iceland, Thailand, Belgium, Ireland, Tunisia, Australia, New Zealand, Yugoslavia and Sicily. Sadly, Terry passed away in October 2012 before we could conduct an in-depth interview about her life and times as a travelogue filmmaker. In the brief time that we knew Terry, she inspired us with her stories – a notable one being Terry’s solo bike ride (with camera in hand!) across Europe after her WWII tour of duty in the Women’s Army Corps. With the assistance of her nephew, we are gathering more information about Terry, her husband and the films they made.

Russ & Sylvia Davis Collection

“Yulie Brynner vs Rose Roman” from the Russ & Sylvia Davis Collection

Sylvia H. Carlson, was born in Goteberg, Sweden around the mid teens of the Twentieth century. She moved with her family to San Francisco in 1930. By 1937 she was in charge of the beauty shop in the Russ Building. She met her future husband, Russ Davis, there in 1946. They were quickly married and she moved to Chicago where Russ had lived since the late 1930s.

Sylvia began to work behind the scenes on Russ’ television shows. In 1948 she was co-producer of his amateur talent show on WBKB, The Knickerbocker Hour. In 1949 Russ and Sylvia started IWF, Inc, a television film production company, with Sylvia acting as president and producer. The company, called both International Wrestling Films and Imperial World Films, mainly created a syndicated wrestling show, but also made sponsored films and a short run TV series with Raymond Massey. The Davis’ 1950s syndicated wrestling television show featured wrestlers such as Verne Gagne, Gorgeous George, and Lou Thesz.

Ron Doerring Collection (Evelyn Kibar)

Evelyn Kibar in “This Is a Hobby?”

John and Evelyn Kibar were a husband and wife amateur filmmaking team that shot and starred in their own productions (Evelyn’s screen presence as the annoyed wife has delighted us for years now). The Kibars lived in Racine, Wisconsin and were members of amateur cinema groups including the Kenosha Movie Makers (also known as the Kenosha Movie and Slide Club and the Kenosha Camera Club), Society of Amateur Cinematographers, PSA, and Ra-Ciné Movie and Slide Club. They began making films together in the 1930s, and were frequent visitors, presenters, judges and winners in both photographic slide and film competitions in Chicago and Milwaukee. The Kibars’ films were award-winning creative collaborations and often included audio accompaniment on tape. Their 1946 film “Autumn Glory,” won an honorable mention in the Amateur Cinema League’s annual “Ten Best Contest” that year.

JoAnn Elam Collection

Rape, JoAnn Elam, 1975

JoAnn Elam (1949-2009) is a central figure in the in the history of Chicago’s experimental film community and one of the founders of Chicago Filmmakers. Her short experimental and documentary films capture the spirit and ethos of a politically active, feminist, and socially conscious artist.

Elam primarily shot on 8mm film, although she did work extensively with 16mm, Super-8mm film and early video. Elam’s 8mm films often documented aspects of her everyday life and local events ranging from the Palmer Square Art Fair in the 1970s to the Blizzard of ’79. She shot a number of reels of 8mm film while she was living in San Francisco in the summer of 1967, and during her time at Antioch College and in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Elam’s most well known 16mm films, Rape (1975) and Lie Back and Enjoy It (1982) are probing feminist examinations of sexual assault and the representation of women. Both films (streamable on our site!) utilize experimental techniques in order to call into question the way in which women are depicted on screen. These two films are referenced in numerous texts on documentary and feminist cinema, and are fascinating examples of Elam’s interest in merging radical form and technique with radical political content.

Elam’s unfinished project, Everyday People (1979-1990), is based on her experiences as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service in Chicago, the various people she met while on the job, the political struggles they faced with the administration and the union, and larger issues related to the history of labor struggle and activism in the United States. Elam’s notes and journals for the film, as well as the approximately 250 film, video and audio elements associated with it, reside at CFA and provide an unparalleled level of access to her creative process, political and artistic ideas, and the practical, economic, and ethical issues that impacted her work as an independent artist and filmmaker.

Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection

Millie Goldsholl (1920-2012) was the head of the Film Department at Goldsholl Design and Film Associates (another notable female, Susan Keig, headed the Design Department), one of Chicago’s leading graphic design studios in the 1950s. The studio became recognized for their animations, progressive hiring practices and developing corporate branding packages for various companies. Our Mort & Millie Goldsholl collection contains commercials and industrial films that Goldsholl Design and Film Associates made for their clients, experimental films and animations made by both Morton and Millie, unedited travel films shot by Morton and Millie and films (primarily animated) that the two collected over the years. Millie’s films are among our favorites here at CFA. An early student of the Chicago School of Design (now IIT), Millie created films that are expressions of Maholy Nagy’s vision of industry, art and design. They are playful, human and profound all at once. The same thing, of course, can be said of Millie.

Here is Millie talking about the School of Design (taken from a 2007 interview between Millie and CFA’s Executive Director, Nancy Watrous).

Morrison-Shearer Collection (Helen Morrison & Sybil Shearer)

CFA has been honored to house and mange the Morrison-Shearer Collection for the Morrison-Shearer Foundation since 2008. This extensive collection of dance films, most of which were shot by Helen Balfour Morrison, features solo performances by Sybil Shearer, Shearer with her dance company, interviews with Sybil Shearer and some rehearsal footage.

Helen Balfour Morrison (1901-1984) was born in Evanston, Illinois, the daughter of Fannie Lindley and Alexander Balfour, an engineer and a proud, aristocratic Scotsman. When Helen was 17, her mother died, and Helen took a job in a photography studio to help support the family. At this studio she learned to use the portrait camera and helped expand the studio’s business with creative ideas of her own. In the 1930s, Helen Balfour Morrison embarked upon a personal photography project – the Great Americans series. She photographed some 200 notable personalities including Robert Frost, Helen Hayes, Nelson Algren, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, Mies van der Rohe, Amelia Earhart, Jane Addams, and Saul Bellow. Most of these portrait sessions took place in Chicago or in New York and were exhibited widely in museums throughout the country. In 1942, Morrison met Sybil Shearer, and although her portrait work and exhibitions of the Great Americans continued, her attention gradually shifted to Sybil as her primary subject. She finally abandoned the Great Americans series in 1945. Her collaboration with Sybil Shearer produced a large collection of extraordinary dance photographs and films, as well as an intense and sensitive documentation of the life of this artist. Today her extensive portfolio remains largely unpublished and unknown. In a real sense she sacrificed her own career to promote that of Sybil. Besides designing the lighting, Helen took over the complete management of Sybil’s publicity, performances, travel arrangements, and hospitality. She experimented with the role of impresario, presenting dancer Ruth St. Denis in 1946 and both dancer Eleanor King and sculptor Richard Lippold in 1948. In 1949 she conceived a short-lived series of programs which she called “Rondo,” presenting other artists, including Uta Hagan, Merce Cunningham, pianist William Masselos, and Frank Lloyd Wright. In later years she made films to record Sybil’s dances, and made one artistic film of her own.

Sybil Shearer

Sybil Shearer burst upon the modern dance scene in October 1941 in a solo debut at Carnegie Hall that received rave reviews and an award from critic John Martin as the year’s most promising solo choreographer. Already setting a radical new direction in modern dance, she came to believe that New York was no place to develop dance as an art. In 1942 she left for the new Roosevelt College in Chicago, where she was given the freedom to work independently, close to nature, and in her own unorthodox way. Within a month of her arrival, she met Helen Balfour Morrison. Thus began a career of one of the finest dancers of the 20th century, though deemed “elusive,” and “rarely seen.” Shearer formed the Morrison-Shearer Foundation in 1991 to perpetuate their artistic legacy. Under the auspices of the Foundation, she brought Susanne Linke, the German expressionist dancer, to Chicago in 1991 to perform at the Harold Washington Library. In 1993 she arranged a tour to Germany for the 20th anniversary of the Hamburg Ballet, whose director, John Neumeier, had been a member of the Sybil Shearer Company in the 1960s. In February 2005 she danced publicly for the last time at the Art Institute of Chicago, interpreting Matisse in the “Artists and Dance” program, just nine months before her death at the age of 93.

Ruth Page Collection

Ruth Page (photo courtesy of the Dance Heritage Coalition)

Dancer, choreographer, company director, and pioneering Chicago dance figure for over half a century, Ruth Page (1899-1991), was born in Indianapolis. She studied fancy dancing with Anna Stanton and ballet with Elizabetta Menzeli, made her professional debut on Broadway, then toured South America with Anna Pavlova. During the 1920s Page worked closely with Adolph Bolm, starring in his productions for Chicago Allied Arts and choreographing her first successful dances for its repertory.

Settling in Chicago, she became premiere danseuse of the Ravinia Opera. In the 1930s, in partnership with Bentley Stone, she created Frankie and Johnny (1938) and several other Americana ballets, most to commissioned scores by American composers; she also worked with Katherine Dunham and Harald Kreutzberg, exploring a broad range of expression. In the following decades she created a number of works inspired by operas, founded the Chicago Opera Ballet, and formed the Ruth Page Foundation for Dance, a school she co-directed with Larry Long. Sophisticated, open-minded, and energetic, she gave opportunities and exposure to countless American and international dance artists. (From the Dance Heritage Coalition)

 

An Early Peek at the Ruth Page Collection!

BOLERO at Ravinia (HIghland Park, IL), 1928

Dancing with the Ravinia Opera as early as 1926, Ruth Page (herself only 26 years old) was also given the chance to choreograph large-scale performances at Ravinia’s north of Chicago outdoor venue.

Last year CFA discovered several 35mm nitrate film elements in the Page Collection. As a result of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, these films are currently at Colorlab to be restored and preserved on 35mm safety film.  According to labeling on these elements, both CARMEN and BOLERO were performed at Ravinia in 1928.  Nitrate film produces crystalline images often like no other film stock can.  We are excited to see the final prints that Colorlab produces for this project.

Also underway is the digital preservation of 80 more reels of Ruth Page performances and rehearsals recorded on ½ inch reel-to-reel videotape in the 60s and early 70s.  The folks at Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) are working with these more volatile tapes in order to ensure the survival of these dance events recorded a half century ago.

We’ll keep you posted!

CFA Awarded NEA Grant to Process Ruth Page Dance Collection

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman announced today that Chicago Film Archives is one of the 788 not-for-profit national, regional and state organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant.  These Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts.  The NEA received 1,624 eligible applications under the Art Works category for this round of funding.  The Chicago Film Archives has been awarded its full request from the NEA and expects to meet the required match this coming year to stabilize the Ruth Page Dance Collection in its entirety.

Illinois’ 7th District Representative Danny Davis remarked,

Ruth Page was an extraordinary pioneer of dance in America.  The moving image collection acquired by the Chicago Film Archives is an irreplaceable treasure.  The Archives, by preserving and protecting this legacy, are ensuring that this treasure will be available for generations to come.  I congratulate the Archives, and all the dedicated people who work there, on winning this grant and applaud their vision and initiative in undertaking this project.

We are ready to get started on this fascinating collection from Chicago’s premiere and iconic twentieth century dance figure.  Containing nearly 1,000 items, CFA will stabilize, digitize and catalog this collection over a three-year period.  It’s with great honor that as a result of this grant, CFA will soon be able to publicly present the history, accomplishments and artistry of the Chicago dancer and choreographer, Ruth Page. By building upon both the Ruth Page and the Morrison-Shearer Foundation dance collections, CFA can begin to retell Chicago’s history of dance.

- Nancy

Alison Cuddy Interview with Ruth Page Dancers

Thanks to Andy Resek (andyresek.com), we have this wonderful documentation of Alison Cuddy’s (WBEZ) interview with Ruth Page dancers, Delores Lipinski Long (Ruth Page Center for the Arts, Civic Ballet of Chicago) and Patricia Klekovic Irwin (Ruth Page Center for the Arts). Together, they discuss the behind-the-scenes dance culture that supported and defined the world of twentieth century dance generated by Chicago’s own prima ballerina and choreographer, Ruth Page. The interview took place at CFA’s November 2011 Fundraiser party, which spotlighted the life of Ruth Page, whose legacy now resides in one of CFA’s newest collections – The Ruth Page Collection.

RUTH PAGE COLLECTION

LOVE SONG (1947)

“Ruth Page (1899-1999) embraced a life of artistic restlessness, in which a quest for the new, with a refusal to conform to any one style of dance, became her legacy.  Emanating from Chicago, the visionary work of Ruth Page influenced the growth of theater design, opera ballet, and dance.  She achieved worldwide recognition as a true pioneer of dance in America.”

- Lon Gordon, Professor of Fine Arts at Illinois State University

Stunning in size and scope, this moving image collection documents and preserves the dance legacy and artistic circle of choreographer, Ruth Page, named by the Dance Heritage Coalition as one of America’s 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures.  The largest collection of moving image materials related to Ruth Page, it is a worthy complement to the vast manuscript collection that resides at the Jerome Robins Dance Division of the New York Public Library and the Newberry Library in Chicago.

This collection contains rehearsals and performances that date back to 1922 including footage of Rudolph Nureyev soon after his defection from the Soviet Union, Balinese dances filmed during Page’s 1928 Asian Tour, and performances of The Merry Widow on the Ed Sullivan Show.  It also contains numerous interviews with dance critics such as Clive Barnes and John Martin, dancers such as Larry Long, Delores Lipinski, Anne Kisselgoff and Maria Tallchief, and a comprehensive series of interviews and oral histories with Page herself that date from 1957 through 1987.  Among the dozens of Ruth Page ballets that are contained in this collection is a 35mm print of Bolero danced in 1928 at Ravinia in Highland Park, IL.  To our knowledge, this is the only existing moving image representation of that performance.

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