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University of Oklahoma Creates Ballets Russes Archive

Published November 1, 2009.

The University of Oklahoma School of Dance is paying tribute to the historic Ballets Russes by developing an extensive archive devoted to its memory. Mary Margaret Holt, school director, began the archive in 2006, and it already includes photos, itineraries, musical scores, costumes and set designs. “We’re collecting everything,” says Peggy Chaffin, staff assistant at the School of Dance. “One former dancer submitted her diary, and we’re collecting oral histories as well. The dancers have so much to share.”
The school, in Norman, OK, is an ideal location for the collection—many former Ballets Russes dancers have ties to the area. Marjorie and Maria Tallchief hail from Oklahoma, and Miguel Terekhov and Yvonne Chouteau are currently on the UO faculty. Since many of the company’s members, who danced from 1906 to 1962, are advanced in years, the university’s staff is rushing to collect as many materials as possible before they are lost forever.
The entire archive will soon be available online, but it is currently most helpful to students at the university, especially those in dance and dance history classes. Women’s Studies and African American Studies classes (Ballets Russes was the first major ballet company to employ a black ballerina) have also taken advantage. “Ballets that were choreographed in the ’20s have become classics now,” says Chaffin. “We’re hoping for the archive to get students enthusiastic about studying the history of Ballets Russes and what it has added to the world of dance.” Info:

Originally published in Dance Teacher Magazine, November 2009