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Air for the G String, Other Doris Humphrey DancesErnestine Stodelle, Reusch Dance Video


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#1 papeetepatrick

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 11:13 AM

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Ms. Stodelle, one of the original members of the Humphrey dance (at least the one that is filmed and shown twice within this video), coach some La Guardia High School students in a performance of it. Amy, this is your work, isn't it? I see some other titles that I'll be looking at that are about Humphrey technique and include Ms. Stodelle. I would be interested to know if this extremely careful kind of 'every detail' kind of coaching is used often, as I've had only experience years ago in playing for class, and that's not like this. Or perhaps it's because they aren't professionals, and Ms. Stodelle needed to explain virtually whole philosophies of movement and relationships to these young students. It seemed to me the most exemplary and devoted kind of teaching, and it was wonderful to see the original Humphrey film twice.

As a piece, I probably enjoyed more Humphrey's 'With My Red Fires', which I also recently watched (I'm not sure this is also Reusch Video, not having it with me). I don't know much about Humphrey, although I'm picking up some details now in the McDonagh book on Graham, but my immediate impression is this fascination with statuary--and there are, of course, all these long scarves in 'Air for he G String' which Ms. Stodelle is very determined to make 'come to life' as well. I believe in another thread, rg mentioned a Shaker dance for Humphrey when we were talking about the Shaker tune in Graham's 'Spring', but I'm not sure that the shaking I saw in 'Red Fires' was what this was. I was very impressed with some of this, especially Dalienne Majors as the matriarch.

I hope Amy will tell us some more about this and her work with Humphrey dancers and Ms. Stodelle. I would also like to ask if Dalienne studied at Juilliard, as I believe I remember her from a class we had together, taught by the brilliant Vida Deming on the Short Novel. I can see why Graham and Humphrey have been called 'fire and ice', though, because Humphrey is engaging in a very different way. Some of the sudden jolting violence in the 'Red Fires', which I watched twice thus far, impressed me the most, as with Ms. Majors's 'shaking' movements. These kinds of movements work well with the Wallingford Riegger score.

Thanks.

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 11:48 AM

The Doris Humphrey work about the Shakers is called, logically, "The Shakers".

#3 papeetepatrick

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 11:58 AM

Yes, that's logical. I wonder if that shaking that the Matriarch does in 'Red Fires' is based on Shaker movements, however. I can't find the thread where rg mentioned Humphrey's 'Shakers', but it's not available at NYPL as reg. circ. materials. Anyone who knows both pieces will know if this 'shaking' by Ms. Majors is similar to the dancing movement in 'The Shakers'. There's no 'shaking', unless it's subtle, to the Shaker tune in 'App. Spring.' I'd been struck with the Matriarch toward the end of the piece, and wondered if that is something Humphrey used often in her work.

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 12:50 PM

It's hard to know what the Shakers did actually, as their flourishing came before the American Civil War, but there were still enough around in the 1930s for Humphrey to do some research with. At the moment, there are only three or four Old School Shakers left alive, there is a community in Sabbathday Lake in Maine which lives by a considerably modified Rule of Life from the original "Shaking Quakers" of Mother Ann's day. There are considerable differences in what Mother Ann actually said of the eventual future of the order. In one, she is said to have said that the order should stop taking new members two hundred years from her death, which would have been 1984. In another, she is said to have said that when the Shakers were down to five members, there would be an explosive revival. She didn't write these down, so all we have is oral tradition.

Barbara Grace Pollack, who was the editor of The Art of Making Dances, and a longtime Humphrey colleague, was a friend of mine, but the subject of "The Shakers" never came up in our conversations, unfortunately.

#5 Amy Reusch

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 04:42 PM

Hi Papeetepatrick :)

You would perhaps like to see all of the tapes the Doris Humphrey Society produced with Ernestine Stodelle. In addition to
Air, we did The Shakers, Water Study, The Call/Breath of Fire, and Two Ecstatic Themes. The idea was to preserve as much as possible of Ernestine's coaching, and I'm delighted that you enjoyed watching it. La Guardia students? I assume you watched this live, as it wasn't part of the footage. Regarding With My Red Fires, I know I shot some coaching and performances, but I never edited it. Perhaps someone else finished the project (I had a young child and cancer to contend with, and I'm afraid completion drifted away from me). I do have a good deal of footage waiting to be edited, hopefully sooner rather than later.

We tried to have Ernestine coach both experienced and inexperienced dancers... one might wonder why we would have her work with beginners.. but you see, it seemed to the producer and me that oftentimes, over the years, certain things are lost in reconstructions because it was just assumed that everyone knew them and so they weren't explained... and yet as techniques change and evolve, sometimes what was once obvious becomes obscure... Just think of those old Petipa ballets, the ballerina's wouldn't have dreamed of doing anything so vulgar as lifting their leg above hip level! Yet a contemporary ballerina would need to be instructed to keep her leg lower... So, at times, one might wish the beginners could more fully realize the movement being asked of them... but of course we also used Nina Watts in one of the tapes, and surely she gave a full rendition. One of my favorites was watching Sarita Smith-Childs, a young but talented dancer who made quite a journey through learning Two Ecstatic Themes.

Each tape involves a slightly different situation... in some we had several coaching sessions to pull from, in others perhaps only a little. And yes, they're very detail oriented. Half of them were shot in a brick building with no air conditioning, during a historically bad heat wave, during which I think there was something like 500 heat-related deaths in the Chicago area, so we were all a bit drained, were it not for Ernestine's inspirational manner. We were making them before DVDs were common. I can't decide whether it would be better to be able to skip through the coaching points or whether that would incline coaches to skip as well... it's somewhat difficult because they weren't really intended for the general audience.

It's been a long while since I last saw the footage, it's time to get back to work.

The tapes are in the non-circulating collection at NYPL, I believe, at any rate they were given betacam copies of the originals as well as written transcripts of all the coaching sessions.

RIP Ernestine.

#6 papeetepatrick

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 06:11 PM

Amy, this is just GREAT!!! Thanks so much for all of what you've told me thus far. I have several things coming in, and am going to start with this post listing NYPL descriptiions of available tapes. I can't always tell which of them are yours, but you can tell me about which ones I've put up. As for the LaGuardia thing, the credits were speeding by at the end, and I did rewind once, but it may have had to do with something else. I still have the tape here, and will FF to the end and solve this mystery of how I dreamed up some Fiorello LaGuardia High School. Bear with me, as I'm going to put all these tapes up there. To begin with, I did find Ernestine just adorable and beautiful, though. I know you must have loved knowing her and working with her.

I'm going to put them in separate posts like they do the Links, so it doesn't get too confusing.

Two dances
Hightstown, N.J. : Dance Horizons Video, c1999.
Call #: VC 793.28 T
Subjects Modern dance.

Format: [videorecording] /

Responsibility: by Doris Humphrey ; Carla Maxwell, artistic director ; José Limón Dance Foundation.

Language: English

Description: 1 videocassette (43 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.

Other Title: Title on cassette: Dance works of Doris Humphrey: Part II

Notes: VHS.
Modern dance works.
Taped in performance at the Teresa Carreño Theatre, Caracas, Venezuela, Apr. 6, 1990 (1st work); Joyce Theater, New York, N.Y., Nov. 22, 1995 (2nd work).

Contents: Ritmo Jondo -- Day on earth.

Performers: Members of the Limón Dance Company ; Michael Cherry, piano (2nd work) ; unidentified orchestra (1st work).

Additional Authors: Humphrey, Doris, 1895-1958.
Maxwell, Carla.
Cherry, Michael, pianist.
José Limón Dance Company.

Added Uniform Title: Ritmo jondo (Choreographic work : Limón after Humphrey)
Day on earth (Choreographic work : Humphrey)

Dynix #: 1699248

Holdings: Reservable Copies: 2 Number of Holds: 0

#7 papeetepatrick

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 06:14 PM

This is the one with Dalienne doing some kind of 'shaking', but I don't know if this was inspired by the Shakers the way the eponymous one was. Can you tell us something about 'The Shakers?'


With my red fires and New dance two masterpieces of modern choreography by Doris Humphrey /
Pennington, NJ : Dance Horizons Video : Distributed by Princeton Book Company, c1989.
Call #: VC 793.28 W
Subjects Modern dance.

Video recordings.

Format: [videorecording] :

Responsibility: an American dance Festival presentation ; produced by Ted Steeg Productions, Inc.

Language: English

Description: 1 videocassette (65 min.) : sd., b&w ; 1/2 in.

Notes: Title from container.
VHS.

Contents: With my red fires (1936) : performed by American Dance Festival Repertory Company at Connecticut College July 28, 1972 (solo dancers: Dalienne Majors, Raymond Johnson, Nina Watt) / music by Wallingford Riegger -- New Dance (1935) : choreography by Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman (Prelude and third theme) ; reconstructed 1972 ; performed by American Dance Festival Repertory Company at Connecticut College, June 30, 1972 (soloists: Linda Tarnay, Peter Woodin) / music by Wallingford Riegger.

Additional Authors: Humphrey, Doris, 1895-1958.
Weidman, Charles.
Riegger, Wallingford, 1885-1961. Selections.
Connecticut College American Dance Festival. Repertory Company.
Connecticut College American Dance Festival.
Steeg Productions.

Added Uniform Title: With my red fires (Choreographic work)
New dance (Choreographic work)

Dynix #: 116994

NNBR#: 923300800

ISBN: 0916622932 :

Holdings: Reservable Copies: 1 Number of Holds: 0

#8 papeetepatrick

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 06:19 PM

This one is on hold for me right now (I'm pretty sure). It looks like it contains the Air, but also whole dances.


Doris Humphrey technique, its creative potential, with four early dances
Pennington, NJ : Dance Horizons Video, c1992.
Call #: VC 793.28 D
Subjects Humphrey, Doris, 1895-1958.

Modern dance.

Choreography.

Format: [videorecording] /

Responsibility: conceived, written and directed by Ernestine Stodelle ; photographs by Barbara Morgan.

Language: English

Description: 1 videocassette (47 min.) : sd., col. and b&w ; 1/2 in.

Other Title: Doris Humphrey technique, the creative potential [videorecording]

Notes: VHS.

Contents: Quasi-valse -- Two ecstatic themes -- Etude patetico -- Air for the G string.

Summary: A series of studies for understanding the Doris Humphrey style. Includes illustrations of falls, turns, flow, leaps, leverage and more; commentary for a clip from a 1936 silent film; sequence of photographs by Barbara Morgan; and three examples of reconstructed early dances. Concludes with 1934 film, Air for the G string, with Doris Humphrey performing the central role.

Performers: Doris Humphrey.

Credits: Host, Ernestine Stodelle.

Additional Authors: Humphrey, Doris, 1895-1958.
Stodelle, Ernestine.
Dance Horizons Video (Firm)

Dynix #: 1315023

ISBN: 0871271850

Holdings: Reservable Copies: 2 Number of Holds

#9 papeetepatrick

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 06:22 PM

I think this is what I saw, you can look at this and see whether they got the place mixed up, which is certainly possible with these things:


Air for the G string
Hightstown, NJ : Dance Horizons Video, c1997.
Call #: VC 793.28 A
Subjects Humphrey, Doris, 1895-1958.

Modern dance.

Choreographers -- United States.

Series Doris Humphrey legacy

Format: [videorecording] /

Responsibility: presented by the National Doris Humphrey Society ; choreography by Doris Humphrey ; music by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Language: English

Description: 1 videocassette (90 min.) : sd., col. and b&w ; 1/2 in.

Notes: VHS.
The 1st performance filmed Oct. 28, 1928 in the Civic Repertory Theater, New York ; the 2nd, Oct. 22, 1995 in the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts, New York.

Summary: Two performances: (1) Doris Humphrey and four members of her dance company ; (2) students coached with detailed commentary by Ernestine Stodelle, a member of the original group.

Performers: Doris Humphrey, dancer ; Ernestine Strodelle, coach ; other performers.

Additional Authors: Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750. Suites, orchestra, BWV 1068, D major. Air.
Humphrey, Doris, 1895-1958.
Stodelle, Ernestine.
Doris Humphrey Society.
Dance Horizons Video (Firm)

Dynix #: 1289675

Holdings: Reservable Copies: 2 Number of Holds: 0

#10 papeetepatrick

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 06:30 PM

I'm going to see this one too, and this concludes the ones I can see from circulating collection. That one with the 'LaGuardia' credit did say Reusch video, didn't it? Otherwise, I don't think I'd have known. Anyway, whatever you have time to tell me about any of these will be most appreciated. I saw there is a Humphrey bio and a book by Ernestine that I will want to look at as well. Thanks for the great work!


José Limón & Company
Kent, CT : Creative Arts Television, c1999.
Call #: VC 793.28 J
Subjects Limón, José.

Modern dance.

Format: [videorecording] /

Responsibility: choreography: Doris Humphrey, José Limón.

Language: English

Description: 1 videocassette (27 min.) : sd., b&w ; 1/2 in.

Notes: VHS.
Modern dance.
Original production: c1956.

Contents: Day on earth -- Lament for a bullfighter ; The moor's pavane ; The exiles -- Theater piece ; Nightspell.

Summary: José Limón and his colleagues perform modern dance; Limón is interviewed by an unidentified host.

Performers: Ruth Currier, Lucas Hoving, Betty Jones and José Limón, dancers.

Additional Authors: Limón, José.
Humphrey, Doris, 1895-1958.
Currier, Ruth, 1926-
Hoving, Lucas.
Jones, Betty True.

Dynix #: 1554124

Holdings: Reservable Copies: 1 Number of Holds: 2

#11 Amy Reusch

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 06:56 PM

Let's see... that's a lot of material! I believe the Dance Notation Bureau has some of the footage as well. I believe Ernestine was the required coach on some of the scores and the video was intended as some supplement for when Ernestine was no longer able to coach. You might want to open communication with the Doris Humphrey Society too, they have some interesting things in their library. Just a footnote, but you might not be aware that the head of Dance Horizons, Charles Woodford, is Doris Humphrey's son...

What can I tell you about The Shakers? The tape or the dance? The dance portrays Humphrey's imagining of what a Shaker meeting might have been like. There's a gathering and a Matriarch and a man who calls out... the dancers shake out their sins but in a very formal non-Dionysian way, and there are some focusing phrases called out... The shaking is almost trembling that they shake out from their nervous systems out through their fingertips... if you think of Shaker arts, they're very simple, a very clean line... so the dancing is rather stiff and pure as well... the music is a recording of a shaker hymn sung by perhaps (if memory serves and often it doesn't) an actual Shaker. The tape has a run through and coaching of various segments by Gail Corbin, Ernestine's assistant, followed by some coaching by Ernestine. There are various historical images that I threw in, as an idea of what sort of thing we might use, but then, if memory serves, the producer balked about obtaining the rights so rather than hunting for further images and using them, we stayed with what we had and perhaps they were a bit repetitious. I think we concluded with a video of the performance, (with performance lighting rather than video lighting, unfortunately... there is sometimes struggle with lighting designers who are lighting a live space for a live audience to consider that the larger audience will actually be watching the video... but it's understandable).

#12 Amy Reusch

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 07:05 PM

Notes: VHS.
The 1st performance filmed Oct. 28, 1928 in the Civic Repertory Theater, New York ; the 2nd, Oct. 22, 1995 in the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts, New York.


This most certainly was the video we made... but it wasn't LaGuardia, it was out in Oak Park (Doris Humphrey's birthplace), Illinois and it was student dancers & professionals dancing at a Momenta! summer workshop performance. I'm not sure if the 10/28/28 date was the date of the filming or the first performance. Doesn't it look like a church? Could be I'm just forgetting, but with the LaGuardia credit, I'd check first. Ernestine was one of the dancers in the film, so... darn... I'm going to see what I have...

Well... I don't have the info on the original film, which I remember someone discovered when it was being discarded from some major studio... The actual credit (from my notes) for the other performance is:

Rehearsals Shot on Location at
DORIS HUMPHREY MEMORIAL THEATRE
ACADEMY OF MOVEMENT & MUSIC
Oak Park, Illinois


I just found the original film on Youtube (amazing what can be found there these days) and it credited the music as being performed in 1946, so I rather think that 1928 date referred to the first performance not the performance captured on film.

#13 papeetepatrick

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 07:23 PM

Yes, and that description of the 'calls' reminds me of some strange sounds in one of the 3 dances on the With My Red Fires. The narrator had said (I think) that 'New Dance' came first, but on the tape 'New Dance' and 'Prelude and 3rd Theme' were presented in what seems to be reverse order. One of these dances had some agonized or wailing that I imagine to be some kind of flagellant cry or something. I'm getting a little more tolerant of some of these saints and sin-fighters than I used to--told a friend that by their nature they have to disabuse themselves of us, but we don't have to reciprocate, and this makes us freer--this all happened less than 2 weeks ago at the Getty Center looking at old Illuminated Manuscripts of the Desert Fathers that I finally began to understand these extremely self-sacrificing figures better. And that includes, to some degree the Shakers, where Mel's background is very good. I was aware of a good bit of it, and Mother Ann was quite the character.

After what you've said, I'm going to review 'With My Red Fires' again too, I remember violent trembling, and maybe it seemed to go to the fingertips, but mainly the Matriarch there was disapproving of young lovers. I want to see The Shakers, and am going to look into seeing it. Part of it is wanting to hear the Shaker hymn done by the actual Shaker. This will no doubt be very different from what Copland did with the Simple Gifts in App. Sping: I've seen it written that this is an almost exact replica of the tune, but it is more accurate to say that it's 'readily recognizable' (he's even changed a few of the actual notes of the tune, so that it has a smoothness that still sounds folksy, but also rich, which is not strictly Shaker--and, of course, the characters in the Graham piece are not Shakers). In the Graham piece, Copland glamorizes the tune so that it fits with the rest of his score, and it's all irresistible, although, of course, this is a little like hearing Kiri TeKanawa's version of 'Danny Boy' or 'Comin' Through the Rye'. There is much material for me to look through here, and as I see these first things I'll report back. Ms. Humphrey herself really looks like something from the 15th or 16th century paintings in the Air film--Botticelli? I'm not sure, but I also saw a bunch of these last week, and there's always that pale, soft face in some of those pictures.

#14 Amy Reusch

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 07:23 PM

This one is on hold for me right now (I'm pretty sure). It looks like it contains the Air, but also whole dances.


Doris Humphrey technique, its creative potential, with four early dances
Pennington, NJ : Dance Horizons Video, c1992.
Call #: VC 793.28 D
Subjects Humphrey, Doris, 1895-1958.


This one was made before I came into the picture... I've seen it, but now can't remember much of it... mostly I seem to remember an interview... but honestly my memory doesn't serve here. This was a Doris Humphrey Society production though... if you do end up in contact with them.

#15 Amy Reusch

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 07:27 PM

With My Red Fires is very interesting... has kind of a soviet-realist style heroine ... and a corps, something less often seen in modern dance...

I did shoot footage of Ernestine coaching this, as well as a live peformance, I think as part of a Dance Chicago festival, but it hasn't been released and the recording you mention isn't mine.


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