Dancing Times to sell its collection of photographs

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Posted on October 20, 2022

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Dancing Times, the world’s oldest monthly magazine devoted to all forms of dance, is to sell its extensive collection of photographs. The magazine, founded in 1910 by Philip J S Richardson, ceased publication in September 2022 following an unbroken 112-year history, and it now seeks to find a new home for the superb collection it amassed over the years.

According to Sarah J Woodcock, former curator of photographs at London’s Theatre Museum, “It affords the widest coverage of 20th-century dance of any collection outside the Jerome Robbins Dance Division in New York or the Victoria and Albert Museum Performing Arts Collection in London.”

The collection consists of approximately 35,000 images, the majority dating from the early years of the 20th century through to the early years of the 21st century, when digital photography overtook film and print photography. A small proportion of the photographs are autographed, some with dedications to successive editors of Dancing Times. In addition, there is a small quantity of 19th and 20th century prints and drawings, including a pen-and-ink drawing by Mikhail Larionov of the ballet Chout, which the artist designed for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and a discrete collection of photographs that once belonged to the balletomane Peter Revitt, a close friend of former magazine editor Mary Clarke.

Most of the photographs were sought or submitted for possible use in the magazine, but not all were published. “They represent all the subjects covered by the magazine, and therefore all aspects of dance: social and ballroom dancing, national dances from around the world, teachers and teaching of all types of dance, dance on film and television, and performance dance of all styles,” says Francesca Franchi, former head of collections at the Royal Opera House. “The photographs include companies, schools and individuals, performers, choreographers, composers, teachers and students, as well as newsworthy events in the dance world.”

The collection has photographs by the majority of the most distinguished photographers of dance, such as Serge Lido, Houston Rogers, Zoë Dominic, Martha Swope, Roy Round and Anthony Crickmay. Subjects include Carlos Acosta, Alvin Ailey, Antonio, Frederick Ashton, Fred Astaire, George Balanchine, Irina Baronova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Erik Bruhn, Darcey Bussell, Yvette Chauviré, John Cranko, Merce Cunningham, John Curry, Alexandra Danilova, Anthony Dowell, Suzanne Farrell, Margot Fonteyn, Ram Gopal, Martha Graham, Tamara Karsavina, Gene Kelly, Alicia Markova, Arthur Mitchell, Rudolf Nureyev, Anna Pavlova, Pearl Primus, Lynn Seymour, Antoinette Sibley, Galina Ulanova and Ninette de Valois.

“The diversity is one of the collection’s strengths, charting the rise of first the national dance companies, and the rise of contemporary, Black and Asian dance,” adds Woodcock. “Dancing Times was noted for its international coverage and this is reflected in the images of the flourishing dance scene in Europe, the US, the Soviet Union and further afield.”

“As our collection has to be sold, we are anxious to find the right home for it,” says Jonathan Gray, editor of Dancing Times. “We are hoping, therefore, to hear from museums, research centres or university collections with strong links to the history of dance, or from potential buyers who would then wish to donate the archive to a suitable collection.”

The collection, comprising seven four-drawer filing cabinets, is in excellent condition and is housed in acid-free conservation-grade envelopes. It also includes complete bound volumes of Dancing Times from 1910 to 2022, and the Ballroom Dancing Times/Dance Today from 1956 to 2015. The collection has been valued in the region of £40K to £47K.

Further information, including detailed valuations from both Francesca Franchi and Sarah J Woodcock, can be obtained on request. Also available are a listing of the contents of Collection Drawer COM to DAT, which acts as a sample for the collection as a whole; a list of contents from one of six unsorted boxes of photographs; and a list of framed photographs that were previously displayed in the Dancing Times office.

Interested parties should contact Jonathan Gray by email at jon@dancing-times.co.uk.

Viewings of the collection can also be arranged.

Jonathan Gray is editor of Dancing Times. He studied at The Royal Ballet School, Leicester Polytechnic, and Wimbledon School of Art where he graduated with a BA Hons in Theatre Design. For 16 years he was a member of the curatorial department of the Theatre Museum, London, assisting on a number of dance-related exhibitions, and helping with the recreation of original designs for a number of The Royal Ballet’s productions including Danses concertantes, Daphnis and Chloë, and The Sleeping Beauty. He has also contributed to the Financial Times, written programme articles for The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet, and is co-author of the book Unleashing Britain: Theatre gets real 1955-64, published in 2005.

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