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Charles Weidman and the New Dance Group

“The story of the New Dance Group is one of constant experiment, of continued branching out, of conceiving new ideas and coming to new conclusions”1

The New Dance Group was founded in 1932 by Nadia Chilkovsky, Miriam Blecher and other students from the New York Wigman School who wanted dance to focus more on social and political causes. New Dance Group stated in their first program that “Dance is a Weapon of the Class Struggle”2 and sought to offer inexpensive dance classes to all ranges of workers and people alike. Classes cost ten cents and consisted of one hour of Wigman technique, one hour of creative work and one hour of discussion.

New Dance Group Class Schedule

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

Gradually the interest in the proletariat “was replaced by a more general sense of humanity”3 and the curriculum branched out to include Humphrey-Weidman, Graham, eurythmics, percussion, folk, ballet and tap, in addition to the original Wigman and Holm technique.

Weidman's "Classroom Modern Style"  Millie Hirsch Rockefeller an, Lucy Biberman

Weidman’s “Classroom Modern Style” Front: Millie Hirsch Rockefeller and Behind: Lucy Biberman

By 1934, Charles Weidman was giving studio talks and appearing on New Dance Group programs. Other Humphrey-Weidman men such as Bill Matons, William Archibald and Jose Limon were also early participants. Humphrey-Weidman technique became a staple, taught by Beatrice Seckler, Nona Schurman, Bill Bales, Joe Gifford and others. Weidman continued his association with the New Dance Group at least until 1960, when he founded his own “Expression of Two Arts” studio on 29th Street.

"Mostly About Women" with Charles seated in front

“Mostly About Women” by Charles Weidman. Top row from left to right: Murray Berkowitz, Millie Hirsch, Lucy Biberman, Joe Whiteaker, Louis falco. Bottom row:Jack Wiener, Miriam Pandor, Charles Weidman, Marsha Gevins, Loretta Abbot, Ralph Davis, Charlotte Walsh.

Weidman's "Mostly About Women"
Weidman’s “Mostly About Women”. Top row left to right: Millie Hirsch, Joe Whiteaker, Lucy Biberman, Murray Berkowitz, Patricia Nachman. Bottom row: Ralph Davis, Loretta Abbot, Jack Wiener, Charlotte Walsh

At the 92nd Street Y’s extraordinary celebration of the New Dance Group this past February, we had the opportunity to learn about Weidman’s later work at the New Dance Group. Dancer and dance educator, Millie Hirsch Rockefeller, presented photos, programs and class schedules from this time, as well as information on two dances not previously included in Weidman chronologies, “The Convert” and “Mostly About Women”.

Portion of program showing "Mostly About Women"

Portion of 1959 program showing redicovered dances: “Mostly About Women” and “The Convert”

Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in "War Against Men and Women"
Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in “War Between Men and Women”

New Dance Group closed their doors in 2009 and now, unsuspecting dancers take class and attend rehearsals in what used to be New Dance Group studios, now DANY Studios operated by The Joyce Theater.

For more information on New Dance Group, check out this article by Victoria Philips.

1Lloyd, Margaret. The Borzoi Book of Modern Dance, Dance Horizons, 1949.

2Philips, Victoria. New Dance Group (1932-2009), Dance Heritage Coalition, 2012.

3King, Eleanor. Transformations, Dance Horizons,1978.

Words by Nadira Hall

Post by Julia Jurgilewicz


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