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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dance Program receives gift of Barbara Morgan’s historic dance photography

With a curriculum-enhancing gift and a multidisciplinary performance opening this week, the Dance Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has a great deal to celebrate. The Program has officially announced that it has been named the recipient of 38 historic dance images taken by the late photographer Barbara Morgan. Barbara Morgan photographed modern dance in the 1930s and 40s, establishing the first American archive documenting the life force and rhythmic vitality of this significant period in the development of modern dance.


Peggy Schwartz, Director of the Dance Program at UMass Amherst, is thrilled to give the Barbara Morgan collection a home. “We are truly honored to receive this gift,” she said. “These historic photos will inspire and educate our students, our audiences, and generations of dancers yet to come.” Schwartz plans for the Department to work from the images and re-stage some of the works for the University Dancers, the Department’s performing company.


Nils Morgan, Barbara Morgan’s grandson, and his wife Kara Rillings Morgan made the decision to give this collection to UMass based on the institution’s broad opportunity to use the images in multidisciplinary education. “As part of the Five College Dance Department, UMass is a prominent center of dance in higher education. It also offers an outstanding fine arts program,” said Nils Morgan. “We are confident the Barbara Morgan images will be put to thoughtful creative educational uses at UMass.”


The gift includes storyboards from the Bennington College Dance Festival in the 1930s, a seminal event in the development of modern dance. Among the images are photos of Dr. Pearl Primus performing her signature dances. Primus, a modern dance pioneer and black dance icon, was also a faculty member within the Five Colleges in the 1980s. Primus taught Dance as well as African American Studies and Anthropology. Peggy and Murray Schwartz are presently co-authoring a biography of Pearl Primus, and noted, “With the inclusion of significant photos of Pearl Primus and Asadata Dafora, UMass becomes a major locus of Primus scholarship and home to important images of the development of black dance in America.” The Barbara Morgan archive images will be housed at the University Gallery and are being prepared for public viewing at the University Gallery, the teaching museum at UMass Amherst. Appointments can be made for viewing by contacting the Gallery’s Registrar (phone: 413-545-1986).


The University Dancers Concert opens on Friday, December 4th. The concert honors guest artist Chuck Davis, who will conclude an extensive residency for the Sankofa Dance Project: Celebrating African Roots in American Dance. Davis will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from UMass Chancellor Robert Holub on December 3rd. The concert also features Mark Morris’s “Gloria,” accompanied by the University Orchestra and Chamber Choir.


When: Friday, 12/4 and Saturday, 12/5 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, 12/6, at 3 p.m.

Where: Bowker Auditorium, University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Tickets for the University Dancers Concert are available by visiting the Box Office website or by calling 413-545-2511.


The concert has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius.



For more information about the Barbara Morgan gift and the Dance Concert please contact Peggy Schwartz or visit the Dance Program website.