Pennsylvania Ballet records
Held at: Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
In 1962, Barbara Weisberger, a protégé of George Balanchine, started the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet to train dancers for her forthcoming dance company. The “Philadelphia Ballet” was officially founded the following year, although a legal dispute with a school of a similar name led her to change the company’s name to The Pennsylvania Ballet. George Balanchine served as artistic advisor and the Ford Foundation provided the funds to help the struggling company establish itself. The first performance was given on April 16, 1964 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium, initiating over four decades of ballet in Philadelphia.
In the 1960s, Weisberger shepherded the company into the national spotlight, gaining stability from the company’s repertoire of Balanchine ballets. One of his works, Concerto Barocco, became the ballet’s signature piece. In 1972 Benjamin Harkarvy became the artistic director. A few years later, Weisberger initiated the company’s summer residency at Penn State University, through which several future principal dancers were discovered. In the 1970s, the company toured the United States, including the West Coast, and held residencies at several Mid-Atlantic universities and cultural institutions. 1977 saw a restructuring of the administration and the resignation of several dancers. In the last few years of the decade, the company went through severe financial hardships and administrative tension, which culminated in the suspension of operations in the spring of 1982. Shortly after, Weisberger and Harkarvy both resigned.
The Board of Directors replaced Weisberger and Harkarvy with Peter Martins as executive director and Robert Weiss as artistic director. Dane LaFontsee became assistant artistic director. Under their leadership, the company gradually reduced its debt, and continued to tour and perform regularly. It performed original choreography by Peter Martins, Robert Weiss, Paul Taylor, Anthony Tudor, Merce Cunningham, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Richard Tanner, and George Balanchine. In 1987, the company embarked on a joint venture with the Milwaukee Ballet, in which the two companies combined to form one company, which performed in both Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Due to financial difficulties, this venture did not last past the 1988 season.
In 1990, there was another turnover in administrative positions, with Robert Weiss and Richard Tanner resigning from the positions of artistic director and artistic associate, respectively and Christopher d’Amboise was ultimately hired as artistic director.
The company had further financial difficulties and in March of 1991 the board of directors decided to suspend operations for the second time in the company’s history. Rather than suspend performance, the dancers decided to work without pay to finish the season. To alleviate the company’s debt, a volunteer group composed of dancers, musicians, theater staff, and others started the “Save The Ballet” campaign. By the end of March, 1991, the campaign had raised over one million dollars from individual donations, allowing dancers and staff to finish the season.
In 1994, Roy Kaiser was elected as artistic director, becoming the first artistic director to come up through the ranks of corps de ballet, soloist, principal dancer, ballet master, and associate artistic director. Kaiser currently (2011) serves as artistic director, guiding the Pennsylvania Ballet through seasons of traditional ballet performances and more modern pieces. The company performs throughout the United States and abroad, also creating cultural outreach programs in Philadelphia like the Family Matinee Series and the Prologue Lecture Series.
Pennsylvania Ballet. “Our Story,” Pennsylvania Ballet website: http://www.paballet.org/history.html (Accessed 10/11/2010 and 5/19/2011)
Pennsylvania Ballet. “Company Milestones.” Pennsylvania Ballet website: http://www.paballet.org/company_milestones.html (Accessed 10/11/2010)
“A Chronological History of the Pennsylvania Ballet.” 1993 May. Box 69 Folder 5.
The Pennsylvania Ballet records documents the activities of the Pennsylvania Ballet Company, active from 1963 through 2011. The materials in this collection cover the years 1963 to 2004, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1969 to 1990. The Pennsylvania Ballet is still an active organization, so this collection does not offer a complete picture of the company’s history; the company has retained most of their records. The collection includes photographs of both dancers and productions, biographical information about dancers and company staff, choreography and lighting notes, information about tours, publicity materials, posters, and videos of performances. The files include some correspondence from executive directors Barbara Weisberger and artistic director Robert Weiss, although administrative records and correspondence are not prominent parts of the collection. Most of the collection is comprised of visual and graphic materials: photographs and negatives, slides, posters and program art. Of particular interest to researchers may be the photographs of productions and ballets (both photographs of performances and publicity photographs), lighting and choreography cue sheets for ballets the company performed, videos of performances, ongoing documentation of yearly Nutcracker performances, and information about the company’s collaboration with the Milwaukee Ballet. This collection may be particularly useful to researchers interested in set, lighting, and costume design; choreography; and marketing and publicity.
The records are organized into four series: “I. Early organizational records,” “II. Subject files,” “III. Promotional and printed materials” and “IV. Audio/visual materials.” The records were donated to Temple University in two distinct groups, at two different periods of time. Series I. Early organization records, represents the first of those accessions. The remaining three series represent the second accession. Researchers should note that the content of the accessions overlaps significantly.
The series, “I. Early organizational records” was the first part of the collection to arrive at Temple University Special Collections and the current arrangement of the collection is designed to reflect that. As such, these records are separated from the other series, although there is much overlap in coverage and format between this series and the rest of the collection. The records in this series date from 1958 to 1980. “Early organizational records” is divided into two subseries: “Subject files I,” and “Subject files II.” These two subseries preserve a division that existed in the original order of the documents, but their content overlaps significantly. Researchers are thus advised to review the folder titles of both subseries. Collectively, the subseries house materials relating to the performances, staff, dancers, tours, promotions, fundraising (especially funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities), and other activities of the Pennsylvania Ballet. Of particular note, are files relating to the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Executive Director from 1962 to 1982, Barbara Weisberger, which include correspondence, administrative information, and notes on auditions held by the company and information about the audition process. There also are records pertaining to a summer dance program that the company conducted at Pennsylvania State University in the 1970s. Some administrative material is present in both series, covering meeting minutes and financial information, but it is not a focus of the series.
The next series, “II. Subject files,” consists of five subseries: “a. People,” “b. Productions,” “c. Tours,” “d. Seasons” and “e. Miscellaneous.”
The subseries “a. People” spans the years 1971 to 2000, and primarily consists of photographs of employees (mostly dancers, choreographers, and creative directors) and other people prominently associated with the Pennsylvania Ballet. The photographs are mostly headshots used in promotional publications or playbills but also include some photographs taken during rehearsals and performances. Also included in the subseries are clippings and some press releases, as well as biographical information sheets filled out by the dancers with information such as their notable career history and personal hobbies. It is not certain who created the file system, however, the nature of the material in this subseries suggests that the records were maintained by the Pennsylvania Ballet Company’s public relations department. As such, the records would be useful in understanding aspects of marketing for the Ballet, particularly concerning the dancers. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by last name. For files on the dancers employed by the Ballet, researchers should first look under the heading “Dancer;” individual’s files are then filed alphabetically by the dancer’s last name. For example, the ballerina Tamara Hadley is filed under “Dancer: Hadley, Tamara.” Researchers should also note that information in this subseries overlaps with series, “I. Early organizational records.”
The subseries, “b. Productions,” consists mostly of photographs, contact sheets and slides of many of the Ballet’s productions and performances. Also included are publicity and promotional materials, and some related clippings. The materials date from 1964 to 2002, with some undated material included, and are arranged alphabetically by production name. While not all of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s performances and productions are represented here, the subseries does illustrate the range of types of ballets pursued by the Ballet, such as Carmina Burana, Sleeping Beauty and Giselle, as well as Rough Assemblage, Celestial Images and Yes Virginia, Another Piano Ballet. There are a large number of files concerning the annual holiday production of The Nutcracker, which include budget information, various publicity materials, casting materials, clippings of reviews, ticket sales information, as well as photographic materials. Also of particular interest are the “Cue sheets, blocking, lighting” files located at the end of the subseries. These files contain packets of cue sheets and blocking and lighting diagrams used during various rehearsals and performances. Most of these materials are annotated, and provide complementary contextual information about some of the Ballet’s productions, including Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Moor’s Pavane and La Sylphide.
The subseries, “c. Tours,” primarily contains planning materials for many of the local and national tours of the Pennsylvania Ballet at universities, cultural institutions, and other venues in multiple cities. The materials include itineraries and budgets for trips, correspondence between event planners, planning and production notes, as well as some contracts with host institutions. While the materials in this subseries do not provide comprehensive documentation of all the tours, researchers may find these materials useful for preliminary or peripheral research. The records date from 1979 to 1987. The subseries is arranged in chronological order.
The subseries, “d. Seasons,” provides some documentation about the planning, production of, and advertising for the Pennsylvania Ballet’s home performances in Philadelphia. Materials include clippings, correspondence, sales and ticketing information and promotional materials for multiple productions each season. The subseries is arranged in chronological order and dates from 1975 to 1993. The subseries, “e. Miscellaneous,” contains records dating from 1969 to 1999 that document various other activities related to the Pennsylvania Ballet Company. Most of the materials included in this subseries are staff records (most likely from several departments, including Marketing and Public Relations), and are related to marketing and meetings. Files also contain clippings, expense reports, event planning and fundraising records, and photographs. Of particular note are materials related to the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, promotional storybooks for various productions, and records regarding the Pennsylvania Ballet’s partnership with the Milwaukee Ballet company. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject.
The “III. Promotional and printed material” series contains three subseries: “a. Playbills and promotional materials, “b. Binders” and “c. Posters.”
The “a. Playbills and promotional materials” subseries contains playbills and flyers promoting the various local performances and productions of the Pennsylvania Ballet. Also included is a promotional storybook for the 1996 production of the "Nutcracker." The materials date from 1968 to 2003 and are arranged chronologically. The subseries overlaps with or is directly related to the visual materials found in the following subseries, “b. Binders” and “c. Posters.”
The “b. Binders, 1963-1998” subseries consists of eighty-two binders created by the Pennsylvania Ballet. The bulk of the binders contain newspaper clippings arranged chronologically. A smaller number of binders also include programs, advertising, repertoire books, reviews and records related to fundraising. The records housed here evidence the way in which the Pennsylvania Ballet was viewed by the press and critics. They also show how the Pennsylvania Ballet publicly portrayed and promoted its productions. Some of the binders were not completely assembled and, as a result, there are often loose pages within binders. There is some overlap between the programs in this subseries and the subseries “a. Playbills and promotional materials.” The binders are arranged chronologically.
The “c. Posters” subseries consists of more than sixty posters, mostly documenting individual ballets or events. The series is arranged alphabetically by ballet or event name. Some of the artwork on the posters can also be found in the subseries “a. Playbills and promotional materials” and “b. Binders, 1963-1998.”
Series “IV. Audio/Video, 1984-2002,” consists of several types of media including ¾ inch umatic tapes, vhs, reel-to-reel film, and audio tapes. The bulk of the material consists of videos, which document rehearsals, performances, events and promotion. Public Service Announcements (PSAs) promoted the Pennsylvania Ballet, their interactions with the Milwaukee Ballet, and specific performances. There are also a few examples of interviews and news reports. This series is arranged chronologically with a large number of undated materials located at the end of the series. Researchers are advised to contact the Special Collections department at Temple University prior to research to make certain that the necessary audio/video equipment is available.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.
- Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Christiana Dobrzynski Grippe and Sarah Newhouse
- Finding Aid Date
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
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This collection is open for research use.
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