Swarthmore College Dance Program records
Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. 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
At Swarthmore classes in dance technique have been offered as part of the physical education curriculum for men and women since the 1940s. In those early years classes in ballroom, folk, modern, and square dance were available. In addition to classes, the College has continuously hosted performance groups in a wide variety of dance styles and has demonstrated a significant commitment to sponsoring performances and residencies by eminent professionals under the auspices of the Cooper Foundation.
The Swarthmore Folk Festival traces its roots to 1940, when Alice Gates of the Women's Physical Education Department (who was an excellent square and folk dancer) organized the first "barn dance" at the College. Soon after, a folk dance club, known at the time as the Co-Ed Dance Club, was formed. By participating in a weekly class to learn how to lead and teach square and folk dances, students could earn PE credit. As a class project, students decided to create and run an intercollegiate folk festival, the first Swarthmore Folk Festival, held in 1945. The festival grew, incorporating performances by renouned musicians including Leadbelly (1946), Woody Guthrie (1949), and Pete Seeger (1953). By 1955, there were 2,725 attendees. The administration reacted negatively to the tumult of all those visitors, and over the next few years, put limitations on the festival or banned it altogether. After a brief resurgence in the 1960s, the folk festival was folded into the Swarthmore Rock Festival.
In 1967, The Critique of a College, a comprehensive analysis of the direction of Swarthmore College written by appointed committees comprised of members of the college community, suggested that a professional dancer be hired and given faculty status in the Music Department or "work as an associate of the drama instructor." In 1968 Pat Boyer joined the Physical Education Department as a part-time faculty member in dance. In 1970 her position was reassigned as full-time Assistant Professor tenure track. By 1975 two additional part-time dance faculty positions with year-to-year appointments were added to the staff, and master classes with professionals became an integral part of the program.
In 1973 Physical Education Visiting Committee's recommended that dance study be moved into the area of performing arts. In 1977 Pat Wityk Boyer was named the first Director of Dance, and the program was moved to the Department of Music. While physical education credit was still awarded for participation in technique classes, courses for academic credit were also added to the curriculum. During the years between 1977 and 1985, in answer to increasing enrollments, a third part-time faculty position was added. Most student involvement came through technique courses that satisfied the college-wide physical education requirement.
Since then over thirty-five new course offerings have been introduced in technique, composition, history, theory, and dance repertory. These courses have been developed to reflect a world dance focus; as a group they offer opportunities to investigate dance from a variety of worldviews. In 1988 the official department name was changed to the Department of Music and Dance. Beginning in the early 1990's a small but steady stream of students incorporated dance into the work of majors through thesis and concert project work (in such disciplines as English Literature, History, and Sociology-Anthropology). Dance is also one of the cognates students can include for the major in Linguistics. In 1993 the first student graduated with a major in which dance was specifically named. In 1999, by vote of the full faculty of Swarthmore College, dance became available as a major and minor in both the course and honors programs.
Ralph Lee Smith, "If I Had a Song..." Swarthmore College Bulletin XCIV:4 (March 1997), http://bulletin.swarthmore.edu/bulletin-issue-archive/wp-content/archived_issues_pdf/Bulletin_1997_03.pdf
Swarthmore College Dance Program website/history: http://www.swarthmore.edu/dance-program/dance-program-history
This collection is organized into two series: "Series I: Physical Education Department" contains materials dating from the period when dance classes and clubs were administratively situated under the Physical Education Department, and "Series II: Dance Program" contains materials dating after dance become an academic program in the Performing Arts Department (and later the Department of Music and Dance).
Series I: Physical Education Department contains a fair quantity of material relating to Folk Dance (known as the Co-Ed Dance Club or the Folk Dance Club) and the Folk Festival, including programs, newspaper clippings, and committee/performer lists. There are also press releases and some materials from the Modern Dance Club.
Series II: Dance Program contains completed forms of a survey sent in 1989 to alumni of the program in dance, a 1992 evaluation of the dance libraries at Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore Colleges, and materials collected for the memorial service for Pat Boyer, the first Director of Dance.
- Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
- Finding Aid Author
- FHL staff
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
Collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.
Transcription of cassette tape interviews made for Tribute music and dance program in honor of Pat Wityk Boyer who had suffered a cerebral aneurysm the previous year. Cassette removed to FHL Audiovisual collection.Physical Description
Completed survey forms from alumni of the Dance program from the early 1970s-late 1980s concerning its history, impact, and relation to the curriculum. Done as part of the effort to establish the program as an academic minor .Physical Description
Completed survey forms from alumni of the Dance program from the early 1970s-late 1980s concerning its history, impact, and relation to the curriculum. Done as part of the effort to establish the program as an academic minor.Physical Description
"Oral history" paper on the history of the Dance Program, based on submitted survey forms by Maya Roth, Class of 1989. Includes correspondence concerning grant she received for the project, 1989-1990Physical Description
Presented by Marlene M. Wong, Dance Library ConsultantPhysical Description
Excerpt from Maya Roth's paper; Patricia Wityk Boyer obituary, 2007Physical Description
RE: fundraising for an archives of African dancePhysical Description