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Dance Heritage Coalition

Introduction Table of Contents Biographical Sketch

Nirenska (Pola) Collection

- Scope and Content Note

Scope and Content Note

The Pola Nirenska Collection consists primarily of biographical materials, correspondence, choreographic notes, programs, publicity, scrapbooks, photographic materials, art work, and audiovisual materials. Excluding published books and recordings, the collection spans the years 1927 to 1992. The bulk of the documents date from the 1950s to the 1990s -- the period of Nirenska's career in the United States -- but the collection contains many valuable materials from her early career in Europe.

Biographical materials in the collection encompass articles, reviews, publicity clippings, and interviews from many countries, including Poland, Germany, and Russia. The clippings and articles date from 1933 to the end of Nirenska's dance career. Newspaper clippings have been photocopied for preservation purposes. Additional clippings and articles are contained in the scrapbooks and subject files. The interviews span from 1966 to 1986 and are in printed form. Three interviewers are identified: Olga Nuray Olcay, Suzan Moss, and Priaulx Rainier. Two interviews were originally housed in the scrapbooks.

Correspondence in the collection, spanning from 1934 to 1992, consists predominately of letters to Nirenska from students and colleagues. Correspondence from the following renowned dance personalities is included: Martha Graham, Louis Horst, Doris Humphrey, Kurt Jooss, Harald Kreutzberg, Rudolf Laban, Phyllis Legters, Liz Lerman, Dorothy Madden, Beth Osgood Chanock, Nicole Pierson, Naima Prevots, Rona Sande, Walter Sorell, Erika Thimey, Jan Tievsky, Evelyn de la Tour, Jan Veen, Mary Wigman, and Sharon Wyrrick. Other letters are from political figures, such as Ronald Reagan, and international and national organizations. Only a few letters by Nirenska are contained in the collection.

The collection contains notes for a number of works choreographed by Nirenska during her residence in the United States. The choreographic notes are mainly textual descriptions, but some are in Nirenska's own notation system. Notes for The four horsemen of the apocalypse are the most abundant. There are also numerous unidentified choreographic notes. Several of the notes were found on or in audio recording tape boxes.

The programs in the collection consist of printed and typescript programs of performances by Nirenska and performances by others. The programs of performances by Nirenska date from 1933 to 1990. More programs can be found in the scrapbooks and subject files, and additional information may be obtained from the addresses and cards in the personal papers series. Nirenska saved only a few programs of performances by others; these date from 1931 to 1988.

Publicity materials, distinct from publicity articles found in biographical materials, encompass printed and typescript documents such as flyers and posters. Publicity about Nirenska dates from 1933 to 1990. More materials can be found in the scrapbooks and subject files. Publicity about others dates from 1927 and 1992. Nirenska saved only a few publicity items about others.

The scrapbooks comprise particularly informative sections of the collection. Thirteen scrapbooks consisting of photographs, clippings, articles, programs, publicity materials, and correspondence were compiled by Jan Karski. Coverage begins in 1933 with Nirenska's early career and ends with materials concerning her death in 1992. Documents from her sojourns in the United States, Poland, Austria, England, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, Turkey, Greece, and Lebanon are included. Original order of the scrapbooks has been maintained; materials are generally in chronological order.

Photographic materials comprise the bulk of the collection, spanning the 1930s to 1992. The series is divided into three subseries: photoprints, negatives, and slides by Nirenska. Photoprints are divided further into prints of Nirenska alone; those of other people; those by Nirenska; those by David Hasamatsu; and those housed in albums. Prints are black-and-white and are 8 x 10 inches or less in size unless noted otherwise. Works choreographed for dance solo are found in "Nirenska alone;" group works with Nirenska as a performer are located in "Nirenska with others;" and group works not including Nirenska are found in "Other people."

The prints of Nirenska alone are made up of both publicity and informal shots. Included are early solo works such as Eastern ballad, Felina -- catty woman, A scarecrow remembers, and Unwanted child. There are also prints of Nirenska as a model in England. Other publicity and informal shots are contained in the sub-subseries of Nirenska with others. Of particular interest are photographs with Mary Wigman and of works such as Departures, American folk suite, and Shakespearean suite. Prints of others are publicity and informal portraits and late works by Nirenska without her as a performer. In addition to portraits of dance personalities, there are photographs of the artist Felix Topolski. The sub-subseries of prints by Nirenska documents her output during her photographic interlude (1967-1980). A few autographed prints of winter scenes by David Hasamatsu comprise the next sub-subseries; the last division of prints is made up of disassembled photograph albums spanning the years 1977 to 1988. The albums contain photographs of Nirenska's travels, family, friends, and pets.

Negatives are arranged in three sections: those of Nirenska alone; those of others; and those by Nirenska. The negatives are all black-and-white and 35 millimeters in size unless noted otherwise; dates are given when known. The first sub-subseries is publicity shots of Nirenska's early solo works. Negatives of others and negatives by Nirenska are similar to the corresponding photoprints sub-subseries. Materials are not cross-referenced.

Slides by Nirenska in the collection are color slides from her photographic interlude period. They are arranged by subject except for a few titled works.

Art work in the collection, consisting of costume designs, drawings, and paintings, complements the choreographic notes and photographic materials. Costume designs by Audrey Cruddas, Doroty Szenfeld, and unidentified designers are from Nirenska's early career in Europe. There are a number of drawings and watercolors of Nirenska and colleagues as well as several miscellaneous drawings and prints.

The audiovisual materials supplement the printed materials related to Nirenska's choreography. Many VHS videotapes and a few 8 millimeter films document dances choreographed during Nirenska's residence in the United States. There are also numerous audio recordings of rehearsals. The video and audio recordings are significant not only for documenting choreographic works, but also for preserving the music of some contemporary women composers. Record albums of music used for accompanying Nirenska's dances are also contained in the collection.

Other materials include: an autographed printed score of Priaulx Rainier's Quartet for strings and a score of the Polish national hymn; poetry for, about, and by Nirenska, and a few miscellaneous poems; subject files of Nirenska's dance school, dance company, and related files containing publicity, programs, clippings, and writings; personal papers such as addresses and cards, bibliographic cards, business papers, and medical documents; four awards including Nirenska's diploma from Mary Wigman's school; realia such as a medal from the 200th anniversary of the Polish Ballet; monographs related to dance, religion, and history; and magazines, articles, and clippings saved by Nirenska mostly pertaining to dance-related topics.

Introduction Table of Contents Biographical Sketch