The Humphrey Legacy Today
Doris Humphrey’s legacy is growing in a robust and exciting manner. In the UK, Middlesex University has been a centre of Humphrey training for many years through Lesley Main’s teaching. Middlesex has the only training programme in the country where dance students can study both Humphrey and Graham techniques and the respective repertories throughout their undergraduate studies. A number of graduates have gone on to perform and teach Humphrey’s work. Many, many others have incorporated the Humphrey principles in choreographic work and in primary and secondary school teaching. Increasing international links and collaborations between today’s generation of Humphrey artists and exponents is ensuring that the technique and the repertory are experienced on a regular basis (see Links).
Lesley Main is a leading European exponent of Doris Humphrey’s dance tradition. She began her association with Ernestine Stodelle in 1985, and has danced in and directed a number of Humphrey’s major works, including The Call/Breath of Fire, Water Study, The Shakers, With My Red Fires, New Dance and Passacaglia. Lesley founded the Doris Humphrey Foundation in 1995 as part of the Humphrey Centennial Celebrations. She produced, directed and performed in a series of events for the Centenary including performances at The Royal Festival Hall and The Place Theatre London in collaboration with American dance artists and scholars including Ernestine Stodelle, Gail Corbin, Selma Jeanne Cohen and Millicent Hodson. She is currently Principal Lecturer in Dance at Middlesex University, London, teaching Humphrey-based Technique and Repertoire, and was Chair of the Dance Department from 1999 – 2004. She has also taught extensively throughout Europe. For the past ten years, Lesley has been guest director in Turin, Italy, for the company and school of ‘Arke Compagnie D’Arte. She performs with the company and directed Water Study and Passacaglia (2006/07/08). She has also staged Passacaglia for Momenta Dance Company in Chicago, USA (2007/08) and will return to Turin to stage The Shakers in 2009.
In 2003, Lesley completed her PhD at University of Roehampton, researching comparative directorial techniques in theatre in relation to directing for dance. As part of this research, she established the Humphrey Video Project in 2000 at Middlesex University, and filmed new productions of Water Study (2000), Dance of the Chosen (2001) and With My Red Fires (2001) with students from the university. Publications include ‘Preserved and Illuminated’, Dance Theatre Journal, Autumn, 1995; ‘The Staging of Doris Humphrey’s Passacaglia : A Director’s Perspective’ in Jordan, Stephanie, ed. Preservation Politics : Dance Revived Reconstructed Remade, London : Dance Books, 2000; ‘The Dances of Doris Humphrey – Creating a contemporary perspective through directorial interpretation’ in Dance Research, vol. 23.2, Winter, 2005, pp 106 – 122.
Conference presentations include ‘The Dance Works of Doris Humphrey’ at l’Universita Degli Studi Di Torino, Italy, June 2005; ‘A Narrative Perspective on Doris Humphrey’s ‘With My Red Fires – an exploration of the consequences of directorial intervention in the staging of dance’ at the Arts Symposium of the Annual International Systems Research Conference in Baden-Baden, Germany August, 2005; ‘A Musical Exploration of Doris Humphrey’s ‘Passacaglia – with reference to how musical interpretation can influence directorial interpretation and performance of a dance work’ at ‘Sound Moves’, an international music/dance conference co-hosted by Princeton University and Roehampton University) in November 2005; ‘Interpreting Doris Humphrey’s Narrative’ at the Society for Dance Research Annual Conference, March 2006.
Gail Corbin is a leading exponent in the technique and repertory of Doris Humphrey. Her longtime association with Ernestine Stodelle, an original member of the company of Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, began with Ernestine’s reconstructions of Two Ecstatic Themes and Air for the G String for the Jose Limon Company in 1977. Gail assisted her in these reconstructions and served as a model for the solo roles. She has continued to teach and perform these works along with other dances such as The Call and Breath of Fire, Quasi Waltz, Shakers and Water Study. Because Ms. Corbin took part in the reconstructions and assisted Ms. Stodelle in the rebirth of these movements, Gail possesses a rich and cast knowledge of these works and a deep understanding of this technique. She taught all levels of technique in Ernestine’s Silo studio for over twenty years. Under the direction of Beatrice Seckler, also an original member of the Humphrey/Weidman group and Deborah Carr who worked with Charles Weidman, Gail was a featured dancer/soloist in the Deborah Carr Theatre Dance Ensemble performing the works of Charles Weidman: Lynchtown, Brahams Waltzes, Christmas Oratorio, to name a few. Ms. Corbin has taught and directed Humphrey works all over the U.S. as well as Europe and Australia. She has conducted several workshops in Oak Park, Illinois at the Academy of Movement and Music, which is also the home of the Doris Humphrey Society of which Gail is a board member. Some of the other places Gail has taught this technique and repertory are Barnard College, Columbia University, The Juilliard School and St. Olaf College. For the past several years, Gail has been a guest teacher at the Jose Limon School. The demand for her expertise has taken Ms. Corbin to London, England where she performed Doris Humphrey’s works at Royal Festival Hall. She taught at The Place, Middlesex University, Islington Arts Factory. She is co-director of the Doris Humphrey Foundation UK. Gail gave Master classes and performed at the renowned Folk-wang studios in Essen, Germany, Dance Theatre of Ireland, Dublin and Modern Movement Academy in Sydney, Australia. Gail is a featured dancer in two films: “The Technique of Doris Humphrey and Its Creative Potential” and “Charles Weidman On His Own.” Ms. Corbin continues to be a sought-after coach, teacher and director of this important dance style.
Rachel moved to London from Liverpool in 1987 to study performing arts at Middlesex Polytechnic and it was here that she was introduced to the Humphrey Technique. In 1990 she joined the Humphrey-based company, Pioneers Dance directed by Lesley Main which then led her to teach the technique around London through community classes. Rachel joined Middlesex dance department as a part time lecturer in 1992 working alongside Lesley Main and continued her performing work with Pioneers Dance and subsequently the Doris Humphrey Foundation from 1995. During this period she was introduced to Chickenshed Theatre Company, and invited to join the artistic staff as an Associate Director. One of her key aims was to introduce the technique to the company’s dance work, matching the inclusive nature of the company with the accessible and theatrical approach of the Humphrey technique. Recently Rachel has directed Mother Of A Brown Boy, (shortlisted for Total Theatre’s Award for Best original work by an ensemble, and Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award 2007); On The Surface for the international theatre project Contacting The World; and was part of the directing team for Globaleyes which ran in London and at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Her creative work at Chickenshed in the last few years has given her the opportunities to travel to Ethiopia and Bangladesh.
Rachel Bradbear joined Middlexsex University in 1999 teaching Humphrey technique and community dance modules. Studying Dance and English at Middlesex Polytechnic she then went on to teach dance in FE, perform and choreograph. Rachel studied Humphrey technique and repertoire with Ernestine Stodelle in USA for 2 years, becoming her assistant in 1999. While in US she became archives assistant at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Her research areas now focus on artistic collaborations in community settings with her company Inner Arts, creating works such as multi arts site specific project Bus Stopping taking place on and off a London Bus (2003).
Rachel also adapts Humphrey technique & repertoire for integrated groups and has studied and taught Alignment Therapy (a somatic practice) for disabled and non-disabled performers which she incorporates within technique class. Most recently Rachel has completed MSc Dance Science programme at Laban where she researched injury rates and shoulder pain in dancer using wheelchairs. International work has included performances at Frederick Lowe Theatre in New York, and artistic advisor in Windhoek, Namibia for Ombetja Yehinga Organisation in 2004. She is currently Artistic manager for Contrl/Alt/Shft, an international youth dance project in partnership with Sadler’s Wells, aiming to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS through dance and film.
Kate is a Lecturer in Dance at Middlesex University where she teaches Humphrey technique, Pilates, Fitness for Dance and lectures Science of Movement. Kate trained as a dancer at the London Studio Centre and Millennium Dance 2000 gaining a Professional Diploma in Dance Performance. She went on to perform as a freelance professional dancer, credits including David Bintleys Samson et Dalila at the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), trade shows in the UK and Europe, and now specialises in the technique and work of Doris Humphrey. Kate went on to study at Middlesex University, gaining a Degree in Dance Studies (Science), and was involved in devising and developing the Dance Fitness Indicator (DFI). Kate has a Post-Graduate Certificate in Dance Science, and is currently studying for her MSc Dance Science at Wolverhampton University. Kate trained under Lesley Main to become a Humphrey technique teacher in 2006, which was developed through further training with Gail Corbin, Deborah Carr, Jim May and the Doris Humphrey Society in Chicago, USA in 2008 and 2009. In 2009, she was awarded the Lisa Ullmann scholarship to travel back to the USA to further her Humphrey-Weidman training. Kate is a trustee of the Doris Humphrey Foundation UK, for which she organised the first UK intensive Humphrey-Weidman workshop in July 2009 with Gail Corbin and Deborah Carr. In addition to this, her research interests are in holistic fitness training methods for dancers. She is also a qualified Pilates foundation teacher.
Jillian trained at Academy De La Danse, the University of Michigan-Flint under the direction of Kimberly Jones (Alvin Ailey), Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, and Joel Hall Jazz Dance Chicago, later studying at Middlesex University where she gained a BA Hons in Dance Choreography. Her professional dance credits include Intimate Contenders BluePrint 25th Anniversary performance King’s Cross and various performances with HR-Artworks London UK, in which she is a featured soloist. Jillian specialises in the creative work and technique of Doris Humphrey with the aim of preserving the dance for future generations. Jillian has taught Humphrey technique at Middlesex University, The Place and Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Jillian trained to become a Humphrey dancer and technique practitioner under the direction of Lesley Main in 2007 and has taken part in workshops for Humphrey dancers and teachers through the Humphrey Society in Chicago USA with leading Humphrey/Weidman/Limon specialists Gail Corbin, Deborah Carr, and Jim May in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, Jillian furthered her training under Jim May at the Peridance centre (New York), and performed Humphrey’s Water Study under the direction of Gail Corbin. Jillian is currently teaching Humphrey technique whilst studying for her MFA in the USA.
Louise trained as a Humphrey dancer and teacher under the direction of Lesley Main at Middlesex University in 2009, where she graduated with a first class honours degree in Dance Performance. Louise furthered her training with Humphrey-Weidman specialists Gail Corbin and Deborah Carr through during the UK Summer workshop in 2009. Louise is currently a visiting lecturer at Middlesex University where she teaches Humphrey technique and choreography, where she is also studying MA choreography. Louise is a creative director and dancer for Shaded Voice Dance Company. Her choreographic work has been seen at the Edinburgh Festival, Blueprint (London), and the Bakewell Arts Festival. She has gained work experience with English National Ballet’s department of learning working on the outreach programme with schools, and as an outreach practitioner within schools and the community for Hampshire Dance.
Deborah Carr is a graduate of Stephens College where she studied with Harriett Ann Gray, soloist with the Humphrey-Weidman Company. After graduation, Ms. Carr moved to New York and joined Charles Weidman’s Theatre Dance Company. In 1976, she established her own company that performed original works by Ms. Carr and maintained many dances from the classic repertory ofCharles Weidman and Doris Humphrey. Deborah Carr’s Theatre Dance Ensemble was a well-respected company that was invited to perform in prestigious dance festivals such as the American Dance Festival at Purchase and the New Dance Group Retrospective. In addition to Charles Weidman, Ms. Carr has worked with other Humphrey-Weidman dancers including Ernestine Stodelle, Beatrice Seckler, Peter Hamilton, George Bockman and Nona Schurman. She had studied Limon technique with Ruth Currier and Betty Jones and has performed with Limon dancers Carla Maxwell, Gary Masters and Fred Mathews. Ms. Carr has many years teaching experience on both the college and professional levels. She has been on the faculty of St. Joseph’s College and City College in New York and has taught as a guest artist at universities throughout the country. In the United States, she has set repertory on a variety of professional companies and also taught in England and Ireland. Recently, she taught for the professional studies program at the Limon Institute and coached the Limon Company on Doris Humprey’s New Dance. She joined the Stephens faculty as Guest Artist for the fall semester of 2003 and became full-time faculty in 2004-05.
Jim May is Artistic Director of Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble and was a devoted discilple of Anna Sokolow for thirty-five years performing her work worldwide. He also danced with the Jose Limon Company from the early 1960′s and continues to embrace these two distinct dance styles. Mr. May is an internationally recognised teacher who has been on the faculties of SUNY Purchase, Juilliard School of Music and Princeton University. He has received a 1997 Fulbright Scholarhsip to Mexico and a 2006 Senior Fulbright Scholarship to Chile. A recipient of the Marcus Award for Teaching Excellence from Washington Univesity, Jim is on faculty at the Limon Institute, The Ailey School and Peridance in NYC, specializing in the Humphrey/Limon technique. His choreography has been in the repertories of Dance Conduit, Dance Forum Taipei and Thoughts in Motion. In 1999, Mr. May received the “Bessie Award” for lifetime achievement in the area of dance performance.