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Newberry Library to be Honored by Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts

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The Newberry is honored to be the second recipient of The Ruth Page Center for the Arts Distinguished Service Award. In a press release, The Newberry Library stated, “First bestowed in 2013, the Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual or organization who has demonstrated extraordinary service and leadership in advancing the mission of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts to ensure that children and dance artists have a place to study, work, and perform at the highest level of excellence.” The 2014 Distinguished Service Award will be presented on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at the annual gala held at the Chicago Yacht Club for The Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

Ruth Page (1899-1991) was a dancer, choreographer, and ballet director. The Dance Heritage Coalition named her to the list of 100 Dance Treasures.

Joellen A. Meglin, Associate Professor and former Coordinator of Doctoral Studies in Dance at Temple University, wrote, “Her ballets mixed genres (modern dance, jazz dance, and tap); absorbed elements of popular culture (e.g., African American dance idioms); incorporated spoken texts; and, in an approach that was often satirical, burlesque, campy, or humorous, addressed gender issues. They frequently provoked controversy and sometimes censorship, and her situation off-center (not in the cultural mecca of New York City), as well as her status as a woman attempting to achieve authority in the ballet world, worked against her. But she never failed to find new venues and vehicles for her work, and she understood the value of collaboration as she pursued modernist ballet with a keen sense of the au courant.”

According to her biography in the finding aid for The Newberry Library’s collection Ruth Page Nutcracker Papers, 1965-1997 she “was a pioneer in creating works on American themes. To the classical ballet vocabulary she added movements from sports, popular dance, and everyday gestures.”

The Ruth Page Foundation operates the performing arts center and school of dance. The address of both the Ruth Page Foundation and the Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts is 1016 North Dearborn Street, which makes it a neighbor of The Newberry Library as well as Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Chicago, Harvest Cathedral, Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, and Walter Payton College Preparatory High School. It is within easy walking distance of the Moody Bible Institute, the western end of Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus, and Holy Name Cathedral. The shopping district around Fourth Presbyterian Church, the John Hancock Center, the Water Tower, and Water Tower Place at the northern end of Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile are only a little farther away, also within walking distance.

“We are so grateful to the Newberry for their commitment to preserving and protecting the legacy of Ruth Page,” noted Venetia Stifler, Ph.D., Vice President of the Ruth Page Foundation and Executive and Artistic Director of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. “Through their efforts, many of Ruth Page’s personal and professional memorabilia is now properly archived and cataloged within the Newberry, ensuring that Miss Page’s legacy of artistry and vision remains accessible to future generations.”

There are three Ruth Page collections at The Newberry Library. In 2006, Larry Long donated the Ruth Page Nutcracker Papers, 1965-1997. Processed by Leslie James Osterberg in 2007, it is 2.5 linear feet of files and photographs divided between six boxes (four boxes of production notes and two of photos).

The smaller collection Ruth Page Works and Memorabilia, 1923-1983 is .4 linear feet of documents divided between two boxes. Processed by Virginia Hay Smith in 1991, it consists of published and unpublished short articles and essays written by Ms. Page, many of which appeared in Page by Page; clippings; correspondence; two photocopies of film scripts; photographs; and programs, publicity material, and notes and stage directions relating to ballets.

Some of the items are duplicates of the originals held by The New York Public Library. Ruth Page herself donated some of the materials in 1981 and Sheila Malkind donated the rest ten years later.

In 2013, The Newberry Library gained a third Ruth Page collection, a gift from the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. The Newberry Library states it is comprised of over “100 boxes and cartons of programs, publicity materials, correspondence, and musical scores. It also includes six boxes of items relating to the annual production of “The Nutcracker,” performed at the Arie Crown Theater from 1965 to 1997, and six cubic feet of video archives.”

In addition to the collections at The New York Public Library and The Newberry Library, there is also a collection at the Chicago Film Archives (C.F.A.). The Ruth Page Collection, 1922-1999 consists of 406 reels of 16mm totaling 221,551 feet; 10 reels of 35mm totaling 3,875 feet; 16 1" videotapes totaling 8,900 feet; 66 1/2 " reel-to-reel videotapes totaling 101,690 feet; 10 1/4 " audio tapes totaling 4,370 feet; 1 2" videotape totaling 300 feet; 53 3/4" tape cassettes; 213 Betacam SP tape cassettes; and 160 VHS tape cassettes.

Ruth Page herself compiled these films and videos. They were stored with the Ruth Page Foundation in Chicago after her death. Venetia Stifler and the Ruth Page Foundation gifted the materials to the C.F.A. in 2011.

The Newberry Library stated in the press release, “Ruth Page was a pioneer in the field of dance, creating fully produced works, choreographing operas, and bringing dance to new locations and to new audiences. Ms. Page was also an educator and a benefactor, dedicated to promoting dance in all its forms to a wide audience. Emanating from the Illinois heartland, the visionary work of Ruth Page influenced the growth of theater design, opera ballet, and dance. She achieved worldwide recognition as a true pioneer of dance in America. Ruth Page choreographed, danced, toured, and produced in all parts of the world, and was employed by, collaborated with, and employed some of the greatest artists of the twentieth century: Irving Berlin, Aaron Copland, Sergei Diaghilev, Katherine Dunham, Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, and Anna Pavlova.”

Committed to preserving in Chicago a record of the city’s vital contemporary scene, the Newberry collects and houses a wide range of personal materials from choreographers, dancers, company founders and managers, critics, and photographers, and the records of dance companies, studios, and promotional organizations. The Newberry last year was honored to become home to the magnificent Ruth Page Collection, generously donated to the library by the arts center…

Established in Chicago by Ruth Page in 1970, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts is a non-profit organization committed to the education, promotion, and presentation of dance in Chicago. The Center also promotes Ms. Page’s vision of dance as an innovative and accessible art form that fosters artistic excellence and creates a dance destination in Illinois. For more than 40 years, The Center has committed its resources to serving the Chicago dance community by being an incubator, providing a home, office space, rehearsal space, performance opportunities, professional dance training, and marketing support for the up-and-coming companies and artists of Chicago’s vibrant dance scene.

“We are very pleased and proud to be honored by one of the nation’s most prestigious centers for dance—as well as a Newberry neighbor,” said Newberry President David Spadafora. “We are, moreover, extremely grateful for the center’s generous donation of materials, which advances our mission by fostering scholarship in the field of the arts, particularly dance.”

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