Scope and arrangement
The collection, dating from 1920s to 1988, documents the life and career of Liljan Espenak (1905-1988). The collection spans her career as a dance movement therapist, dancer, educator and author. The files contain letters from family, friends, and colleagues. Most of the early correspondence is written in German. There are some letters written in Norwegian and English from her family in Norway. The files also include love letters from Espenak to Charles Beland, a sergeant in the military during World War II.
The files indicate that Espenak maintained a life-long friendship with her mentor Mary Wigman, the expressionist German dancer, through correspondence and printed matter. Also evident was her attendance at the Mary Wigman conference in Berlin, 1986. Other prominent correspondents include Theo Gusten, the Dutch-German director; Stefan Laurent, Hungarian-American filmmaker; Felix H. Man, pioneer photojournalist; and Alexander Roda Roda, Austrian-Croatian writer.
Mostly through printed matter, the collection illustrates that Espenak also retained documentation of her career as a dancer and choreographer in Berlin, London, Paris and the United States. The files hold reviews of Espenak's performances, advertisements and promotions for the Espenak School in New York, programs choreographed by her, writings, and notes.
The latter half of the collection focuses on Espenak's career as a dance therapist for physically and mentally challenged and children and adults. There are research materials on dance and dance therapy, Espenak's lectures, correspondence, certificates, daybooks, appointment books, and a plaque recognizing her work as a dance and movement therapist. The files include several draft copies for the book Dance Therapy: Theory and Application, published in 1981.
Between 1984 and 1988, Espenak was in the process of writing another book titled Man's Walk or The Walk. Espenak's correspondence with her editor Mildred Navaretta indicates that this book would have been from a psychological or psychotherapist perspective. Her inspiration may have been prompted from teaching the art of walking to people in the performing arts. These files hold some preliminary work for chapters I-III, information about future chapters, and photographs of Espenak demonstrating body movements on the barre.
The collection is in English with some materials in German and Norwegian.
The collection maintains the original order and is loosely arranged by professional activities.