Scope and arrangement
The Yvonne Patterson and William Dollar papers document their work as dancers, educators, and choreographers. The papers consist of material from various ballet companies where one or both of the couple was engaged, choreography, correspondence, subject files (which include a manuscript by Dollar and personal and professional photographs) and teaching materials. While much of the material is related to Dollar's work as a choreographer, Patterson was not only his wife, but his life long collaborator. Her hand can be seen in many of his documents.
The Yvonne Patterson and William Dollar papers are arranged in five series:
This series contains correspondence, programs, photographs, and other materials relating to Patterson and Dollar's work with various ballet companies and performing arts institutions. These records reflect all aspects of the couple's artistic endeavors, whether as performers, teachers, or choreographers. Files dated post-1988 usually reflect Patterson's services as a consultant in the recreating and performance of Dollar's most famous works, often Le Combat. Of note is the material relating to the National Ballet School of Iran, which Dollar and Patterson founded together in the mid 1950s. Arrangement is alphabetical by company or institution.
Series II contains notes, photographs, and other materials documenting William Dollar's work as a choreographer. The materials are arranged by composition where possible, and consist of handwritten notes describing choreography. Occasionally, correspondence relating to the creation of the work, costume sketches, or photographs of the work in performance are present. A set of choreographic notebooks are included at the end of this series. These notebooks are filled with sketches, inspiration, and ideas jotted down by Dollar during his career, and are not tied to any one composition. Arrangement is alphabetical by dance, with the general notebooks at the end.
The correspondence series contains letters to and from William Dollar and Yvonne Patterson, Todd Bolender, and others. Dollar and Patterson's correspondence with each other is rich in dance detail, as they were often separated by their work. They were not only husband and wife, but choreographers, dancers, teachers, founders and artists together. They discuss other dancers, the production of new works, why a certain dance was a failure or a success, and rehearsal details along with their personal life.
The correspondence also contains a lengthy discourse between Todd Bolender and the couple, especially Patterson. Todd Bolender was a Balanchine trained dancer who became a noted teacher, choreographer and director. He led the Kansas City Ballet from 1980 to 1995, and those years are represented in this correspondence. This material is also especially rich, as Patterson and Bolender rediscovered each other late in life and the correspondence is filled with reminisces of the early days of the American Ballet Theatre. There is also family correspondence with Viola Patterson and Jane Alexander, the great-grand niece of Patterson's father Ambrose Patterson. Series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.
Series IV holds a broad range of materials relating to Dollar and Patterson's personal and professional lives. Costume sketches, two diaries written by Patterson later in her life, scores, programs from various dance performances attended or worked on by the couple, photographs, financial materials, and Dollar's manuscript, Old Granny Spreads Good Will are contained here.
The photographs in this series are both personal (candid shots by year) and dance related. The dance related photographs are often professional studio shots of Dollar, Patterson, Balanchine and other dancers, some autographed. There are many pictures of Dollar with his dance partner, Marie-Jeanne, as well as shots of Patterson with Maria Tallchief. Patterson wrote identifying information on the back of almost every photograph, rendering these files especially useful. A family scrapbook created by Patterson around 1920 holds photographs of her siblings along with her mother and stepfather Herman Tucker.
The scores include several printed copies of scores that Dollar was considering for choreography and copies of musical compositions written by Paul Ramsier for a possible collaboration.
Letters from Patterson's stepfather Herman L. Tucker describe his courtship of Patterson's mother in 1918 and his interactions with her children. These letters were written to his sister Katherine.
Of note in this series is an unpublished, typed manuscript written by William Dollar during and shortly after the Ballet Caravan's South American tour. Entitled Old Granny Spreads Good Will, it describes backstage happenings among the company, with thinly veiled pseudonymous names given to the cast of characters. Included with the book is Yvonne Patterson's handwritten character key – identifying each person with their pseudonym. Persons depicted include Balanchine, Lew Chirstensen, Gisela Caccialanza, Marie-Jeanne, and Lincoln Kirstein.
Arrangement is alphabetical by folder title.
Series V is composed of notes from William Dollar's career as a dance teacher. The notes are primarily handwritten, and are sorted either by the teaching venue, by subject, or by dance being covered. The most detailed papers are those under "General Course Notes" which outline class work for each level of dancer being taught. These course notes include barre work, repetitions, floor work, and what objectives he hoped to achieve with each class. Arrangement is alphabetical by subject.