Scope and arrangement
The Marion Andersen papers document the work of the modern dancer, choreographer, and teacher as an artist-in-residence at Utah State University, professor of dance at the University of Washington, and the founder/artistic director of Valley Dance Ensemble in Logan, UT. The papers, dated 1930 to 2002 (bulk: 1970 to 1999), consist of choreographic notes, scripts, photographs, programs, posters, and correspondence. In addition to detailing Andersen's artistic vision for her performances and productions, the papers also highlight her approaches to dance instruction in both the academic and community settings. Andersen's research on the career of her mentor May O'Donnell, as well as O'Donnell's programs, photographs, and correspondence, constitutes a significant portion of the collection.
The Marion Andersen papers are arranged in six series:
This series contains Andersen's stage directions, scripts, sketches, photographs, contact sheets, and notes on dance pieces, with material arranged by title. The series, dating from 1969 to 2001, is divided into two sub-series, the first of which includes warm-up and rehearsal exercises suited for a variety of skill levels. Though the exercises are undated, they likely originate from Andersen's work in Valley Dance Ensemble's modern dance school.
The second sub-series holds material related to dance performances choreographed and directed by Andersen from her earliest concerts at USU, to her last with Valley Dance Ensemble. Andersen's notes detail her reactions to rehearsals, ideas for casting, responses to viewing her earlier productions of the piece, and stage directions. Portions of the notes are written in shorthand. These files generally consist of notes from multiple productions of a work, with photographs and costuming choices showing how Andersen refined directorial decision throughout her career. Her concerts with Valley Dance Ensemble represent the largest portion of the subseries. The files also show the range of dances she staged—from May O'Donnell works such as Drift and Suspension to Renaissance and historical pieces.
This series holds correspondence, clippings, photographs, journal-style notes, and presentations dating from 1950 to 2002. Clippings and a scrapbook from the series provide the most comprehensive mentions of Andersen as a performer in the collection, especially her work with the May O'Donnell and Norman Walker companies, in addition to articles that discuss her career holistically and her volunteer efforts in the community. Andersen's speeches and presentations include research-based lectures on aspects of Renaissance and 20th-century modern dance, as well as personal narratives on her experience as a dancer and choreographer. Correspondence contained herein is both personal and work-related, with items such as letters of recommendation from her colleagues at USU, UW, and other modern dance choreographers. Lastly, Andersen's private dance lessons, which she offered outside of her faculty work at UW, is documented in a ledger.
This series, with material dating from 1930 to 2000, holds Andersen's research and documents she collected related to the career of 20th century dancer and choreographer May O'Donnell. Correspondence in the collection states that she compiled this research with the ultimate goal of writing a book on O'Donnell, though the project was not completed before Andersen's death.
The first sub-series consists of programs covering five decades of O'Donnell's career, and documents both her own performances and dance productions she choreographed. The programs are arranged chronologically by year, and include a small number of photographs, reviews, and journals from O'Donnell for the relevant time period.
The largest portion of the series contains research notes and correspondence collected by Andersen. Her research includes shorthand and typescript notes from viewing performances, compiling reviews, and consulting with archival collections. Correspondence in the series consists of letters to and from Andersen regarding O'Donnell, as well as letters to and from O'Donnell and other dancers. Andersen also gathered files on associated dancers of O'Donnell's era, such as Gertrude Shurr and Ruthanna Boris. In addition to consulting published interviews with O'Donnell, Andersen conducted and transcribed interviews with O'Donnell and Shurr.
This series covers Andersen's time at the University of Utah, as a member of May O'Donnell's company during their residency and as Artist-in-Residence. Dating from 1959 to 1980, the series consists of programs, posters, photographs, correspondence, and course material. Files are organized into three sub-series and arranged alphabetically. Performance Files contain clippings, programs, photographs, and notes related to dance concerts organized by or featuring Andersen, including solo and O'Donnell company shows, guest artist performances, dance student concerts, and productions by the University of Utah Dance Theatre. Concert notes for these performances describe casting, costume, and publicity issues; generally, these files differ in scope from material in Series I, as they are more administrative in nature.
Andersen's teaching files include course schedules, lecture notes, and memos organized by academic quarter. Andersen's research, lectures, and course materials on Renaissance dance history and techniques show her early academic interest in the topic. Class rosters, attendance records, and student papers are restricted from patron use until 2024, as they contain identifying student information and grade assignments.
This series documents Andersen's tenure as a faculty member at the University of Washington, dating from 1969 to 1982. The material is arranged alphabetically in three sub-series. The first sub-series includes correspondence and memos from other dance faculty at UW, as well as fellow dancers. Programs and clippings discuss performances and events from both the Division of Dance and the University of Washington Dance Theatre.
The Division of Dance sub-series highlights Andersen's work as a faculty member at UW, such as her contributions to the creation of a dance courses and curriculum. Andersen's teaching files, organized by academic year, contain her faculty schedules, course lecture notes and exercises, and interdepartmental correspondence on schedules and concerts. Her faculty activity analyses detail extracurricular work taken on for the division and community, such as student advising, private lessons, and producing dance concerts.
The third sub-series, University of Washington Dance Theatre, holds Andersen's notes and correspondence related to her founding of the student dance company, as well as programs, posters, and photographs from performances. Andersen led the company's efforts to gain outside funding for productions, and her correspondence with donors and planning notes for fundraisers are included.
This series contains programs, photographs, posters, financial and administrative documents, and teaching materials for Valley Dance Ensemble, dated 1980 to 2001. The series is organized into three sub-series and arranged alphabetically.
Administrative Files primarily holds financial papers related to Valley Dance Ensemble, such as grant paperwork, fundraising documents, and income and expense reports for each fiscal year. These reports detail the financial aspects of running a community dance company, with costume, publicity, and event costs represented. Andersen's work in the establishment of the company is documented in Board of Directors minutes and founding materials, such as the company's mission statement and multiple revisions of the Artistic Director's job description.
Programs, reviews, and posters for dance concerts are housed in the Performance Files, spanning Andersen's tenure with Valley Dance Ensemble from its first performance to her final staging of Suspension in 2001. This sub-series also covers guest artists who collaborated with the company, including Terry Heller and Morris Johnson. Andersen's notes on administrative and publicity tasks associated with each concert are stored together in the Concerts folders.
The role of the Valley Dance Ensemble as a dance school is explored in the Teaching Files, with promotional brochures, quarterly class schedules, instructor biographies, and class goals and descriptions. Andersen's class materials, gathered early in the founding of the company and school, contain her notes used to lead class sessions, and ledgers show the size and growth of the school into the early 1990s.