8/31/2017

Footnotes: Eva Anderson's Baltimore Dance Theater Collection Comes to Langsdale



Eva Anderson's Baltimore Dance Theater, poster detail (photo collage), 1982
Anderson floating on air during rehearsal, 1977
Modern dance legend and Howard County resident Eva Anderson has bestowed many gifts in her illustrious life.  For more than 40 years, Anderson mesmerized audiences with her unique, graceful mode of expression by performing on stages around the world-- in places like Italy, Germany, and New York City. She refined her moves and informed her unique style with tireless study, and by immersing herself in modern dance, ballet, and with formal instruction in traditional African dance. Eventually Ms. Anderson brought her dynamism to Baltimore in 1975, where she shared her talents in choreography, teaching, and movement with the Baltimore Dance Theater as an instructor, and later as the artistic director. Dance students-- in Baltimore city, and later in Howard County-- recall being in thrall to Eva Anderson (“Ms. Eva”) who was in the vanguard of modern dance in Baltimore.


Eva Anderson’s now-retired dance company was the longest in operation in the state of Maryland, no small feat (feet?).  It was also a landmark in that it was entirely woman- and African American-owned and operated, and made dance come alive for generations of Marylanders. Langsdale Special Collections’ own Angela Rodgers-Koukoui, a long time dance instructor herself, recalls being enchanted by Ms. Anderson even as a young child. Angela remembers the Baltimore Dance Theater style, under Ms. Anderson’s tutelage, as less concerned with traditional form than corporeal, seamless and the inspired embodiment of myriad cultural influences on dance.


Ms. Anderson holding court at home, 1991. The posters in the background were recently donated
to UB as part of Eva Anderson's Baltimore Dance Theater Collection.
  
Now an octogenarian, Ms. Eva is continues to share her talents with the world. Last week, Langsdale Special Collections was delighted to receive Eva Anderson's Baltimore Dance Theater Collection, consisting of 15 linear feet (the equivalent of 15 boxes) of Ms. Anderson’s organizational records, letters, photographs, audiovisual materials of performances, and an oversized portfolio of posters and publicity ephemera. This is an amazing trove that documents not just the professional accomplishments of a dance pioneer, but tells the story of the region’s rich cultural life. 

German language poster, European tour, 1980
Italian language poster, European tour, 1980


Head of Special Collections Aiden Faust and Archival Technician Rodgers-Koukoui were so excited to meet with the donor and collect documentation of Anderson’s life’s work that within days they had containerized the collection and completed box-level descriptions, and made the materials accessible for researchers by entering collection-level records in ArchivesSpace, Langsdale’s finding aid for archival collections. Rodgers-Koukoui says that the best part of the collection transfer was sitting on Anderson’s living room floor and hearing her tell stories gleaned from a triumphant seven-decade career. 

Baltimore Dance Festival, circa 1980

The company in the spotlight (undated photo)
Ultimately, the gift of the Eva Anderson's Baltimore Dance Theater Collection to University of Baltimore is a continuance of Anderson's lifelong dedication to preserving arts and culture and promoting African American dance forms. Martha Graham once said that dance is the hidden language of the soul. We are fortunate that Ms. Anderson has allowed us to have a glimpse into the spirit she embodies through her art, and through these archives, will continue to impart her m├ętier in perpetuity. 




No comments: