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Barbara Mettler Papers, 1931-2002

 Collection
Identifier: SC-001

Scope and Contents

The collection includes professional correspondence, clippings, scrapbooks, artworks, photographs, articles detailing her dance career, notebooks, and her numerous published works related to her philosophy of dance. Also included are files on films, videos, and sound recordings. Of special interest are the three autographed artworks by her friend, painter and critic, Fairfield Porter. The collection is organized into eight series:

1. Personal files 2. Correspondence, A-Z 3. Professional Activity 4. Mettler Studios 5. Published material 6. Audiovisual Materials 7. Photographs 8. Art

Dates

  • 1931 - 2002

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Hampshire College Archives. The Hampshire College Archives approves permission to publish that which it physically owns. The materials in this collection may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The materials are available for personal, educational, and scholarly use. It is the responsibility of the researcher to locate and obtain permission from the copyright owner or their heirs for any other use, such as reproduction and publication.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open and available to the public for research in the Archives and Special Collections. The materials are non-circulating.

Biographical / Historical

Barbara Mettler (1907-2002), dancer, dance educator, film and video producer was born on March 12, 1907 in Chicago, Illinois. She was raised in a family that practiced arts of all kinds within the home. In her youth, Mettler experimented freely with dance, as she was uncomfortable with most formal dance classes. However, when she took a course with dance teacher Irma Duncan, at the University of Wisconsin, she became inspired by Duncan’s approach to dance perfomance, and began to flourish as a dancer and creator in her own right.

Throughout her career Mettler traveled extensively learning varying styles of dance that all contributed to her approach. Known for improvisation in her work, one of her greatest innovations is the development of principles of group dance improvisation. She toured Germany and eventually returned to attend the Mary Wigman School in Berlin in 1933. In addition to the Wigman School, the artistic freedom of the German Wimar Republic had also influenced her outlook on dance. After returning to the United States, Mettler opened a dance studio in New York City, which was a prominent part of the modern dance community during the Great Depression. In 1940, she left the city to be closer to nature. She moved to New Hampshire, where she offered summer dance courses for 12 years. In 1943, Mettler founded the Department of Expressive Movement at Keuka College in Ithaca, New York. During this time she also directed the Modern Dance Department of the Boston YWCA.

In 1963, Mettler’s Tucson Creative Dance Center opened. Through her studio Mettler offered on-going dance classes and an intensive summer program each year. She also published nine books, produced films and videotapes and directed the Barbara Mettler Dance Company. Her book Materials of Dance as a Creative Art Activity is a classic in the field of dance education. Her summer schools were very large, which led her to learn more about group dance. By the late 70’s and early 80’s, her dance company toured and performed large group improvisations. The first annual Creative Dance Congress took place on June 16-22 in 1996 at Hampshire College. The Congress involved classes, performances, dance groups, socializing and networking.

Throughout her life, Mettler continued to study and innovate in her field of dance. She continued to search for the roots of movement expression. Her core principles were beauty, freedom and democracy. Dance was conceived as a fundamental human activity, of which all people are capable, as opposed to an elite, choreographed, performance art. Mettler spent 6 decades sharing her approach to creative dance improvisation to diverse lay people of all ages and abilities. Mettler passed away at the age Her students later formed the International Association for Creative Dance to carry the principles of her work forward. Mettler passed away in 2002 at the age of 95.

Extent

30 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

German

Spanish; Castilian

Abstract

This collection consists of the papers of dancer, author, and educator Barbara Mettler. The collection includes professional correspondence, clippings, scrapbooks, artworks, photographs, articles detailing her dance career, notebooks, and numerous published works related to her philosophy of dance.

Arrangement

The collection is organized into eight series:

1. Personal files 2. Correspondence, A-Z 3. Professional Activity 4. Mettler Studios 5. Published material 6. Audiovisual Materials 7. Photographs 8. Art

Custodial History

The collection was shipped to Hampshire College from the Tucson Creative Dance Center in sections from 2003 to 2005.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

After visiting Hampshire College with long-time student Nancy Lob in 1994, Barbara Mettler decided to leave her archival collection to the college in her will. After her death in 2002, the bequest was made by the Barbara Mettler Trust in 2003.

Accruals

No physical accrurals expected. Website crawls of the Barbara Mettler Studios website is ongoing.

Processing Information

The collection was processed in 2006 Susan Dayall. Jessica C. Neal reprocessed the collection and completed the finding aid in September 2020.
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2020-09-24: Series and subseries updated

Repository Details

Part of the Hampshire College Archives and Special Collections Repository

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