Robert Ellis Dunn (1928-1996) was an American dancer, choreographer, company leader, educator, musician, and curator of dance collections. The collection consists of videocassettes and papers. The videocassette recordings are of dances choreographed by Dunn, workshops taught by Dunn, panel discussions featuring Dunn, or video-recorded informal discussions including Dunn. Topics covered in Laban Movement Analysis, Judson Dance Theater, and other issues pertaining to Postmodern dance.
The collection is open for research use. The videos are only available for use at computer workstations in the University of Maryland Libraries.
The videos in this collection are only available for use at computer workstations in the University of Maryland Libraries. The papers from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. For more information, please contact the curator: https://www.lib.umd.edu/scpa/contact.
The Robert Ellis Dunn collection covers the period 1988 through 1994; the bulk of the materials are from 1993 through 1994. The collection consists of videocassettes and papers. The videocassette recordings are of dances choreographed by Dunn, workshops taught by Dunn, panel discussions featuring Dunn, or video-recorded informal discussions including Dunn. Topics covered include Laban Movement Analysis, Judson Dance Theater, and other issues pertaining to Postmodern dance.
Robert Ellis Dunn was born in Oklahoma in 1928. His original training was in music including studying theory and composition at the New England Conservatory in Boston. This was followed by studies in dance at Boston Conservatory of Music from 1955 through 1958, while concurrently teaching dance for percussionists at that institution.
He relocated to New York in 1958 and began to work as a piano accompanist for major modern dance choreographers, including Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and José Limon. During this time, he studied music theory with John Cage, which proved highly influential to Dunn. While in New York, he also taught nontraditional classes in dance improvisation and choreography at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village. Dunn's classes are credited with initiating the rise of the Judson Dance Theater collective (1962-1964), as well as the Postmodernist movement in dance.
From 1965 through 1972, he served as the first Assistant Curator of the Dance Collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Dunn also taught dance at Teachers College of Columbia University. In fall 1986, Dunn was appointed Associate Professor (with tenure) as a member of the faculty of the Department of Dance at the University of Maryland.
Dunn received numerous awards and honors including a "Bessie" New York Dance and Performance Award in 1985, the American Dance Guild Award in 1988, and in 1993 a scholarship was named after him at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies. Late in his career, he explored videodance, resulting in the collaboration with Matthew Chernov—"DanceFindings: Robert Ellis Dunn Videodance Installation"—posthumously exhibited in 1997 at the Haggerty Museum of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dunn died on July 5, 1996 at his home in New Carrollton, Maryland.
This collection is organized into two series:
The videocassettes were a gift in October 2015 by Gretchen Dunn (spouse). Apart from an itinerary covering 1983 through 1986, the provenance of the papers is unknown; the acquisition predates 2000. The itinerary was found in a correspondence file kept by Neil Ratliff (1936-1994), a former Head of UMD's Music Library. The curator elected to bring these materials together into one collection entity as they are all the original creation of Robert Ellis Dunn, thereby facilitating ease of use and discovery by researchers.
The videocassettes were sent for digitization in November 2015. The papers were housed in acid free enclosures and metal fasteners were removed. All content is described at the item level. The curator elected to bring these materials together into one collection entity as they are all the original creation of Robert Ellis Dunn, thereby facilitating ease of use and discovery by researchers.