In 2019, the National Museum of Dance received an exceptional donation of early twentieth century materials related to Anna Pavlova and several important photographs by Barbara Morgan and George Platt Lynes from the Archives of Josephine and Hermene Schwarz. Among the Barbara Morgan photographs are two iconic images of Martha Graham in her 1935 solo Frontier.
Subtitled American Perspective of the Plains, with music by Louis Horst, set design by Isamu Noguchi, and costume design by Martha Graham, Frontier is the first of several Graham dances from the 1930s and 40s to explore American themes. “A tribute to the vision and independence of the pioneer woman,” Frontier evokes nineteenth-century Westward Expansion and Americans’ desire for space. It was, in fact, uniquely inspired by her own family’s move west by train from Pennsylvania to California in 1908.
The two Barbara Morgan photographs of Graham in Frontier from the Schwarz Archive will be on view in the Museum’s upcoming exhibition Square Dance!. This element of the exhibition will examine the influence of western square dance and American national identity as such on other dance forms including ballet and modern dance. Graham’s enduring masterwork Appalachian Spring (1944) will also be part of this discussion as will ballets by George Balanchine and Agnes de Mille, among others.
This collection of materials, donated by Johannah Schwarz Franke, was inherited from her aunts, Josephine and Hermene Schwarz, founders of what is now the Dayton Ballet in Dayton, Ohio. Inspired by a performance of Anna Pavlova in their youth, the Schwarz sisters studied in Chicago with Russian dancer and choreographer Adolph Bolm and modern dance pioneer Mary Wigman in Europe. In New York, Josephine trained with George Balanchine, Charles Weidman, and Doris Humphrey and pursued a performance career abroad and on Broadway. In 1937, Josephine and Hermene expanded their Schwarz School of Dance (established in 1927) and founded the Experimental Group for Young Dancers, which later became the Dayton Civic Ballet and ultimately the Dayton Ballet, known to be only the second regional ballet company formed in the United States.
Follow this link to learn more about Josephine and Hermene Schwarz. For information about the Dayton Ballet visit their website.