Gertrude Shurr papers

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Collection Data

The professional papers of modern dance performer, teacher, and writer Gertrude Shurr.
Shurr, Gertrude (Creator)
Graham, Martha (Contributor)
O'Donnell, May, 1906-2004 (Contributor)
Walker, Norman, 1892-1963 (Contributor)
Yocum, Rachel Dunaven
Yocum, Rachel Dunaven (Compiler)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1925 - 1992
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: (S) *MGZMD 76
Dance teachers
Modern dance
Women dancers -- United States -- 20th century
Biographical/historical: Gertrude Shurr was born in Riga, Latvia on August 13, 1903. She moved to the United States as a child, becoming a United States citizen in 1913. Shurr began her formal dance training at the Denishawn School with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Her concert career began with solo performances of the early Denishawn dances (1925-1927). She then danced with the original Humphrey-Weidman Concert Company (1927-1929). Shurr joined the Martha Graham's dance troupe in 1930, dancing many of the Graham classics during her eight years working with the choreographer. Among them was "Primitive Mysteries", which she helped Miss Graham recreate in 1982. In 1939 she joined with May O'Donnell, co-founding the San Francisco Dance Theatre. New York City became the home of the Shurr-O'Donnell Modern Dance Studio in 1943. Among the notable students at this studio were Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey. In the early 1940's Shurr received a bachelor's degree from San Francisco State College and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. During this period, she was a modern dance instructor at the American Negro Theatre in Harlem, New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse, and Utah State University. Like other modern dance performers, she also worked on Broadway, serving as assistant dance director for the musical "Sadie Thompson" in 1944 and again for "Top Banana" in 1951. In 1949 Shurr co-authored with Rachel Yocum, the book "Modern Dance: Techniques and Teaching", which documented Martha Graham's movement philosophy. From 1956 until 1973, Shurr was a modern dance instructor and also chairman of the dance department at the well-known High School of the Performing Arts. Notable students included Ben Vereen, Liza Minnelli and George de la Pena. Miss Shurr retired from active teaching to Logan, Utah in the mid-1970s. The winter months were spent in Tucson, Arizona where she served on the Arizona Commission on the Arts and as a master teacher at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. Gertrude Shurr died on Jan 2, 1992 in Tucson, Arizona.
Content: The papers of modern dancer, teacher, choreographer and writer, Gertrude Shurr, pertain to both her career and her private and family life. The collection includes correspondence with major dance personalities, such as Martha Graham, May O' Donnell, Doris Humphrey, and Norman Walker, as well as correspondence from family and friends. The papers include print materials consisting of press, programs and writings by and about Shurr. The collection also consists of an extensive amount of pictures of Shurr as a performer, teacher and lecturer, as well as many pictures of the dance personalities who were a part of her life and of her family and friends.
Physical Description
Extent: 11.25 linear feet (9 boxes)
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b18067319
MSS Unit ID: 19866
Archives collections id: archives_collections_19866
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): d0505720-c93e-0138-dc53-0036cbf493c2
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