Walter Terry was a dance critic for the New York Herald Tribune, the New York World Journal, and the Saturday Review. He also contributed a number of articles to other publications and he wrote several books on the subject of dance. Not only a writer, Terry was a juror for many dance competitions and he was speaker at many universities and public functions. The collection contains correspondence, artwork, personal and professional written material, photographs, ephemera, and oversized material.
Biographical/historical: Walter Terry (1913-1982) was a prolific writer and dance critic. His interest in the performing arts began during his college years at the University of North Carolina, where he majored in drama and minored in music. In 1936, he was hired as a dance critic at the Boston Herald. His first assignment was to cover the activities at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, located in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. There he met and shared a friendship with the founder and artistic director Ted Shawn. Leaving the newspaper publication in 1939, Terry continued his contribution to the performing arts community. He began working for the New York Herald Tribune (until its demise in 1945), while he hosted the radio program, Invitation To Dance, and taught dance at Adelphi University. Although, he was drafted by the army in 1942, he continued to show his support for dance by teaching modern dance to Egyptian students at the American University in Cairo and lecturing on American dance to Allied forces. After his return from Egypt, Terry wrote many articles and several books on dance, while promoting the public’s understanding and interest on the subject. He taught dance at Southern Connecticut State College and Yale University, served as juror at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, spoke at a number of lectures, and even served as vice-president of the U.S. chapter of UNESCO’s International Dance Council. Also, Terry wrote columns for the Saturday Review and Dance Magazineand published twenty-two books on dance. Some of his most best known works are: Isadora Duncan: Her Life, Her Art, Her Legacy (1964), Ballet: A Pictorial History (1970), and Great Male Dancers of the Ballet (1978). Terry became artistic director at Jacob’s Pillow in 1972, but he was forced to resign after a dispute over finances. For his contribution to the dance world, Terry received numerous honors. In 1968 he received an honorary degree from Ricker College. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark knighted him in 1978 for his public support of Danish Ballet and the Danish choreographer August Bournonville. He was awarded the Capezio Dance Award in 1980. Terry died in 1982 after a brief illness.
Content: The majority of the collection contains material relating to Walter Terry’s professional career as a writer. This includes written and photographic works, which encompass a large quantity of research material. The work is separated into four major categories: choreographers/dancers, dance companies/festivals, film and television, and history of dance. The papers demonstrate Terry’s intimate relationship with choreographers/dancers and dance companies/festivals. Most noteworthy are the papers of Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, of whom Terry shared a lifelong friendship. These contain intimate diary entries by St. Denis with personal correspondence, which may give insight into the Shawn-St. Denis relationship. The professional correspondence between Shawn and Terry illustrate the success of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. The collection also contains material on August Bournonville, the Danish choreographer, and the August Bournonville Centennial. Within the research material, there is a detailed biography of Bournonville with notes, and photographs. Terry’s love of dance is reflected in his professional papers. Although most of the lectures and laboratories are outlines, his notes on choreographers/dancers, dance movements, and other dance topics, illustrate the work Terry devoted to promoting dance in the United States. The collection also consists of personal and professional correspondence, ephemera, and Terry’s personal papers. Within these papers are Terry’s cryptography diploma, corporal appointment certificate, enlisted report and honorable discharge certificates from his service in World War II.