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The Ted Shawn Theatre, Home of the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival

 Digital Record
Identifier: Digital Object ID ##jnd0jp

Dates

  • 1945 - 1989

Creator

Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE: Advance notice required for access. Consult finding aid for additional information.

Biography/History

Charles James Miller was a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and close friend of Russell Meriwether Hughes, better known as La Meri--the "Queen of Ethnic Dance." In the early 1940s (during World War II), Miller served in the Army as an interpreter in French and Spanish for the Arabs; he was also director and choreographer for Army Red Cross shows in Algeria. After the war, Miller became a dance-dramatist and instructor with the La Meri Ethnological Dance Center in New York City where he met Hughes and became one of her students. At the time, Hughes was 47 and Miller 24; they had a short-lived love affair which developed into a life-long friendship as attested by the volume of correspondence which Miller saved, including the carbon copies of his own letters to Hughes.

In the late 1940s, Miller moved to California where he continued his involvement in ethnic dance (he referred to himself as an "ethnic dance dramatist" and often went by the name "Chet Milar") while pursuing his interest in theatre arts, which led him to write his dissertation on Edward Gordon Craig-- the British actor, director, and scenic designer. Miller received his Ph.D. from USC in 1957 on the subject of Craig's contributions to modern theatre art. In addition to teaching and demonstrating dance, Miller spent a great deal of time traveling around the world; many of his trips are described in his correspondence to Hughes and other friends.

Russell Meriwether Hughes ("La Meri") was born in Kentucky in 1898, but moved with her family to San Antonio, Texas in 1910 and made her professional stage debut at the Rialto Theatre in 1923, dancing prologues to silent movies. Her interest in dance led her to tour the world in the 1920s and 30s, studying and performing in South and Central America, Europe, Africa, Australia, India, Burma, Java, and many other regions. Among the ethnic dances at which Hughes excelled were those of India and Spain; she was the first Western dancer to be accepted for study in India. (Hughes claimed to have coined the term "ethnic dance." To her it always meant culture, regardless of race, creed or color.)

In 1925, Hughes met Guido Carreras, an Italian baron who had managed the great dancers Nijinsky and Pavlova, traveled with Hughes as her manager and in 1931 became her husband. They separated in 1944, leaving no children; Hughes never remarried. In 1940, Hughes founded and taught dance at the School of Natya with Ruth St. Denis in New York City, where they also presented such guest lecturers as Pearl S. Buck, Coomaraswamy, Lin Yutang, and Ted Shawn. (The institute was located in a studio built for Isadora Duncan). Two years later, the school became absorbed into the Ethnologic Dance Center which continued until 1956 when Hughes retired to Cape Cod where she became involved in dog shows, but she was quickly lured out of retirement by members of the local theatre. Her summers were spent teaching and performing at Jacob's Pillow, Ted Shawn's prestigious dance colony outside New York City, where she gave many dance performances for author Pearl S. Buck's "East and West Evenings." Hughes also taught at Columbia University, Connecticut College, New York University, and the Juilliard School of Music. Hughes retired a second time in 1970, whence upon she established the non-profit Ethnic Dance Arts, Inc. in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Each year Hughes would present an ethnic dance festival and awards.

In 1972, Hughes received the Capezio Dance Award. The following year, Hughes was given a citation by Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe for artistic achievement.

In 1984, Hughes returned to San Antonio where she attended dance performances regularly, even as she struggled with the tribulations of old age including worsening eyesight and cataract operations. She continued with a busy social life and correspondence until her death in 1988 at age 89.

Hughes wrote six volumes of poetry and five books on dance esthetics, technique, and composition. Her book, Spanish Dancing, is considered by many to be the definitive text on Spanish dance. Her extensive collection of material on ethnic dance, given to the New York Public Library in 1948 and 1962, is a major holding of the library's Dance Collection.

Language of Materials

English

Acquisition

Purchased from Golden Legend, Inc., Beverly Hills, CA, April-May, 2006

Related Materials

Related USC Materials

Hughes, Russell Meriwether. The gesture language of the Hindu dance. 1964.

Hughes, Russell Meriwether. Spanish dancing. 1948.

Hughes, Russell Meriwether. Dance as an art-form: its history and development. 1933.

Miller, Charles James. An analytical and descriptive study of the contributions of Edward Gordon Craig to modern theatre art. 1957.

Related Materials at Other Institutions

La Meri Papers, 1912-1992. New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives. Jacob's Pillow. http://digilib.nypl.org/dynaweb/dhc/findaid/pillow/@Generic__BookView

Papers of Moya Beaver, 1918-1973. [Portrait of La Meri in costume for Goyesca dance, c.1940(?)]. http://nla.gov.au/nla.ms-ms9803-1-145. [Lyndon Dadswell working on his sculpture of La Meri, posing in costume from theWhite Peacock, Royal Academy (picture), ca. 1936] http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3292424. National Library of Australia.

Edward Gordon Craig Collection. Northwestern University Library. Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections.

Edward Gordon Craig Collection. Yale University. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Donald Oenslager Collection of Edward Gordon Craig. Yale University. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Arrangement

Arranged by series: I. Charles James Miller; II. La Meri. Series I is further broken down into subseries: 1. Correspondence, 2. Ephemera, 3. Photographs, 4. Edward Gordon Craig, 5. Dissertation. Series II consists of three subseries: 1. Correspondence, 2. Photographs, and 3. Ephemera.

Descriptive Summary

Correspondence, ephemera, and photographs related to Russell Meriwether Hughes ("La Meri")-- ethnic dance icon, instructor, friend (and one-time lover) of Charles Miller who saved the materials which comprise this collection. The collection also includes Miller's own research material and dissertation on Edward Gordon Craig, published in 1957.

Formats

Clippings

Correspondence

Dissertations

Drafts (documents)

Ephemera

Fliers (Printed matter)

Letters (Correspondence)

Film negatives

Photographs

Portrait drawings

Programs

Questionnaires

Research notes

Creator

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States