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Amberg, George (28 December 1901–27 July 1971), professor of film and dance critic, was born Hans Aschaffenburg in Halle, Germany, the son of Gustav Aschaffenburg, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist, and Maja Nebel. He was educated in Davos, Switzerland, from 1916 to 1918, at a fashionable boys’ private high school where the kaiser sent his children, and also in Cologne, Munich, and Kiel. In 1923 he founded Cassette, the avant-garde theater in Cologne, and was also a stage director there. From 1924 to 1928 he worked in theatrical festivals with noted German director Gustav Hurtung, first as a dramaturge and play director at the Cologne Theatre, then in 1926 at the Heidelberg Theatre Festival, and thereafter in 1927–1928 as director in the Darmstadt Theatre. Amberg earned his doctorate in December 1930 from the University of Cologne on the German novelist Theodor Fontane as critic. He was also a lecturer and member of the drama department at the university. From 1930 to 1933 Amberg helped to organize the University of Cologne’s theater museum and also established and directed its film library and institute. His published writings from this period concerned the subject of dance. He was a contributing editor on dance to the Ullstein and Herder encyclopedias. Amberg also gave visiting lectures in Berlin, Frankfurt, Zurich, and Basel. He established a cabaret as well, which was usually considered a low-class entertainment venue, but his was experimental theater that included all of the arts....

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Colby, Gertrude Kline (1875?–01 February 1960), dance educator, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her parents’ names and occupations are unknown. While little is known of her childhood, Colby was reportedly interested in physical activities from an early age. She began her higher education with a brief stint at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine (dates unknown). In 1910 she attended Harvard University for the first of four summer sessions led by ...

Article

H’Doubler, Margaret Newell (26 April 1889–26 March 1982), dance educator, was born in Beloit, Kansas, the daughter of Charles Hougen-Doubler, a photographer and inventor, and Sarah Todd. H’Doubler (a shortened form of her father’s Swiss name) grew up in a well-to-do family that could offer her a good education and exposure to classical music and the other arts. In high school in Madison, Wisconsin (where the family resettled in 1903), she participated in sports and took classes in Dalcroze eurythmics, a movement-based approach to music training. She attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison from 1906 to 1910, graduating with a biology major and a philosophy minor. During her undergraduate years she took part in a variety of physical education activities including sports, particularly basketball and swimming, and dancing based on the ...

Article

Holt, Claire (23 August 1901–29 May 1970), Indonesian specialist and journalist, was born Claire Bagg in Riga, Latvia, the daughter of Boris Bagg, a successful leather dealer and manufacturer, and Cecile Hodes. In 1914 the family moved to Moscow, where Claire attended Gymnasiums from 1914 to 1918. In 1920 she married Bernard Hopfenberg, and in 1921 the couple emigrated to the United States. They settled in New York, and Claire gave birth to a son in 1927. Her husband died in 1928....

Article

Hovey, Henrietta (06 April 1849–16 March 1918), Delsartean teacher, was born Henriette Knapp in Cooperstown, New York, the daughter of Edgar Knapp and Catharine Tyler. Hovey’s lifelong interest in clothing reform is traced to an early experience when a doctor, to combat her frailty and ill-health, prescribed loose-fitting garb that would allow easy breathing and free motion. By her early twenties, Hovey was designing her own unique uncorseted costumes—subtly colored flowing gowns that became her hallmark—and lecturing on the aesthetic and health aspects of dress. To improve her speech for such presentations, she entered the Boston School of Oratory in the early 1870s where she was introduced to the system of expression developed by François Delsarte (1811–1871), a French theorist and teacher of acting, voice, and aesthetics. Delsarte’s theory was an elaborate derivation of his personal interpretation of the Christian Trinity and featured particular attention to the relationship between body, mind, and spirit in the practical work of expression in any of the arts. Hovey’s interests expanded to include physical culture and expression, and she traveled to Paris where she met Delsarte’s widow and studied with his son Gustave before the latter’s death in February 1879. In the late 1860s or 1870s she married Edward B. Crane; their son was born on 21 April, probably in 1878—possibly in 1867....

Article

Mansfield, Portia (19 November 1887–29 January 1979), dance educator, choreographer, and camp director, was born Portia Mansfield Swett in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Edward R. Swett, a hotelkeeper, and Myra Mansfield. She received her early schooling in Winter Park, Florida, where the family moved in 1899, and, after another move, in New York City at Miss Morgan’s School for Girls (1903–1906). As a child, she danced for her own pleasure and, occasionally, for hotel guests. Entering Smith College in 1906, she majored in philosophy and psychology but also was exposed to the Delsarte System of Expression and gravitated toward the physical education department. She was instrumental in organizing a dancing class at Smith. Classmates remembered her clouds of red hair, her lissomeness and grace, and her vivacity....

Article

Primus, Pearl (29 November 1919–29 October 1994), dance pioneer, anthropologist, and choreographer, was born in Trinidad, the daughter of Edward Primus and Emily Jackson, and migrated with her family to New York City when she was two years old. She majored in biology and pre-medicine at Hunter College of the City University of New York and graduated in 1940. Seeking support for graduate studies, she solicited help from the National Youth Administration (NYA). Under the auspices of the NYA she was enrolled in a dance group, subsequently auditioned for the New Dance Group in New York, and earned a scholarship with that institution....

Image

Pearl Primus. Lithograph on paper, c. 1969, by Marion Greenwood. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Robert Plate.