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Ann Barzel papers

Identifier: Dance-MS-Barzel

Scope and Content of the Collection

Biographical material, correspondence, articles, essays, lecture and teaching notes, and photographs documenting the life and career of Ann Barzel.

Biographical materials include newsclippings about Barzel and biographical summaries, as well as mementoes from her childhood and materials about her career. Correspondence includes letters from famous dancers and entertainers as well as local dance fans, historians, and others from the Midwest. Works include Barzel's literary output, which was mainly newspaper reviews and feature articles. Photographs include candid and formal prints and slides of Barzel, both by herself and with others.


  • Creation: 1912-2005



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Ann Barzel papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Ann Barzel papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Ann Barzel

Dance critic, teacher, and historian.

Ann Barzel was born in Minneapolis on Dec. 13, 1905. Her family moved to Des Moines, Iowa in 1914, and it was there, at the Jewish Settlement House, where Barzel took her first dance lessons. She took dance classes from Elizabeth Werblosky, who had studied with the Denishawn Company. In 1920, the family moved again, to Chicago (3134 W. 16th Street). In Chicago Barzel attended Crane Technical High School and Junior College (now Malcolm X College), and then graduated from the University of Chicago in 1925 with a bachelor’s degree and two years of graduate work in the humanities. During this time she was also teaching at a Hebrew school on weekday afternoons and taking dance classes on Fridays and Saturdays. Her first Chicago dance teachers were Mark Turbyfill and Adolph Bolm. From about 1931 to 1943, Barzel performed as a dancer. She studied various styles of dance in Chicago, New York, London, and Paris with Michel Fokine, Alexandre Volinine, Doris Humphrey, the School of American Ballet, Vecheslav Swoboda, Nicholas Legat, and others. She danced in productions of the Chicago Civic Opera Ballet and danced with a group directed by Berenice Holmes, who had inherited Adolph Bolm’s dance school when Bolm left Chicago. After college, Barzel also had a career as a teacher at Penn Elementary School (1616 S Avers Avenue, near 16th and Pulaski); she taught at Penn until 1967.

In the 1940’s, Barzel became sought after as a knowledgeable and gifted lecturer on dance, as well as a teacher of dance technique. From 1945 to 1961 she took the train to Milwaukee every Saturday and taught ballet classes at the Adele Artinian School of Dance. She lectured on the history of dance at the University of Chicago, Columbia College, and many other institutions. It was during this time that she was also making a regular career out of reviewing dance, theatre, and nightclub events in Chicago. She was dance critic for the Chicago Times (later Chicago Sun-Times), 1946-1950, when she joined Chicago’s American (later Chicago Today), 1951-1974. Barzel also wrote for Dance Magazine for 40 years, covering dance events in the Midwest for the magazine. She wrote for the Lerner Skyline newspapers (Chicago weekly) from 1974 through 2003, for Ballet Review, Ballet Annual, Dance News, and for various other international dance publications.

From 1956 to 1975 she served on the advisory panel for dance for the State Department’s International Cultural Agency, and from 1966 to 1974 as dance consultant for the Illinois Arts Council. Barzel was a founder of the Ballet Guild of Chicago and has served on the boards of many dance and arts-related organizations, such as the Chicago Dance Council, Free Street Theater, Urban Gateways, and Wisdom Bridge Theater. Barzel was frequently called upon to act as judge, panel participant or field reporter for international dance events. In 1975, she was given an award by the Association of Illinois Dance Companies in recognition of her service to dance in Illinois, and in 1979 she was granted the Governor’s Award for service to the arts. She was placed on the lifetime honors list by the Chicago Dance Arts Coalition in 1986, was recipient of the 1994 Vaslav Nijinsky Medal sponsored by the Polish Artists Agency in Warsaw, and was sole honoree at the 1995 “Toast” to the Cultural Center, sponsored by Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

Ann Barzel died on February 12, 2007.


33.4 Linear Feet (69 boxes and 3 oversize boxes)


Correspondence, works, photographs, and personal and biographical material by Chicago dance critic and historian Ann Barzel.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Biographical, 1918-2005
Boxes 1-10
Series 2: Correspondence, 1918-2005
Boxes 11-29
Series 3: Works, 1920s-2002
Boxes 30-63
Series 4: Photographs, 1912-2004
Boxes 64-69

Collection Stack Location

3a 46 4-6


Gift of Ann Barzel, 1982-2005.

Related Materials

See also the finding aid for the Ann Barzel dance research collection.

Processed by

Newberry Library Staff and volunteers, 1982-present.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Ann Barzel papers, 1912-2005
Alison Hinderliter
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2011-08-09: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States