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Ann Barzel dance research collection

Identifier: Dance-MS-Barzel Research

Scope and Content of the Collection

Collection of materials about dance, encompassing the 20th century as well as the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, predominantly in Chicago but also reflecting a global view of the predominance and importance of all kinds of dance in human civilization and culture.

Materials include dance programs and souvenir books, photographs of dancers and performances, advertising posters, art prints, scrapbooks, audio and film/video material, artifacts, and subject files. The subject files, which are by far the largest part of the research collection, include newsclippings, programs, brochures, notes, and ephemeral material reflecting Barzel's life-long devotion to documenting dance and its history in Chicago and beyond.

Currently, the first four series (Subject Files, Photographs, Scrapbooks, and Souvenir Books) are processed and inventoried at the folder level. The remaining series (Posters, Prints, Audiovisual, and Artifacts) are in process and there are draft inventories available in the Library; see curator for details. For information about Ann Barzel's own films she took of dancers and dance companies, please see the Library's online catalog.


  • Creation: approximately 1830-2010



Materials are primarily in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Some audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitized. Researchers may access materials in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Ann Barzel dance research collection is 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 1940s, 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, Barzel 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.


340 Linear Feet


Materials collected by dance critic Ann Barzel, documenting the history of dance in Chicago and worldwide. Research collection includes brochures and other publicity, newsclippings, programs, souvenir books, audiovisual material, posters and prints, photographs, scrapbooks, and artifacts.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Subject Files, 1890s-ongoing
Boxes 1-425
Series 2: Photographs, 1910s-ongoing
Boxes 1-69, 6 oversize boxes
Series 3: Scrapbooks, approximately 1834-1959
Boxes 1-17
Series 4: Souvenir Books, 1909-2005
Boxes 1-52
Series 5: Posters
Boxes 1-
Series 6: Prints
Boxes 1-
Series 7: Audiovisual
Boxes 1-
Series 8: Artifacts
Boxes 1-

Collection Stack Location

3a 46 6-14; 3a 47 3-14

Other Finding Aids note

Black and white and color silent films taken by Barzel during her career have been digitized; viewing copies are available at the Newberry Library and at the Chicago Public Library, Visual and Performing Arts Division of the Harold Washington Library Center. For holdings at the Newberry Library, please consult the Library's online catalog and search under Barzel or by dancer, dance company, or production.


Gift of Ann Barzel, 1982-2005.

Related Materials

For correspondence, works, biographical materials, and personal photographs of Ann Barzel, please see the Ann Barzel papers, Newberry Library.

Separated Materials

Barzel's large collection of books and periodicals about dance and dancers have been separated from the collection and individually cataloged. Search for "Ann Barzel Collection" the Newberry Online Catalog for these materials.

Processed by

Newberry Library Staff and volunteers, 1982-present.


Inventory of the Ann Barzel dance research collection, approximately 1830-2010
In Progress
Alison Hinderliter
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 08/16/2011: 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