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Guide to Tap Dance Research: Research Collections

A guide to tap dance holdings at the Library for the Performing Arts.

Research Collections

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division's research collections contain numerous materials related to the history of tap dance. This page is just a short list of the many manuscript collections, books, interviews, archival footage, and more that are held by our Division and available on the Third Floor of the Library for the Performing Arts. This page will just highlight materials we hold related to tap dance. If you are looking for guidance on how to use our catalog and find materials, please refer to our guide "So You Think You Can Find Dance: a Guide to Dance Research." To begin searching the Research Catalog and Legacy Catalog are available and the Archives Portal is used for exclusively archival collections.

The Third Floor of Library for the Performing Arts has begun walk-in services for audio, video, and General Collections. The Special Collections Reading Room remains open on an appointment-only basis. To request an appointment, please request a virtual consultation here. We are also continuing to offer free scans of paper materials. All scan requests can be submitted through this Google Form. While the majority of our audio and video resources are inaccessible offsite, you can find a short list of items that are available while working offsite in the "Remote Access" tab of this guide.

If you have any questions about access please email dance@nypl.org.

Research

All items discussed here are served in the Katharine Cornell-Guthrie McClintic Special Collections Reading Room found on the Third Floor of the Library for the Performing Arts. This room is a closed and monitored space where researchers can consult archival materials, rare books, photographs, programs, clippings, and scrapbooks. The Jerome Robbins Dance Division holds many unique pieces related to tap history, including silk broadsides from the London performances of William Henry Lane (a.k.a. Master Juba).

Below are highlights from our manuscript and photograph collections to help begin your search.

Manuscript Collections

Photographs 

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division photograph collections are useful resources to consult when researching tap dance. Photographs, along with video, are important to preserving the visual component of dance and are an important part of our collection. The majority of photographs related to tap can be found in general photo files (call no. *MGZEA/*MGZE) or photograph collections (call no. *MGZEB ***-****). General photo files are organized by subject so all photos for an individual or dance group/act can be found under one heading. 

Because tap dance has had such a significant presence on Broadway, the Billy Rose Theatre Division also holds a number of photographs of famous tap dancers. Theatre general photo files are also organized by subject and can be found under the call number "*T-Pho A/B/C" and photograph collections under "*T-Vim ****-***."

Some specific photograph collections to consult for tap materials would be:

The General Research Reading Room, found on the third floor of the Library for the Performing Arts, is where the majority of books and periodicals are viewed. Books that are found in the circulating collection can be found here along with a larger selection research monographs and other published volumes. Physical copies of recent periodicals as well as back issues are also served in the room. Items served in the General Collections Reading Room are not allowed to leave the Thirds Floor. However they can be freely photographed, or scanned using copiers found in the far side of the Third Floor. 

 

While our physical collections hold many useful materials, it is always useful to use NYPL's electronic databases. Many are only accessible while physically inside NYPL locations. They provide easy access to many periodicals and newspaper including The New York Times (1851-2015), Variety (1905-2000), Dance Teacher (2001-Present), and numerous regional and historical newspapers.

Audio and Video

Like any dance form, recordings of performance are essential to the research of tap. Through our Dance Oral History Project we have also spent decades recording interviews with dance luminaries, including many important tap dancers. Below are a selection of video and audio collections that are accessible in a variety of ways. Many of our audio recordings and videos are inaccessible unless visiting the Library for the Performing Arts. For exceptions to this you can see the notes at the bottom of this list.

Archival Footage:

Interviews and Lectures:

Transcript available, ** Transcript and offsite streaming available