William Kolodney, Educational Director, 1934-69

According to William Kolodney, shown here in 1954, “Modern dance is the poetry of the dance field, as chamber music is the poetry of the music field.” He believed that the arts could never have mass appeal and that, therefore, the attempt to popularize them would be a mistake. He did, however, want to reach as many truly interested people as possible and knew that the popularly held notion of modern dance as a cult would have to be dispelled in order to reach this potential audience.

Born in Russia, Kolodney immigrated to the United States as a child. As a young man, he received degrees from the Teachers Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary, NYU and Columbia University’s Teachers College, institutions that exposed him to progressive educational concepts of the era, many of which he put into practice at the 92nd Street Y for thirty-five years until his retirement in 1969. ]]> Free Symposium on the Modern Dance, 1935

The Free Symposium on the Modern Dance brought together Martha Graham, Louis Horst (Graham's musical advisor), Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman and Hanya Holm for the first time on a single stage. With critic John Martin as master of ceremonies, this was the nascent event for the modern dance program at the 92nd Street Y.]]> Erich Kastan, photographer

Having taught at the 92nd Street Y during the 1937 season, Doris Humphrey rejoined the faculty in 1944 and was named first director of the Dance Center in 1945. Although she held other professional appointments at the same time, such as artistic director of the Jose Limon Dance Company and, later, director of the Juilliard Dance Theatre, she taught regular choreography classes at the Y until 1955. The dancer seated in the front row, left is Janet Collins, who made her debut at the Y in 1949.]]> Ike Vern, photographer

Early childhood creative dance classes focusing on the development of the whole child through music and movement have been an integral part of the Dance Center mission since its inception, serving as pre-cursors to more formal dance studies.]]> Edward Moeller, photographer

Anna Sokolow is the dancer on the left.

Right: Martha Graham and Bertram Ross in Visionary Recital, 1961
Carl Van Vechten, photographer

As William Kolodney's first principal advisor on dance, the critic John Martin was responsible for engaging the support of Martha Graham in the founding of a dance center at the 92nd Street Y. Martin described Graham, along with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, as "the principal shaping forces of the contemporary dance." Graham's company was nine years old when she first presented work at the Y as part of the Free Symposium on the Modern Dance in 1935. She and her company would perform at the Y regularly for many seasons to come, drawing the attention of the dance world to the Y and inspiring many dancers and companies, including those created by Graham's former students and principal dancers like Paul Taylor and Pearl Lang, to seek out the Y as a premier performance venue. Graham also taught at the Y, as did many of her students, which helped to establish the dance education program as among the very best in the city.]]> Robert Ripps, photographer

Right:Judith Jamison, 1994
Robert Ripps, photographer

The Breaking Ground lecture series was initiated in 1993 by the Director of the Dance Center at the time, Joan Finkelstein. Over the years, the 92nd Street Y has hosted the dance historian and critic Deborah Jowitt in conversation with Erick Hawkins, Merce Cunningham, Judith Jamison, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones, Jerome Robbins, David Dorfman, Arthur Mitchell, Peter Martins, William McKenzie, Edward Villella and Trisha Brown, among many others.]]> Richard Termine, photographer

Since 2007, Doug Varone and Dancers has been the company-in-residence at 92Y Harkness Dance Center. When not on tour, the company rehearses and conducts master classes and workshops open to the New York City professional dance community, offers open showcases of its latest work, and works with members of the 92Y Harkness Repertory Ensemble.]]>