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St. Mark's Dance Company and Studio records

 Collection
Identifier: MS2004

Collection Scope and Content

The St. Mark's Dance Company and Studio Records collection contains founding documents, historical background information, articles, essays, speeches, lectures, choreography notes, teaching notes, notebooks, clippings, reviews, press releases, advertisements, brochures, fliers, budgets, accountings, tax records, programs, schedules, repertoires, audiotapes, videotapes, legal documents, photographs, negatives, slides, correspondence, minutes, annual reports, financial reports, funding proposals and applications, agreements, contracts, resumes, and lists.

The collection, dating from 1950 to 1998, presents a view of the history and workings of the St. Mark's Dance Company and Studio, with founder Mary Craighill as director, and their impact upon the Capitol Hill community as well as upon the Greater Washington area. The collection also provides valuable insight into the background, meaning, and scope of religious dance. One strength of the collection is the cohesion lent by the presence of many of Mary Craighill's personal documents throughout the collection. As an especially dedicated dance artist, Craighill's business, art, religion, and personal affairs intertwined. The great variety of activities and changes of the Company are better understood through Craighill's goals and aspirations as she was the one constant in the life of the Company.

Dates

  • 1950-1998

Restrictions on Access

The collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Historical or Biographical Note

The history of St. Mark's Dance Company and Studio follows the chronicle of the career of Mary Craighill. Craighill has performed, choreographed, and taught dance in the Washington area since 1950. In some sense, the Company began in 1950 as a duet between Craighill and Mildred Lachman who were both dancers with Erika Thimey's performing group at the time. They were soon joined by Robert Fabik. The trio's repertoire was composed largely of abstract or comic works. In 1953, Louis Tupler replaced Fabick and the trio became a serious company. In addition to her performances with the trio, Craighill directed several special programs in the Washington area and in 1956 opened a studio in her home in McLean, Virginia. Around 1955, Craighill and Tupler formed and directed the Washington Contemporary Dance Group. In 1957, friends of the WCDG formed a supporting organization known as the Washington Contemporary Dance Foundation, Inc.

In these early years, Craighill began to explore the use of dance as communication and as an expression of religion. The appearances of the trio and the WCDG at local theatres and events provided Craighill with testing grounds for these dance themes. By 1959 she and Tupler had developed their own special interests in dance that ceased to compliment the other's. Craighill formed the Mary Craighill Dance Company and continued to enjoy the support of the WCDF, Inc as she concentrated her efforts on the challenge of religious dance. Her group accepted an invitation to join the Chancel Drama Cycle, an inter-denominational consortium of drama groups presenting secular plays during lent, and toured the Washington area and the East Coast as its only dance member.

St. Mark's Episcopal Church invited Craighill and her group to become the dance company in residence in 1962. The group became known as the St. Mark's Chancel Dance Group. The St. Mark's Dance Studio was opened upstairs in the church in 1963. Then, as now, both the company and the studio had the encouragement and support of the church and were free of artistic interference. The groupe strived to express themselves through Ballet, modern, jazz, ethnic and even mime. A striving for simultaneous inreach and outreach has guided the company. Efforts to reestablish dance as an acceptable medium of religious expression of the liturgy of the church has constituted the "inreach". The company's "outreach" has been to the marketplace where they have tried to present valuable, substantial dances of integrity that are meaningful to the modern human being.

Throughout the sixties the company's repertoire strengthened and matured. In 1965 they were a semi-professional company as recognized by the District of Columbia Arts Commission. This gave the company temporary strength and stability and the opportunity to compete with other companies. The company began a series of performances in DC public schools in the late sixties and gave performances and workshops to the general public as well. The St. Mark's Junior Company formed in 1968 for pre professionals ages nine and up from the studio. The St. Mark's Dance Company (senior), which performed nationally and internationally as professionals, was disband temporarily due to financial difficulty. The need for full-time, full-salaried dancers became more apparent than ever. Funding from the Sears-Roebuck Foundation for a lecture-demonstration series came in 1969 and was funded for a second year. The company was located in Arlington county from 1971-1975 as the dance company in residence. They toured Arlington schools and Virginia state. Mary Craighill created the curricula for Arlington schools. As the Arlington-St. Mark's Dance Company (also known as the Arlington Dance Theatre), they were a company of professional status and capacity. Craighill developed curricula and standards for all county sponsored dance teaching in Arlington county. Previous activities with St. Mark's continued during this time.

Arlington county provided financial resources but not the support and artistic freedom that St. Mark's provided. Craighill returned to St. Mark's full-time in 1975. During that same year the Company began a series of performances called Lunch Theatre. Monthly lunch hour performances by the St. Mark's Dance Company and other DC performing artists continued for 5 ½ years with support from the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, Expansion Arts Division. By 1981 Lunch Theatre had proved itself too costly in terms of money, artistic energy and time. It was discontinued and Craighill and the Company turned their full attention to the philosophy of inreach-outreach. During the eighties, liturgies in dance were choreographed for the church, public performances were given, and an outreach program focusing on institutions such as veteran hospitals, retirement homes, and shelters developed. Since 1990 both commissioned work for St. Mark's services and secular dances have been a large portion of the Company's work. The St. Mark's Dance Company continues through its versatile and eclectic approach to technique to make a significant and unique contribution to the city of Washington.

Extent

16 Linear Feet

Language

English

Abstract

The St. Mark's Dance Company and Studio Records collection contains founding documents, historical background information, articles, essays, speeches, lectures, choreography notes, teaching notes, notebooks, clippings, reviews, press releases, advertisements, brochures, fliers, budgets, accountings, tax records, programs, schedules, repertoires, audiotapes, videotapes, legal documents, photographs, negatives, slides, correspondence, minutes, annual reports, financial reports, funding proposals and applications, agreements, contracts, resumes, and lists.

Collection Organization

Organized into 5 series: Administrative records; Performances, programs, and special events files; Miscellaneous files; Non-print media; and Oversized records.

Acquisition Information

Mary Craighill and Jim Adams, Rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill donated the St. Mark's Dance Company and Studio collection to the Gelman Library in March of 1995 for inclusion in the Dance Archives of the Greater Washington Region.

Upon donation of the collection, Mary Craighill and Jim Adams transferred all right, title, and interest in and to the materials of the collection.
Title
Guide to the St. Mark's Dance Company and Studio records, 1950-1998
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America