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Ernestine Stodelle Papers

Identifier: Dance-MS-Stodelle

Scope and Content of the Collection

Collection of files kept by Ernestine Stodelle regarding her professional life as dancer, teacher, author and dance critic. Material relates to Stodelle’s own career as well as her relationship with important dance figures Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and Jose Limon. Consists of autobiographical items, correspondence, articles, clippings, lectures, programs, reviews, tributes, photographs, dance descriptions and reconstructions.

In the general files, there are a few letters written by Stodelle, but correspondence is mostly a range of miscellaneous incoming ones, dated from 1964 to 1998, including many short letters and notes from Charles Weidman, a photocopy of a long personal letter from Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a few letters from Oregon historian Arthur C. Spencer and several from dance teacher Leslie Main. Besides a few ads, clippings and programs relating to Stodelle’s dancing career, there are numerous examples of her writing: many articles and reviews on dance and dancers, such as Martha Graham, but primarily on Louis Horst, Jose Limon, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and the Humphrey-Weidman technique. Among the miscellaneous material are an oral history interview (with cassette), Stodelle’s association with the American Dance Theatre, Artspace, Inc., Dance Notation Bureau, Doris Humphrey Society of Oak Park, Illinois, photographer Barbara Morgan, and the Silo Concert Dancers. Also, there are printed items relating to dance, some ephemera and photographs of Stodelle.

Besides the general files, there are separate files on Louis Horst, Doris Humphrey, Jose Limon, and Charles Weidman, which consist mainly of announcements, articles, clippings, programs, reviews, personal writings, homages and tributes, and photographs. The Doris Humphrey files include copious notes and directions for Stodelle’s reconstruction of Shakers, one of Humphrey’s most famous works. The Jose Limon files are largely concerned with the Jose Limon Dance Company, which continued after Limon’s death. The Charles Weidman files include many short notes to Stodelle on the backs of programs and announcements, and 1925 photographs and letter from renowned Japanese dancer, Koshiro Matsumoto.


  • Creation: 1925-2006



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Ernestine Stodelle Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Ernestine Stodelle 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 Ernestine Stodelle

American dancer, teacher, author and dance critic.

Ernestine Stodelle, one of the foremost chroniclers of modern dance in America, was born in 1912 in Oakland, California. Her professional dance career began when she became a member of the pioneer modern dance company of Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman (1929-1935). She jointly choreographed works with Jose Limon, Eleanor King and Letitia Ide in the Little Group, a subsidiary ensemble of the Humphrey-Weidman Company, and later became a partner and choreographer with Jose Limon and his company.

During the later 1930s, Stodelle gave concerts of her own work in Paris and Switzerland, and introduced American modern dance to European audiences by giving lecture-demonstrations of Doris Humphrey’s technique. After the war, she returned to America and established dance studios in several Connecticut locations, and began publishing articles in periodicals and newspapers. Stodelle became well-known as a dance critic and writer, and authored two books, one on Doris Humphrey and one on Martha Graham.

While in Europe, Stodelle had married her first husband, theater director and stage designer, Theodore Komisarjevsky. After his death she married John R. Chamberlain, a nationally-known journalist. Together they opened her dance studio in Cheshire, Connecticut, where for the next fifty years, she continued to teach modern dance to both children and adults and to oversee her resident dance company, the Silo Concert Dancers. As the living witness of the genius of Doris Humphrey, Stodelle’s life’s work focused on reconstructing and teaching the dances of her mentor, and she staged recreations of Humphrey’s work in England, The Netherlands, Canada, and throughout the USA. She also was an adjunct professor of dance criticism and aesthetics at New York University from 1970 until 1991.

At age 85, Stodelle was still coaching young dancers at the Doris Humphrey Society in Oak Park, Illinois, helping them produce several videos on Humphrey’s work. She lived to be 95, dying in Santa Barbara in 2008.


2.5 Linear Feet (6 boxes)


Collection of files kept by Ernestine Stodelle regarding her professional life as dancer, teacher, author and dance critic. Material relates to Stodelle’s own career and her association with dance figures Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Jose Limon and Louis Horst. Consists of correspondence, articles, clippings, lectures, programs, reviews, tributes, photographs, dance descriptions and reconstructions.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: General Files, 1929-2006
Boxes 1-3
Series 2: Louis Horst Files, 1928-1984
Box 3
Series 3: Doris Humphrey Files, 1934-1995
Box 4
Series 4: Jose Limon Files, 1951-1997
Box 5
Series 5: Charles Weidman Files, 1925-1993
Box 6

Collection Stack Location

3a 48 13


Gift, Gail Corbin, 2009.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2009.

Inventory of the Ernestine Stodelle Papers, 1925-2006
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

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

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States