‘The Dance Front: News of the Workers’ Dance Leagues’ from New Theatre. Vol. 2. No. 2. February, 1935.

Hy Boris and Ad Bates dance in ‘Black and White.’
‘The Dance Front: News of the Workers’ Dance Leagues’ from New Theatre. Vol. 2. No. 2. February, 1935.

NEW HEADQUARTERS for the John Reed Dance Group of Boston have just been acquired, and the group is now holding regular classes. In order to activize various members, the group has challenged the other groups in the Workers Dance League to see which group can recruit more Negro members during the months of February and March. At present the members are working on a satire of the Karlsruhe trial as well as a dance based on one of Lenin’s, slogans.

A UNITED FRONT has been established by the New Dance Group of Chicago with the west-side Y.W.C.A. as well as other such organizations. On December 7, 8, and 9, the group had their coming-out party in conjunction with the Chicago Workers Theatre. They performed Lynch and also presented a solo by Bill Matons called Demagog, Both dances were enthusiastically received, and it is interesting to note that the group had the aid of the Y.W.C.A., the use of their gym, pianist, and the participation of some of their girls. The performing members are now working on a sequel to Lynch to clarify certain of its ideas.

THE REVOLUTIONARY DANCE is growing in New Jersey to such a large extent that the Contemporary Dancers were forced to move out of their headquarters with the Jack London Club in Newark, and open a studio of their own. In the following excerpt from a letter written to the Workers Dance League, the gradual growth of the organization is very interestingly related. “Two years ago, a few members of the Jack London Club in Newark, decided to organize a dance group. The club at that time had for its headquarters an old loft, and the wooden floor was badly in need of repairs. The three dancers who first came out for classes were kept busy after class removing each other’s splinters. The group eventually grew to a membership of twenty and achieved a popularity under the name of the Rebel Dancers of Newark. It was soon performing at various affairs and managed, despite difficulties, to reach audiences of thousands of class-conscious workers. With all of these performances, rehearsals, and callouses, the dancers improved considerably. They soon had several polished dances in their repertoire. One of the high spots in the group’s history was the winning of honors in a competition with professional groups in New York. They continued to expand and broke away from the Jack London Club in order to have more time for rehearsal and also to find a better studio. Today, the name of the group is the Contemporary Dancers with active branches at the I.W.O. in Newark, and also in Elizabeth. Classes are now being held at the new headquarters of the Jack London Club. An ambitious program is successfully under way which is bringing the foremost solo dancers and groups to perform in Newark, and increasing the forces of the Contemporary Dancers rapidly.”

THE NEW WORLD DANCE GROUP of Philadelphia is growing so rapidly that new classes will have to be formed in order to accommodate the people who are anxious to join. An extensive program is being planned for the group. On January 13th, they conducted a lecture demonstration by Merle Hirsh and her dance group. This was attended by over one hundred people. The next event is to be a symposium on “What is the Modern Dance?” Invitations have been sent to Mary Binney Montgomery and her group, leading Philadelphia dancers, and Nadia Chilkovsky dentally, over two hundred applicants have already enrolled. For further information apply at the Workers Dance League, 114 W. 14th Street, New York City.

A SECOND COURSE in the “Fundamentals of the Class Struggle” has been announced by the Workers Dance League. It will be a two hour class, with the first hour devoted to economic theory, and the second hour to reading and discussion of essays and articles on revolutionary culture, including works of Lunacharsky, Lenin, and others. The course will begin on January 31st, and will be in twelve sessions, meeting every Thursday night, from 6:30 to 8:30. Register at the Dance League Headquarters.

Red Dancers practicing the Revolutionary Funeral March for Madison Square Garden.

A GROUP OF YOUNG DANCERS is interested in organizing a club for the following purposes: 1. To provide a center for young dancers of today who at present have no opportunity to be known by the outside world, by offering them the opportunity to perform in recitals, lecture on the dance, demonstrate their work, discuss their problems, exchange ideas on the dance, and to contact artists in other fields whose cooperation is essential for dancers’ work (musicians, artists, costumers, etc.) 2. To educate the existing audience in the problems of the dance: technical creative, and theoretical. 3. To increase the audience for the dance by offering, within the lowest price range possible, lectures, demonstrations, recitals, open forums, etc., on the dance. 4. To cooperate with other dance organizations who seek to better the social and economic status of the young dancers.

Members of the Workers Dance League feel that the formation of such a dancers’ club may prove of tremendous aid in the solution of the problems of professional dancers. Address inquiries about this club to Dance Editor of NEW THEATRE.

THE EASTERN CONFERENCE of the Workers Dance League, to be held Feb. 16th-17th, promises to be a landmark in the history of the developing revolutionary dance movement.

The major part of the Conference will be devoted to a discussion of the creative problems and artistic development of our various groups. A great deal of discussion still revolves around: 1. the question of the comprehensibility and revolutionary integrity of our dances, and 2. The problems of sectarianism, and the danger of isolating our dance groups from the occasionally helpful cooperation of “bourgeois” dancers.

Edith Segal dancing in the Lenin Memorial project.

In order that we may accomplish our two-fold aim of artistic and ideological development, the executive committee of the Workers Dance League is submitting the following proposals as a guide to pre-conference discussion:

1. That we make every effort to win our trained dancers as performers and leaders for our groups.

2. That we organize classes in Fundamentals of the Class Struggle (such as held in N. Y.) in each city in which we have dance groups.

3. That we establish a review board in New York City and in other cities where there are more than one or two groups, as a guiding committee to help raise the artistic level of production and to select compositions for performance.

4. That the review board categorize our dances in relation to the place of performance. (a) Concert dances for large stages; (b) Concert dances for small stages; (c) Agit-prop dances.

5. To change the name Workers Dance League to “Dance League” in order to avoid further misunderstanding in the term “Workers” (although this includes intellectual and cultural workers, the term has often been misunderstood as referring only to laborers and industrial workers.)

6. The Dance League shall become a broad dance organization comprising groups of all “dance categories including stage, folk, ballet, etc. dance forms. We shall contact at this time such organizations as the language folk dance groups, the dance groups organized by the W.I.R. and numerous Workers.

Van Huesen’s Head performed by the W.D.L.

ON FEBRUARY 17th, the Workers Dance League is planning a recital that for interest and high standard has not yet been topped. For the benefit of the Daily Worker, as part of International Theatre Week, the League will present a combination program of outstanding revolutionary group and solo dances. These dances will be selected by a Review Board of six who will compile the program from dances selected, not only from the solo and group recitals, but also from the presentation of dances by soloists who have never before appeared on League programs. As befits a performance of this scope and in order to sell huge blocs of cheap seats: the Centre Theatre in Rockefeller Centre has been contracted.

The New Masses was the continuation of Workers Monthly which began publishing in 1924 as a merger of the ‘Liberator’, the Trade Union Educational League magazine ‘Labor Herald’, and Friends of Soviet Russia’s monthly ‘Soviet Russia Pictorial’ as an explicitly Communist Party publication, but drawing in a wide range of contributors and sympathizers. In 1927 Workers Monthly ceased and The New Masses began. A major left cultural magazine of the late 1920s and early 1940s, the early editors of The New Masses included Hugo Gellert, John F. Sloan, Max Eastman, Mike Gold, and Joseph Freeman. Writers included William Carlos Williams, Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Day, John Breecher, Langston Hughes, Eugene O’Neill, Rex Stout and Ernest Hemingway. Artists included Hugo Gellert, Stuart Davis, Boardman Robinson, Wanda Gag, William Gropper and Otto Soglow. Over time, the New Masses became narrower politically and the articles more commentary than comment. However, particularly in it first years, New Masses was the epitome of the era’s finest revolutionary cultural and artistic traditions.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/workers-theatre/v2n02-feb-1935-New-Theatre.pdf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s