Agnes De Mille’s Unearthed Letters to Inspire 5 New Dance Commissions

Industry News   Agnes De Mille’s Unearthed Letters to Inspire 5 New Dance Commissions
The 60th anniversary gala for the Stage Directors and Choreographers union celebrates the choreographer and honors Victoria Traube with the Abbott Award.
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Agnes De Mille Billy Rose Theatre Division/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

On March 25, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation will celebrate its 60th anniversary with its annual gala. But this year will be different.

In honor of SDC founding member choreographer Agnes De Mille, the Foundation will commission original choreographic pieces to be presented at the gala event. Each will be inspired by the following letter from December 1963, discovered in the SDC archives three years ago during an office move:

“Under separate cover, I am mailing you a manuscript in a sealed envelope. Please file it unopened, with the date carefully noted. It is the outline for a play, and I have no means of copyrighting except this way. The material is eminently stealable and I’m discussing the matter with people of equal ambitions.”

The choreographers, who must be members of SDC, will be chosen based on their application. Once chosen, the five choreographers will be invited to create works that imagine what De Mille might have had in mind in that tumultuous time in history. The judging committe consists of Karen Azenberg, Joshua Bergasse, Donald Byrd, Ted Chapin, Graciela Daniele, Maija Garcia, JoAnn Hunter, Sam Pinkleton, and Susan Stroman.

To apply, choreographers must answer one of the following questions:

  • Which quote from Agnes de Mille speaks to you the most, and why? How does Agnes de Mille inspire you?
  • As a Choreographer, why is it important to honor Agnes de Mille? Why is it important to carry the legacy of Agnes de Mille forward?
  • If you were able to ask Ms. de Mille a question today, what would it be?

The accompanying sealed envelope remains unopened to this day. The union has not decided if it will open it after the presentation of the new dance works at the gala.

In addition to these performances, Victoria Traube, the Senior Vice President of Business Affairs and General Counsel of Concord Music, will be honored. Traube, who oversees the business and legal affairs of the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization, is set to receive the Mr. Abbott Award. Named for late director, producer, playwright, screenwriter George Abbott, his wife Joy said in a statement, “I believe George would agree that there is no better way to celebrate SDC’s 60th anniversary than to recognize the contributions of his contemporary, the great Agnes de Mille, and to honor the remarkable Victoria Traube.”

The March 25 gala will be chaired by Philip J. Smith, Chairman, and Robert E. Wankel, President, of The Shubert Organization, Theodore S. Chapin, President and Chief Creative Officer of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, and SDC Executive Board Members Mark Brokaw (who is also an SDCF Trustee) and Rachel Chavkin.

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