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Finding Aid for the Charles James Miller papers 0333
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Acquisition
  • Biography/History
  • Organization
  • Related Materials
  • Preferred Citation
  • Scope and Content
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use

  • Title: Charles James Miller papers
    Collection number: 0333
    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 6.5 linear ft. 12 boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1945-1989
    Abstract: Correspondence, ephemera, and photographs related to Russell Meriwether Hughes ("La Meri")-- ethnic dance icon, instructor, friend (and one-time lover) of Charles Miller who saved the materials which comprise this collection. The collection also includes Miller's own research material and dissertation on Edward Gordon Craig, published in 1957.
    creator: Craig, Edward Gordon, 1872-1966 -- Correspondence
    creator: La Meri, 1898-1988 -- Correspondence
    creator: Miller, Charles James -- Archives


    Purchased from Golden Legend, Inc., Beverly Hills, CA, April-May, 2006.


    Charles James Miller was a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and close friend of Russell Meriwether Hughes, better known as La Meri--the "Queen of Ethnic Dance." In the early 1940s (during World War II), Miller served in the Army as an interpreter in French and Spanish for the Arabs; he was also director and choreographer for Army Red Cross shows in Algeria. After the war, Miller became a dance-dramatist and instructor with the La Meri Ethnological Dance Center in New York City where he met Hughes and became one of her students. At the time, Hughes was 47 and Miller 24; they had a short-lived love affair which developed into a life-long friendship as attested by the volume of correspondence which Miller saved, including the carbon copies of his own letters to Hughes.
    In the late 1940s, Miller moved to California where he continued his involvement in ethnic dance (he referred to himself as an "ethnic dance dramatist" and often went by the name "Chet Milar") while pursuing his interest in theatre arts, which led him to write his dissertation on Edward Gordon Craig-- the British actor, director, and scenic designer. Miller received his Ph.D. from USC in 1957 on the subject of Craig's contributions to modern theatre art. In addition to teaching and demonstrating dance, Miller spent a great deal of time traveling around the world; many of his trips are described in his correspondence to Hughes and other friends.
    Russell Meriwether Hughes ("La Meri") was born in Kentucky in 1898, but moved with her family to San Antonio, Texas in 1910 and made her professional stage debut at the Rialto Theatre in 1923, dancing prologues to silent movies. Her interest in dance led her to tour the world in the 1920s and 30s, studying and performing in South and Central America, Europe, Africa, Australia, India, Burma, Java, and many other regions. Among the ethnic dances at which Hughes excelled were those of India and Spain; she was the first Western dancer to be accepted for study in India. (Hughes claimed to have coined the term "ethnic dance." To her it always meant culture, regardless of race, creed or color.)
    In 1925, Hughes met Guido Carreras, an Italian baron who had managed the great dancers Nijinsky and Pavlova, traveled with Hughes as her manager and in 1931 became her husband. They separated in 1944, leaving no children; Hughes never remarried. In 1940, Hughes founded and taught dance at the School of Natya with Ruth St. Denis in New York City, where they also presented such guest lecturers as Pearl S. Buck, Coomaraswamy, Lin Yutang, and Ted Shawn. (The institute was located in a studio built for Isadora Duncan). Two years later, the school became absorbed into the Ethnologic Dance Center which continued until 1956 when Hughes retired to Cape Cod where she became involved in dog shows, but she was quickly lured out of retirement by members of the local theatre. Her summers were spent teaching and performing at Jacob's Pillow, Ted Shawn's prestigious dance colony outside New York City, where she gave many dance performances for author Pearl S. Buck's "East and West Evenings." Hughes also taught at Columbia University, Connecticut College, New York University, and the Juilliard School of Music. Hughes retired a second time in 1970, at which time she established the non-profit Ethnic Dance Arts, Inc. in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Each year Hughes would present an ethnic dance festival and awards.
    In 1972, Hughes received the Capezio Dance Award. The following year, Hughes was given a citation by Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe for artistic achievement.
    In 1984, Hughes returned to San Antonio where she attended dance performances regularly, even as she struggled with the tribulations of old age including worsening eyesight and cataract operations. She continued with a busy social life and correspondence until her death in 1988 at age 89.
    Hughes wrote six volumes of poetry and five books on dance esthetics, technique, and composition. Her book, Spanish Dancing, is considered by many to be the definitive text on Spanish dance. Her extensive collection of material on ethnic dance, given to the New York Public Library in 1948 and 1962, is a major holding of the library's Dance Collection.


    Organized by series: I. Charles James Miller; II. La Meri. Series I is further broken down into subseries: 1. Correspondence, 2. Ephemera, 3. Photographs, 4. Edward Gordon Craig, 5. Dissertation. Series II consists of three subseries: 1. Correspondence, 2. Photographs, and 3. Ephemera.

    Related Materials

    Related USC Materials
    Hughes, Russell Meriwether. The gesture language of the Hindu dance. 1964.
    Hughes, Russell Meriwether. Spanish dancing. 1948.
    Hughes, Russell Meriwether. Dance as an art-form: its history and development. 1933.
    Miller, Charles James. An analytical and descriptive study of the contributions of Edward Gordon Craig to modern theatre art. 1957.
    Related Materials at Other Institutions
    La Meri Papers, 1912-1992. New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.
    Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives. Jacob's Pillow. http://digilib.nypl.org/dynaweb/dhc/findaid/pillow/@Generic__BookView
    Papers of Moya Beaver, 1918-1973. [Portrait of La Meri in costume for Goyesca dance, c.1940(?)]. http://nla.gov.au/nla.ms-ms9803-1-145. [Lyndon Dadswell working on his sculpture of La Meri, posing in costume from the White Peacock, Royal Academy (picture), ca. 1936] http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3292424. National Library of Australia.
    Edward Gordon Craig Collection. Northwestern University Library. Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections.
    Edward Gordon Craig Collection. Yale University. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
    Donald Oenslager Collection of Edward Gordon Craig. Yale University. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Charles James Miller papers, Collection no. 0333, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

    Scope and Content

    Correspondence, ephemera, and photographs related to Russell Meriwether Hughes ("La Meri")-- ethnic dance icon, instructor, friend (and one-time lover) of Charles Miller who saved the materials which comprise this collection. The collection also includes Miller's own research material and dissertation on Edward Gordon Craig, published in the late 1950s.

    Conditions Governing Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

    Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. -- Archives
    Bailey Films (Hollywood, Los Angeles, Calif.). -- Archives
    Balasaraswati -- Archives
    Blom, Benjamin -- Archives
    Briscoe, Dolph -- Archives
    Buck, Pearl S., (Pearl Sydenstricker), 1892-1973 -- Archives
    Carrick, Edward, 1905-1998 -- Correspondence
    Code, Grant Hyde -- Archives
    Collett, Dorothy -- Archives
    Craig, Edward Gordon, 1872-1966 -- Archives
    Goya, Carola -- Archives
    Holder, Geoffrey, 1930- -- Archives
    La Meri, 1898-1988 -- Archives
    Limon, Jose -- Archives
    Miller, Charles James -- Archives
    Miller, Charles James -- Correspondence
    Mumaw, Barton, 1912-2001 -- Archives
    Newcomer, Lilian Hughes, 1892-1965 -- Archives
    Newcomer, Lilian Hughes, 1892-1965 -- Correspondence
    Shawn, Ted, 1891-1972 -- Archives
    St. Denis, Ruth, 1880-1968 -- Archives
    St. Denis, Ruth, 1880-1968 -- Correspondence
    Terry, Ellen, Dame, 1847-1928 -- Archives
    Terry, Walter -- Archives
    University of Southern California. -- Students
    Choreographers--United States--20th century--Archival resources
    Choreography--United States--20th century--Archival resources
    Dance--United States--20th century--Archival resources
    Dancers--United States--20th century--Archival resources
    Folk dancing--United States--20th century--Archival resources
    Modern dance--United States--20th century--Archival resources
    Negatives (photographic)
    Programs (documents)