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Guide to the John Dougherty Papers, 1922-1988
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Chronology
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: John Dougherty Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1922-1988
    Collection number: MS-P003
    Creator: Dougherty, John
    Extent: 23 linear feet Number of containers: 50 document boxes and 1 flat box
    Repository: University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.
    Irvine, California 92623-9557
    Abstract: The John Dougherty Papers illustrate Dougherty's multi-faceted career and the world of Los Angeles dance and theater from 1956 to 1983. This collection reflects dance in Los Angeles from the local dance academy to the visiting international company. Do ugherty, a dancer, writer and lecturer, created original writings and teaching materials and collected programs, press releases, photographs, correspondence, and clippings. Early materials (ca. 1928-1940), including photographs, document aspects of his pe rforming career as a dancer and actor.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special Collections and University Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    John Dougherty Papers. MS-P 3. Special Collections and Archives, The UCI Libraries, Irvine, California. Date accessed.
    For the benefit of current and future researchers, please cite any additional information about sources consulted in this collection, including permanent URLs, item or folder descriptions, and box/folder locations.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased in 1988.

    Processing History

    Processed by Emma Kheradyar in 1997. Guide edited by Laura Clark Brown.


    John Ellwood Dougherty was a dance critic, who had a long and multi-faceted career in the performing arts, including dancing, acting, production, and teaching. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 3, 1910. Rudolph Valentino and the mysti cal photographs in The American Dancer of the "Oriental dancers," Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, inspired Dougherty and sparked his interests and aspirations in dance and theater.
    Dougherty began his dance training at age 11, and in 1928 he received a scholarship to the Denishawn House in New York. As a member of Denishawn's first resident class, he made his professional dancing debut under the direction of Ted Shawn in 1929. He later studied classical ballet with three important figures: Mikhail Mordkin, Alexandre Gavrilov, and Anthony Tudor. He continued to dance professionally, partnering Mary Binney Montgomery in 1937; she was an East Coast socialite who produced dance progr ams. In the 1940's and 1950's, Dougherty participated in theater productions, primarily with the Alden Players of Philadelphia. He acted, danced, choreographed, directed, and designed costumes and make-up.
    Dougherty also maintained a professional relationship with Ruth St. Denis, dancing with her group in 1938. Many years later in 1964, Dougherty became St. Denis' personal secretary and manager; his duties included collecting materials on her dances, boo king speaking engagements, and writing press releases and program notes. He partnered St. Denis in her final performance with the Denishawn Dancers at Mt. Tamalpais Amphitheater (Marin County, California) in 1965.
    Dougherty moved to the West Coast in 1955, and writing became the primary focus of his career. Dougherty was the Southern California correspondent for Dance Magazinefrom 1956 to 1966 and later wrote for Dance News from 19 71 to 1982. He looked in numerous venues for inspiring performances and future talent, attending both major and minor dance performances, from the Bolshoi Ballet to Sujata and Asoka and to De Rea's Dance Academy. His writing required him to attend hundred s of performances, sometimes more than one each night. He worked with many local and regional dance schools directly on productions, attended dance concerts and recitals, and corresponded regularly with faculty members of dance schools and departments. He compiled program notes for both professional and university dance performances. His major research projects included writing a biographical article on Adolph Bolm and editing the memoirs of Mary Bran, a Los Angeles dance impresario.
    Dougherty was a dance educator as well. In the 1960's and 1970's, he taught technique and both dance and theater history at California State University Fullerton, UCLA and UCLA Extension. He also gave lecture demonstrations which accompanied film and l ive performances. His career ended in 1988, when he died at the age of 77.


    1910 Born John Ellwood Dougherty in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 3rd.
    1920 Began dance training at the age of 11.

    First professional engagements as actor and dancer in summer stock productions at Cape May Municipal Pier, New Jersey.
    1928 Granted a working scholarship at age 18 as member of the first resident class of the Denishawn House in New York City.

    Studied with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn.

    Studied with Elsa Findlay, authorized teacher of Dalcroze Eurhythmics.
    1929 Professional modern dance debut with Ted Shawn.
    1930 Began the study of classical ballet, first with Mikail Mordkin and then with Alexandre Gavrilov at the Philadelphia Civic Opera School of Dance.

    Taught Denishawn technique at the Ethel Phillips Studios in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.
    1934 Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, University of Pennsylvania.
    1937 Partnered Mary Binney Montgomery.
    1938 Master of Arts in English Literature, University of Pennsylvania.

    Danced with Ruth St. Denis' "religious realization" group in New York City.
    1940 Participated in summer stock, Cape May, New Jersey.

    Model for the sculptor Kathryn Dieter Thimme.
    1944-1955 Personnel and Industrial Relations Manager for the Philadelphia Rust-Proof Company.
    1945-1955 Original member and early president of the Tacony Personnel Association in Philadelphia.
    1949-1955 Chairman of the Kensington Veterans Employment Committee, in Philadelphia.
    1950-1955 Actor, director, dancer, choreographer, designer costumer and makeup artist for the Alden Players (a community theater group) of Philadelphia.
    1955 Moved to the South Bay area of Los Angeles.
    1956-1965 Dance Magazine staff correspondent for Southern California.
    1956-? Technical illustrator at MacDonald Douglas Aircraft Corporation in El Segundo, California.
    1960-1962 Taught a University Extension course on dance history at UCLA.

    Gave guest lectures for UCLA Extension courses and lecture series, including "Dance: The Living Art;" "World Arts and Culture: The Modern United States;" "Theater: America Sets the Stage;" and Japanese theater history (Kabuki, Odori, and Japanese music).
    1963 Awarded a fellowship by the Huntington Hartford Foundation to conduct historical research on Adolph Bolm.
    1964-1966 "Literary" secretary and personal manager to Ruth St. Denis.
    1965 Partnered Ruth St. Denis at her last performance with the Denishawn Company at Mt. Tamalpais Amphitheater, in Marin County, California.
    1970-1972 Taught Dalcroze Eurhythmics, dance history, beginning modern dance and "Dance Today In LA" (a course designed to nurture philanthropy) at California State College at Fullerton (CSU Fullerton).
    1971-1982 Dance News staff correspondent for Southern California. (Magazine ceased publication in 1982.)
    1971 Taught East Indian dance movement for California State College at San Diego.
    1975 Devised a lecture demonstration on Ruth St. Denis and the Denishawn technique for a documentary by Edmund Penney, The Dancing Prophet.
    1988 Died at age 77 on March 31st in Downey, California.

    Scope and Content

    The John Dougherty Papers illustrate Dougherty's multi-faceted career and the world of Los Angeles dance and theater from 1956 to 1983. This collection reflects dance in Los Angeles from the local dance academy to the visiting international company. Do ugherty, a dancer, writer and lecturer, created original writings and teaching materials and collected programs, press releases, photographs, correspondence, and clippings. Early materials (ca. 1928-1940), including photographs, document aspects of his performing career as a dancer and actor.
    The collection primarily documents Dougherty's writings on dance while he was in Los Angeles. His published and unpublished writings include reviews, biographical articles, theater production liner notes, journals, correspondence, lectures, and backgro und notes. Dougherty collected research materials for his writings on performing arts organizations, performers, dance schools, dance events, dance topics, and other subjects. His calendars, notes, teaching materials, writings, letters, programs, and clip pings chronicle multiple levels and layers of the Los Angeles dance scene. Other materials reflect his interests and writings other than dance.
    Dougherty's original files are organized in nine series based on type of material , such as general correspondence files, or by subject, such as international dance companies. Within the series, files are further subdivided by subject and arranged chro nologically or alphabetically. Internal folder arrangement remains in the creator's original order, and archival organization was imposed at the collection and series level. His existing file titles were retained in most cases. Some folders lost labels pr ior to processing, and thus some folder titles were supplied with names.
    Many files overlap in scope, content and format. For example, series 3 is comprised of Dougherty's correspondence files, but letters are scattered throughout the collection in subject files he kept on dance companies or individuals. Researchers may nee d to look multiple places for all the available material and information of a particular type or on a specific topic.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Dougherty, John E., 1910-1988--Archives.
    Dance--Archival resources.
    Dance--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources.
    Modern dance--United States--Archival resources.
    Dance companies--United States--Archival resources.
    Dance schools--United States--Archival resources.
    Dance--History--Archival resources.
    Choreographers--Biography--Archival resources.
    Dancers--Biography--Archival resources.

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Dance programs.
    Photographic prints.
    Theater programs.


    Dance teachers.

    Index Terms Related to this Collection

    Online Archive of California.