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Dixie Durr papers

 Record Group
Identifier: UA-17.264

Scope and Contents

The Dixie Durr papers contain dance and theater records dating from the 1950s up to the mid-2000s. Her academic materials contain information about the dance curriculum such as when specific dance classes were offered and what they involved. There are also materials about the transformation of the dance major and its stages as a major, minor, specialization, and eventual merger with the Department of Theater.

Records of dance workshops in which Dixie Durr's students participated are found in this collection. There are over a dozen companies from across the country that Durr was able to bring to MSU's campus throughout the last 30 years, as well as workshops that students were able to travel to out of state. The materials of MSU's own company, the Repertory Dance Company, can also be found here.

A large assortment of photographs and slides from the last 50 years include individual portraits of student dancers, posed group pictures, rehearsal shots, and both dance and theater performances.

All of the materials regarding performances are organized by title and include any relevant correspondence, newspaper clippings, show programs, or rehearsal notes. Programs from the dance department and the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts are also included.


  • Creation: 1950 - 2006


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

(Taken from Dixie Durr's "History of Dance at Michigan State University Brief Outline," Box 4136, Folder 42)

Dance began at Michigan State University under the jurisdiction of the Department of Physical Education, and was a regular part of the curriculum for female physical education students. There is no exact date for the beginning of dance being taught on campus, but there is evidence showing that the honorary organization Orchesis was presenting dance concerts in the 1930s.

The earliest dance program consisted of only the most basic dance courses. Demand for dance increased in the 1960s, however, and Jazz, Ballet, Methods of Teaching Dance, Choreography, and Dance Production were added to the curriculum. Students in the Methods class taught weekly dance lessons to local children.

The Men's and Women's Physical Education Programs merged in the late 1960s. While this move was not entirely beneficial for those involved in the dance program, the students and faculty were able to remodel Orchesis into the MSU Repertory Dance Company and eventually gain greater visibility. Dance concerts also started to be planned in conjunction with the sound experts, costume designers, and lighting professionals of the Theater Department.

In 1978, the dance major was introduced through Justin Morrill College. New programs allowed for the student's dance education to be more incorporated with the world. Dance majors now studied Physiology and Anatomy, Philosophy, History of Dance, and advanced technique classes, in addition to their previous core courses.

The dance program underwent great upheaval in the early 1980s. Due to poor economic conditions in Michigan, MSU was forced to cut multiple departments, including dance. Fortunately, the program was put under the auspices of the Department of Theater as a Specialization, where it has been able to remain and continue spreading the "gospel of dance" to students from every discipline.

Dixie Durr herself started at MSU at some point in the 1960s, where she taught dance until she retired in 2005. Durr received her PhD from Ohio State University, her MA in theatre from Michigan State University, another MA in the Anthropology of Human Movement from New York University, and her BA in dance from Butler University. She was also a certified teacher of Labnotation. A number of dance journals have published Durr's work, and she is also highly accredited for her choreography work while at MSU.

Her obituary states that Dr. Durr also, "was a member of the Professional Advisory Committee to the Dance Notation Bureau, a member of the Board of Directors of the American Dance Guild, and president of the Michigan Dance Association from 1987 to 1989. The National Dance Association recognized her with a Presidential Citation in 1994. In 2004 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Michigan Dance Council. At MSU she was a member of the Faculty Professional Women's Association, serving as president. Durr was the recipient of the Paul Varg Alumni Award for Faculty presented by the MSU College of Arts and Letters Alumni Association and recognized by the College of Education in 2006 with a Crystal Apple Award."


7 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University.

Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Dixie Durr Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
E. Field
April 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US