Doris Humphrey, Photo courtesy of New York Public Library Pictured: Doris Humphrey in Passacaglia in C Minor (1938), one of her large-scale orchestral works to music by Bach, created at Bennington College. (Photograph from the Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.)

One of the pioneers of American modern dance, a choreographic master, theoretician, and creator of the technique known as "fall and recovery," Doris Humphrey (1885-1958) was born in Oak Park, Illinois. She studied with Mary Wood Hinman in Chicago and at the Denishawn school in Los Angeles, where her teaching and creative abilities were quickly recognized. In 1928 she left Denishawn and gave her first independent concert with Charles Weidman. From the start her work demonstrated an unerring sense of form, as well as an interest in large-scale abstract works. These culminated in New Dance Trilogy, a grand statement about individual and social relations that was probably the greatest modern dance work of the 1930s. In 1946, following her retirement from the stage, she became artistic director of José Limón's newly-formed company. An authority on dance composition, she taught at Juilliard, Connecticut College, and the 92nd Street YM-YWHA, and presented her theory in book form in The Art of Making Dances (1959).

Learn more in Doris Humphrey, an essay by Marcia B. Siegel.

Doris Humphrey, Cleo Atheneos, Dorothy Lathrop, Hyla Rubin, and Ernestine Stodelle
in Humphrey's Air for the G String (1934), one of the early works that established her choreographic style.

Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and José Limón in Humphrey's Exhibition Piece, 1939.  Photo by Thomas Bouchard. Pictured: Doris Humphrey with two of her most important collaborators, Charles Weidman and José Limón, in Humphrey's Exhibition Piece, 1939. (Photo by Thomas Bouchard. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dance Division.)