New Dance Group in Improvisation, Library of Congress Members of the New Dance Group in Improvisation, 1932. (New Dance Group Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress)


Founded in 1932 by left-wing students from the New York Wigman School, the first New Dance Group program announced, "Dance is a Weapon of the Class Struggle." It sponsored concerts that took place in union halls and on the concert stage. The school offered inexpensive dance classes to professionals, workers, and children. It joined the Workers Dance League and allied itself with other groups led by Anna Sokolow, Edith Segal's Red Dancers, and others. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the Group remained committed to social justice. It was a major training ground in New York City for African-American dancers, including Pearl Primus and Donald McKayle. Its faculty, which included such outstanding teachers and choreographers as Jane Dudley, Sophie Maslow, Jean Erdman, Jean-Léon Destiné, and Hadassah, challenged the New York concert dance to include a variety of influences. The curriculum encompassed forms from Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern dance to ballet. The Group supported luminary companies including the Dudley-Maslow-Bales trio and Mary Anthony that created humanist and political works as opposed to purely formal choreography. New Dance Group sold its building and supervised the construction of new rental studios in mid-Manhattan, but deficits mounted and the NDG board elected to close operations in 2009. The studios were then taken over by the Joyce Theater who continues to operate the facility under the name DANY Studios.

Learn more in New Dance Group, an essay by Victoria Phillips.