Preserving Bay Area Dance Legacies

Preserving Bay Area Dance Legacies presents highlights of key San Francisco Bay-Area based dancer/choreographers whose papers are a part of the Elyse Eng Dance Collection at the Museum of Performance + Design. Dancer/choreographers represented in this exhibit include Carlos Carvajal, Welland Lathrop, Gary Palmer, and June Watanabe.

This exhibit is part of the culmination of a preservation and access project (July 2020-June 2021), which allowed for the processing, rehousing, and creation of detailed finding aids for the collections of each of the dance luminaries chosen for this project. This exhibit offers a sample of the rich materials from each of the four collections. For more details, please click on the choreographer's name.

Carlos Carvajal

The son of a Filipino immigrant, folk and ballet dancer/choreographer Carlos Carvajal has been recognized as one of the leaders of the San Francisco Bay Area's dance renaissance in the 1970s and served for 12 seasons as Co-Artistic Director of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. Although he began as a folk dancer, in 1951 Carvajal started dancing with San Francisco Ballet (SFB), then abroad with companies such as Ballet Nacional of Venezuela. He served as ballet master and associate choreographer with SFB in the 1960s and has created more than 200 works for ballet, opera and television, including SFB, SF Opera, Oakland Ballet, and Dance Theater of Harlem. In 1970, he founded Dance Spectrum, choreographing ballets that explored religion, mythology and eastern philosophies, as well as folk dance from around the world.

Welland Lathrop

Welland Lathrop was a dancer, teacher, choreographer, and a leader of the west coast modern and avant-garde dance movement. In 1928, he moved to San Francisco and began studying dance with Ann Mundstock. In 1946, he established the Welland Lathrop School and Dance Company, where he was joined by legendary dancer/choreographer Anna Halprin, MP+D’s most heavily researched subject. Lathrop retired and closed his school in the late 1960s, but continued to work with other San Francisco area dance groups including, Shela Xoregos Performing Company.

Gary Palmer

In 1982, Gary Palmer created Men Dancing, a popular San Francisco Bay Area dance series that featured only male dancers and choreographers in order to "give male dance artists a creative space outside of traditional roles (as partners to ballerinas) or archetypes (heroes or villains)." The series included works by Remy Charlip, Jose Limon, Lucas Hoving, Robert Moses and dozens of others.

June Watanabe

June Watanabe has created contemporary dance theater works and collaborated with distinguished artists from diverse disciplines including taiko masters, visual artists like Ruth Asawa and Sandra Woodall, and choreographers Remy Charlip and Alonzo King. Her work incorporates and illuminates the Japanese American experience and explores ritualistic formalities and womanhood. June and her family were held in an internment camp for three years, and her internment works have been used to teach students and the general public about the relocation and displacement of Japanese Americans during WWII.

Image: Portrait of Anna Halprin and Welland Lathrop (circa 1946-1954), photo by Jay Risling.

All images in this exhibit are low-resolution JPEG files meant for reference use only. 

Cataloging, digitization, and access of these collections is supported in part by awards from the National Endowment for the Arts/Art Works, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and California Revealed. This exhibit is sponsored in part by a grant from Grants For the Arts.