Humphrey, Doris

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Doris Humphrey
Doris Humphrey in “Theater Piece”.


Born: October 17, 1895

Died: December 29, 1958, New York City

Country: Oak Park, Illinois, U.S.A.



Doris Humphrey joins the Denishawn in 1917, being already a dance teacher in her native province.

She works for Saint Denis as a teacher and dancer, participating in the company tours around America and Asia till 1926.

It is within the Denishawn that Humphrey associates with the dancer Charles Weidman and the pianist Pauline Lawrence to create the Humphrey - Weidman company (1927 – 1944).

Their artistic productions are known in modern dance history as being contrastingly sober beside the commercial and spectacular wastes of Saint Denis. Also, Charles Weidman contributes to them with a theatrical sense and works using pantomime and humor.

Humphrey develops an original dancing technique by observing the relationship between gravity and human body. She establishes a main physical principle for dance: Fall and Recovery. This notion is resumed in her famous sentence: “Movement is situated on a tended arc between two deaths”: which are vertical balance and horizontal balance.

Other than being the first in modern dance history to chose imbalance as the base for her movement, she also teaches extremely important notions (as technical means) like weight, rebound, suspension and the importance of breath.

Another one of her contributions is the understanding of the dancing group as a main choreographic entity and not only as a mass counterpointing the soloist.

The piece called “Water study” (1928) is an example of her group experiments.

She is concerned about other questions too, like American subjects (reflected in choreographies like “The Shakers” (1931) or the violence of the world (“Theater piece” (1936) or “Inquest” (1944).

She leaves a written patrimony about her choreographic thought in a book entitled “The art of making dances”.

In 1944, she stops dancing because of arthritis and José Limón, who has joined the Humphrey-Weidman group since 1928, creates a new company for which she continues working as an artistic director.[1]

Works for Percussion

Dance Rhythms (Humphrey) - Percussion Duo; Dance