Maxine Munt (1913-2000) is perhaps best-known in Colorado as one of the co-founders of the Changing Scene Theatre. The Changing Scene was a bohemian, not-for-profit theater in downtown Denver that, from 1967-2000, provided an inexpensive, supportive space for experimental Denver performing artists.
Munt’s place in American modern dance history is just as impressive but not as well known.
The images, clippings, and pamphlets in Munt’s scrapbook, which she donated to the Carson-Brierly Dance Library, are primarily a record of her time as a student at the prestigious Bennington School of the Dance at Bennington College in Vermont. As such, they provide an intimate, personal glimpse into one of the first places in America that modern dance began to crystallize as a distinctly American art form.
The Bennington School of the Dance was a series of six-week summer sessions, held annually from 1934-1942, on the grounds of the small, progressive, and private Bennington College. The School of the Dance was a haven and a laboratory for many of the leading lights of American modern dance. The work these educators did at Bennington went a long way toward refining and, to a degree, codifying this young, raw, and dynamic dance genre.
The scrapbook begins with Munt’s first summer at Bennington (1937), and includes images of all four of the pioneers in American modern dance who taught there: Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, Hanya Holm, and Doris Humphrey.
Munt’s scrapbook shows Bennington’s students immersed in a progressive arts education curriculum that was unlike any other in America at the time. Students dance on the lawn in front of the college’s Commons building, play gongs, and playfully interact with their instructors. The scrapbook is also an especially rich source of visual information about Charles Weidman during his time at Bennington. In the summer of 1938, Munt was a member of Charles Weidman’s workshop, and many of the photographs from this time period show Weidman dancing, instructing, and joking with his students.
The remainder of the scrapbook shows Munt’s time teaching at the University of North Dakota, Adelphi College, University of Nebraska, and Ashley Hall (a girls’ school in Charleston, South Carolina) and working with various dance groups (including Hanya Holm’s, at Colorado College).
To see more photographs from Munt’s scrapbook, visit the Maxine Munt Scrapbook collection in our digital repository.
Questions? Contact University of Denver Special Collections and Archives, 303.871.3428.