Studs Terkel Does Dance

For 45 years, from 1952 to 1997, Studs Terkel conducted radio interviews with a variety of people on WFMT. In this long tenure, Studs interviewed many dancers, both native Chicagoans and visiting artists. Thanks to the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, an online listening wonderland of over 1,200 interviews, we can hear the voices and opinions of dance luminaries of the past, such as Margot Fonteyn, Ruth Page, Ann Barzel, and Robert Joffrey. In addition, there is input from many founders of Chicago dance companies, such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Lou Conte and Natya Dance Theatre’s Hema Rajagopalan.

Listen to these fascinating interviews, and then visit our current exhibition, The Legacy of Chicago Dance.

Dame Margot Fonteyn discusses her book The Magic of Dance. December 6, 1979

Dame Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991) made many roles her own in her long career with the Royal Ballet. She toured in the U.S. and performed in Chicago many times. She also wrote several books on dance. In this interview, Studs asks her about her then-latest book entitled The Magic of Dance. She discusses Isadora Duncan; Anna Pavlova; male dancers and their role in ballet; composers for ballet, such as Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky; and her love of other forms of dance, particularly Spanish, American jazz, and African styles.

Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino discuss dance, then and now. January 14, 1976

The founders of the Joffrey Ballet, Robert Joffrey (1930-1988) and Gerald Arpino (1923-2008), talk about choreography and about their ballet company, which they established in 1956. Their company, considering itself a very American dance company, fuses ballet with modern and jazz, even taking live rock bands with them on tour (for Arpino’s work, “Trinity.”)

Joel Hall, Lynn Colburn, Larry Schoeneman discuss the Chicago Metropolitan Dance Festival. June 10, 1980

Studs interviews participants of the Chicago Metropolitan Dance Festival, which took place at Pick-Staiger Hall at Northwestern University in the later half of June 1980. Joel Hall of Joel Hall Dancers, Lynn Colburn of the New Dance Consort, and lighting designer/arranger Larry Schoeneman are all interviewed.

Ruth Page discusses her life and ballet. April 11, 1978

Chicago dance doyenne Ruth Page (1899-1991) is interviewed about her recent biography by dance critic John Martin. In this interview, she talks about her first encounter with Anna Pavlova, and dancing and working with so many great artists and characters, including Adolph Bolm, Bentley Stone, Sergei Diaghilev, Leonid Massine, George Balanchine, John Alden Carpenter, and Harald Kreutzberg. Page discusses her love of many types of dance, whether inspired by the art of Picasso or the dancers of Bali.

Hema Rajagopalan discusses Indian dancing. September 15, 1992

Hema Rajagopalan moved to Chicago and established Natya Dance Theatre in 1974. Rajagopalan’s goal is to promote and teach the dance art of Bharata Natyam, a genre that can be traced back to southern India 3,000 years ago. Rajagopalan brought three musicians from India with her into the studio to play and demonstrate how the music and dance combine in Bharata Natyam performances. She talks with Studs about the origins of the dance, the stories that are told, and how the dance is a type of meditation, bringing both the dancer and the audience member to a higher spiritual consciousness.

Ruth Page discusses Chicago ballet production "November Steps" with Minsa Craig. Also included is a conversation with Martha Graham from years earlier. November 22, 1976

Dance pioneer and choreographer Ruth Page and choreographer Minsa Craig (1928-2003) talk about their influences and inspirations for both dancing and choreography, and go into more detail about the premiere of Craig’s work “November Steps,” scored by Toru Takemitsu. The second part of this segment is a re-play of a conversation between Studs and modern dance icon and choreographer Martha Graham.

Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino discuss the 30th Anniversary of Joffrey and the new production "Birthday Variations." March 4, 1986

Studs brings back Joffrey and Arpino, after having interviewed them 10 years previous, to talk about their company’s 30th anniversary and the premiere of Arpino’s new work “Birthday Variations,” which is a commission made in honor of Dino D’Angelo by his wife Becky D’Angelo.

Discussing the Joffrey Memorial Tour with choreographer Gerald Arpino. March 27, 1989

After the death of Robert Joffrey in 1988, the Joffrey company made the decision to continue on, and Studs interviews Joffrey co-founder Gerald Arpino right before the Joffrey’s return to Chicago in 1989 to perform in its 33rd season. Arpino speaks to Studs about the origins of the company, and its premiere of his work “Viva Vivaldi” in 1965 at Chicago’s Harper Theater Dance Festival, which was the turning point for the company in terms of its nationwide success.

Ruth Page and Lou Conte reflect on dance and their Chicago dance companies. May 12, 1980

Dance pioneers Ruth Page (1899-1991) and Lou Conte, founder of Hubbard Street Dance Company, discuss both American dance and dance in Chicago. The two are from different generations, but both are inspired by the music of Gershwin and the style of jazz, modern, and other dance forms. Conte talks about working with Bob Fosse and Page talks about working with Harald Kreutzberg.

Conversation with dance historian Ann Barzel. January 23, 1996

Ann Barzel, the “doyenne of Midwestern dance critics and observers” (1905-2007), announces a dance exhibition at the Newberry Library going on January-March 1996, in conjunction with the official opening of the donation of her papers to the Newberry. Ann and Studs then talk about dance in Chicago: the Federal Ballet in the 1930s with Ruth Page and Bentley Stone, the era before that with Adolph Bolm and Pavley-Oukrainsky ballets in the 1910s and 1920s, and the current dance scene in Chicago with the Joel Hall dancers and others.