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Special Collections and University Archives

Jan Van Dyke was one of the most prolific and well-known faculty members in the UNCG Department of Dance. Van Dyke had a long history with UNCG, beginning in 1989 when she received a doctorate in education.
Jan Van Dyke, ca. 1970s.
Van Dyke donated her personal and professional papers to the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives in 2014-2015. The papers were processed and made available to the public in 2017. They afford a unique glance into a life dedicated to dance.
The Jan Van Dyke Papers contain materials related to Van Dyke’s personal life and professional career as a dancer, teacher, and administrator. The collection contains Van Dyke’s choreography, correspondence, faculty materials, teaching materials, photographs, newspaper clippings, and video recordings. Van Dyke’s materials reach back to her earliest childhood years in the 1940s and 1950s – from a child ration book to programs and photographs from early dance recitals.

You can view the finding aid here, which gives a detailed description of the contents of the collection. 

Van Dyke (right) performing in a dance production, ca. 1950s.

Van Dyke was born in Washington, D.C., on April 15, 1941, but spent much of her early youth in Germany. From an early age, much of her energy was spent focused on dance. She attended high school in Virginia, taking dance lessons at the Washington School of Ballet.

Van Dyke earned a bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of Wisconsin in 1963 and a master’s degree in dance education from George Washington University. Van Dyke’s student materials, including an interesting essay on witchcraft, are included in the collection.
Most interesting, perhaps, are Van Dyke’s personal letters – to family, friends, and romantic interests. In them, Van Dyke lays out her own personal struggles to break into the dance world in New York City, the Midwest, and Washington, D.C. She is amazingly frank and forthright in her letters – expressing her feelings about the difficulties facing women in dance in the 1970s, her personal challenges, and her intense joy for life.
Van Dyke’s life history is documented in her personal letters and extensive newspaper clippings, photographs, fliers, programs, and video recordings. A large portion of the materials in her collection are related to various dance groups that Van Dyke helped form, including the John Gamble/Jan Van Dyke Dance Group, Jan Van Dyke and Dancers, and the Jan Van Dyke Dance Group. These materials include original choreography, general files, photographs, fliers, programs, video recordings, and other ephemera.
First page of choreography for Van Dyke’s “Spike,” 1982.


While all of Van Dyke’s career is documented, another substantial portion of her collection is comprised of materials related to her time at UNCG.
During her time with the Department of Dance at UNCG, she taught a variety of courses, including technique, choreography, repertory, career management, and dance administration. In addition to teaching, Van Dyke also worked as a producer, administrator, and artist. Her choreography has been used by a variety of groups, ranging from the Washington Ballet to students at the Western Australian Academy for the Performing Arts in Perth.

Her work was supported by multiple outside agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the California Arts Council, and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and the Humanities.
Van Dyke also founded and directed the dance company Dance Project, which is responsible for the NC Dance Festival, Van Dyke Dance Group, and School at City Arts.

Van Dyke received a North Carolina Choreography Fellowship, and was a 1993 Fulbright Scholar. She has earned numerous accolades in her field, including: North Carolina Choreography Fellowship, 1993 Fulbright Scholar, North Carolina Dance Alliance Annual Award 2001, 2008 Dance Teacher Award for Higher Education from Dance Teacher Magazine, and the Betty Cone Medal of Arts Award in 2011. UNCG awarded Van Dyke the Gladys Strawn Bullard Award for leadership and service in 2010.
Van Dyke’s collection is important for researchers who are interested in studying the history of dance in the United States and North Carolina. Researchers may find Van Dyke’s collection particularly interesting if studying the intersection of gender and dance in the 20th century. Van Dyke’s own research, writing, and choreography often dealt with gender and dance, so the materials in her collection reflect her interest.
Finally, Van Dyke was a large part of the history of UNCG. Researchers who want to track the changes in dance studies at the University will certainly encounter names that are peppered throughout the collection – Van Dyke, Gamble, Stinson, and more. Van Dyke’s collection is unique because it documents her time at UNCG — as a student, adjunct professor, full professor, and department head. 

Van Dyke passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer in July 2015.

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