2017 Mann Lecture focuses on the art and information of dance notation

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Linda Tomko, a historian, performer, and embodier of dances past, will serve as the distinguished speaker for the 2017 Charles W. Mann Jr. Lecture in the Book Arts at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30 in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library on Penn State’s University Park campus. Tomko will share her talk “Books, Bodies, and Circulations of Dancing in Early 18th-Century France and England,” which includes references to items in the Mary Ann O’Brian Malkin Early Dance Collection (1531–1804). A reception following the lecture will be held in the Mann Assembly Room, 103 Paterno Library.

Tomko holds a doctorate in history from UCLA and her work focuses on the embodiment and theorization of early 18th-century French and English court and theatre dances. She leads the Baroque dance troupe Les Menus Plaisirs and has choreographed period-style dances for Stanford University. Active in scholarly dance organizations, she currently serves as editor for the "Dance and Music" series published by Pendragon Press.

Many of the books in the Malkin Collection are known to scholars like Tomko through the catalog of the Malkin Collection, “Dancing by the Book: A Catalogue of Books 1531–1804” in the Collection of Mary Ann O’Brian Malkin. The Malkin Collection includes books on early dance, both amateur and professional dancers, and dance notation, the shorthand used by choreographers to make detailed records of their work. The collection, which Malkin donated in 2003 to Penn State, her alma mater, is especially strong in 18th-century European material and was considered the best in private hands.

"Starting in 2002, the Mann Lecture Series has been a cornerstone event for the Penn State University Libraries' Special Collections Library because of the dedication and emphasis it places on the book as a historical artifact and durable container for the transmission of information,” Athena Jackson, Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair for Special Collections, said. “Renowned collectors, scholars, designers, illustrators, authors and book historians have been featured speakers energizing engaged and lively audiences to celebrate this long-lasting format, the book, and its continual role in inspiring readers for centuries."

Tomko’s lecture will feature scans from the collection’s artifacts, including Raoul Feuillet's 1700 book “Chorégraphie,” which includes a set of tables of individual step-units and written descriptions of each. She will also use Kellom Tomlinson’s “The Art of Dancing,” (1735), which is considered the most beautiful of all dance notation books. The systems of notation translate human movements into signs that permanently record and preserve dance movement, enabling scholars like Tomko to recreate early dances with reasonable accuracy.

The late Mary Ann O’Brian Malkin (1913-2005) purchased her first book of dance notation in the 1970s and she collected items that ranged from splendid "fête" books to humble, learn-how-to-dance manuals. Most of the early books in the Malkin collection were written both by and for professional dancing masters and show signs of wear from use. Other artifacts in the Malkin collection are notable for their exceptional qualities, as well as for their scarcity as the only, or one of the few, remaining in existence in the world. 

The Charles W. Mann Jr. Lecture in the Book Arts, named in honor of Charles W. Mann Jr., the first Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair for Special Collections in the University Libraries. This annual event featuring scholars with academic research areas connected to the materials held in the Eberly Family Special Collections Library is supported by the Mary Louise Krumrine Endowment.

For additional information, or if you anticipate needing physical accommodations or have questions about access provided, contact LuAnn Shifter at 814-867-0290 or lus7@psu.edu in advance of the event.

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Last Updated March 16, 2017