Choreographer Yacov Sharir Donates Archive to Library
A faculty member in the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance for almost forty years, Dr. Yacov Sharir has performed for various dance companies, including the Batsheva Dance Company, the Israeli Ballet Company, Kibbutz Dance Company, the Stuttgart Ballet, and the Ballet-Théâtre Contemporain in Paris, and has choreographed over 70 pieces for dance companies around the world.
Sharir moved to Austin in 1978 where he founded the American Deaf Dance Company and was invited shortly thereafter to apply for a position at the university, where he received an appointment. He developed a dance program that has become a model for universities across the country, founding the university’s professional company-in-residence, the Sharir Dance Company, in 1982, which became Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks (SBDW) in 1998, acknowledging José Luis Bustamante as co-artistic director. SBDW introduced Austin to exemplary national and international artists whose work had previously been exclusive larger, more established metropolitan arts communities.
The Sharir/Sharir+Bustamante Dance Collection is a gift from Sharir to the Fine Arts Library consisting of video documentation of many hundreds of dances between 1977 and 2015, as well as paper documentation (programs, photographs, press clippings, etc.) of the work of the American Deaf Dance Company, the Sharir Dance Company and Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks.
As a choreographer and teacher, Sharir has pioneered the use of new technologies, including virtual reality, intelligent fabrics and interactive systems in performance. His work has earned him prestigious fellowships from the Banff Centre for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Sharir’s efforts to secure funding for the commission of a monumental ten-year project with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the College of Fine Arts provided vital space for Cunningham’s rehearsals, allowing students at the university unprecedented access to artists of the highest caliber.
The bulk of the materials in the archive are being digitized for access via the university’s digital repository, Texas ScholarWorks. Over the course of three years, phase one of the project has resulted in the digital preservation of almost 400 video objects; physical materials — including paperwork, photographs, programs and other materials — will be digitized and placed in the repository in the second phase of the project, scheduled to occur in 2017.
For his part, Sharir — who continues to serve as professor emeritus — sees the digital preservation of the materials as a natural extension of his professional interest in technology as a means to access.
“To date, digitally-preserving my materials is the best available method and the best possible way to assure their longevity,” says Sharir. “To make them publicly available is the correct thing to do. Works and research that are not shared publicly do not deserve to be created.”
“I hope that interested audiences will be able to find this research and works valuable and useful to them in a way that they could expand on it and take it — in their own ways — to a new frontier.”
Katie Van Winkle is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Theatre and Dance’s Performance as Public Practice program, and joined the project as a research assistant at the time Yacov Sharir was in discussions with Beth Kerr, Theatre and Dance Librarian in the Fine Arts Library to place the archive. Van Winkle has been closely involved in processing the materials throughout the first phase of the project.
“Yacov is a treasure...of the dance world, of Austin and the faculty of the Department of Theatre and Dance,” says Van Winkle. “His career has been hugely significant and influential, from his pioneering, inclusive work with deaf and hearing dancers, to his artistic production collaborations with artists like Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, Deborah Hay, David Dorfman, Doug Varone, Margaret Jenkins, Tina Marsh, Allison Orr…the list goes on.”
In celebration of Sharir’s contributions and his gift to the university, the Fine Arts Library and the Department of Theatre and Dance are hosting a symposium on the contributions of the vanguard choreographer. A pair of panel discussions featuring former Sharir dancers and faculty and staff from the College of Fine Arts and the University of Texas Libraries will examine the impact of digital preservation in performance archives and provide a retrospective on the influence and legacy of Sharir and his career.
The Sharir/Sharir+Bustamante Collection symposium takes place Friday, December 2, 2016, from 1-5 p.m. in the Fine Arts Library (DFA 3.200) at The University of Texas at Austin, with a reception to follow. The event is free and open to the public.