University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

May O'Donnell:

A Preliminary Inventory of Her Collection in the Performing Arts Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center



Creator: O'Donnell, May, 1909-2004
Title: May O'Donnell Collection
Dates: 1930s-1996
Abstract: May O’Donnell (1909-2004) was an American dancer, choreographer, and teacher. She was a soloist with Martha Graham’s company from 1932 to 1938; in 1949 she founded her own dance troupe, which performed in New York and on tour until the 1980s. The May O’Donnell Collection, 1930s-1996, consists of personal and performance photographs and publicity materials.
Extent: 2 document boxes, 2 oversize folders (0.84 linear feet)
Language: English
Note: This brief collection description is a preliminary inventory. The collection is not fully processed or cataloged; no biographical sketch, descriptions of series, or indexes are available in this inventory.
Repository: The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Scope and Contents

May O’Donnell (1909-2004), an American dancer, choreographer, and teacher, studied with Estelle Reed in San Francisco and Martha Graham in New York. She was a soloist with Graham’s company from 1932 to 1938. In 1939 she presented her first program of her own work, and from 1940 to 1942 she toured with José Limón. She returned to Graham’s company in the mid-1940s, appearing as a guest artist from 1944 to 1952. In 1949 she founded the May O’Donnell Dance Company which performed in New York and on tour until the 1980s. She was married to the composer Ray Green. May O’Donnell died in 2004 at the age of ninety-seven.

The May O’Donnell Collection, 1930s-1996, is arranged into two series, I. Photographs and II. Publicity Materials. The photographs are subdivided into personal and performance photographs, with the latter arranged alphabetically by title. The majority of the photographs show May O’Donnell or her company in performance, 1930s to 1980s. Except for one color photograph for Homage to Shiva, all photographs are black and white. Some of the photographs are reproductions of originals not held by the Ransom Center.

The publicity materials are arranged chronologically and consist of promotional fliers, programs, reviews, and articles, supplemented by a few miscellaneous items such as a 1959 contract with the University of California and two letters, one from 1956 written by May O’Donnell to the critic Walter Terry, and a 1978 letter from Grace Cohen Jaffe (formerly Grace Marcus) to May O’Donnell (filed in the 1949 folder).

Elsewhere in the Performing Arts Collection, the Dance Collection contains reviews of performances by May O’Donnell’s company. A compact disc titled "Ray Green and His Music" is located in the Ransom Center Library.


Restrictions

Access:

Open for research


Administrative Information

Acquisition:

Gift, 2005 (G12430)

Processed by:

Helen Adair, 2005


May O'Donnell Collection--Folder List

 

Series I. Photographs, circa 1930s-1980s

Box Folder
1 1 Personal, 1977, 1980s
Performances
Box Folder
1 2 Appalachian Spring, 1944 (2 photos)
3 Cave of the Heart, 1946 (1 photo)
4 Celtic Ritual, 1949 (2 photos)
5 Cornerstone, 1937 (1 photo)
6 Dance Concerto, 1954, 1980s (4 photos)
7 Dance Energies, 1959, 1980s (3 photos)
8 Folksay, 1940 (1 photo)
9 Homage to Shiva, 1980s (2 photos)
10 Horizon Song, 1946 (1 photo)
11 Illuminations, 1956 (2 photos)
12 Incredible Adventure, 1954 (1 photo)
13 Legendary Forest, 1954 (1 photo)
14 The Queen’s Obsession, 1958 (1 photo)
15 Suspension, 1943, 1970s (2 photos)
16 This Story Is Legend, 1941 (1 photo)
17 Three Interpretations of Casey Jones, 1939 (5 photos)
18 With Martha Graham’s company, 1930s (4 photos)
19 At Bennington College, 1944 (1 photo)
20 With Erick Hawkins, 1945 (1 photo)



 

Series II. Publicity Materials, 1936-1996, undated

Box Folder
1 21 1936
22 1940
23 1941
24 1942
25 1944
26 1945
27 1946
28 1947
29 1948
30 1949
31 1951
32 1952
Box Folder
2 1* 1953 [*plus oversize, Flat File 1]
2 1954
3* 1955 [*plus oversize, Flat File 1]
4 1956
5 1958
6 1959
7 1960
8 1961
9 1964
10 1969
11* 1971 [*plus oversize, Flat File 1]
12 1972
13 1975
14 1976
15* 1977 [*plus oversize, Flat File 2]
16 1978
17 1979
18 1980
19 1981
20 1982
21 1983
22 1984
23 1985
24 1987
25 1988
26 1996
27* Undated [*plus oversize, Flat File 2]