Guide to the Ethel Tison Chaffin Papers, circa 1930-1993
Ethel Tison Chaffin was born on January 13, 1921 in Natchitoches, LA. From childhood on, she took dance classes with a variety of instructors and, as a college student, studied dance at Louisiana State University, New York University, the University of Maryland, and Bennington College. Instructors included John Martin (former dance critic at the New York Times), Charles Weidman (Humphrey-Weidman Technique), Ethel Butler (Martha Graham Technique), and Nina Fornoff (Hanya Holm Technique). Ms. Chaffin also participated in master classes with Martha Graham and Katherine Manning. The collection contains the personal papers and dance-related memorabilia (circa 1930-1993) of Ethel Tison Chaffin. Materials include photographic prints, newspaper clippings, programs, and correspondence, which are housed within a scrapbook and one Hollinger box. Many of the materials are annotated by Ms. Chaffin.
- Ethel Tison Chaffin papers
- circa 1930-1993
- Ethel Tison Chaffin
- 1.5 Linear Feet
- American Dance Festival Archives
- Material in English
The collection contains the personal papers and dance-related memorabilia (circa 1930-1993) of Ethel Tison Chaffin. Materials include photographic prints, newspaper clippings, programs, and correspondence, which are housed within a scrapbook and one Hollinger box. Many of the materials are annotated by Ms. Chaffin.
Included in the scrapbook are Ms. Chaffin’s personal photographs documenting her involvement in dance and theater. These photographs depict several of her earliest dance recitals, university dance performances, and her 1948 performance as Laura in Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie. In addition, she has incorporated photos of colleagues in the dance world. Also included within the scrapbook is correspondence between Ms. Chaffin and various educational institutions regarding admission to advanced dance programs at New York University and Bennington College, as well as job enquiries. Ms. Chaffin documented her career as an instructor by incorporating programs, clippings, and advertisements from her private studio, as well as those relevant to her tenure at Louisiana State University, the University of Alabama, and the Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College) into the pages of her scrapbook. Memorabilia, including programs from festivals and performances that she attended, is also included within her scrapbook.
Records created after the compilation of the scrapbook are housed separately in a Hollinger box. Materials incorporated into this record set include correspondence with Elizabeth Andrews, educator and dance/drama critic, as well as newspaper clippings for a variety of well-known dancers and choreographers, including George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, Merce Cunningham, and José Limón.
The collection has been arranged into two series: Scrapbook and Supplementary Files.
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Copyright for official American Dance Festival administrative records is held by the American Dance Festival; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Ethel Tison Chaffin Papers, circa 1930-1993, American Dance Festival Archives.
The Scrapbook series contains Ms. Chaffin's scrapbook, which holds photographs, programs, clippings, periodicals, and correspondence. The scrapbook has been left in situ.
The bulk of the materials in the scrapbook document Ms. Chaffin's training as a dancer. Her earliest materials include photographs of her childhood dance classes and performances that are annotated with brief descriptions. Materials that address her secondary education and graduate-level work include yearbook pages, photographs, postcards, programs, and clippings. Of particular interest are her programs, reviews, and postcards that she sent home from Bennington College's School of the Dance. These materials are heavily annotated by Ms. Chaffin and give the researcher a sense of the life of a student at this famed dance institution.
Additional sections of the scrapbook cover Ms. Chaffin's career as a dance educator, as well as an aficionado post-retirement from active performance and teaching. The materials that document her career as an instructor include photographs of her students' performances, as well as programs and flyers advertising her studio. Materials that document her career post-dance include programs and reviews of performances that she attended, as well as an article profiling her as a graduate student working towards her Master's degree in the history of drama and theater during the '70s.
The Supplementary Materials series contains foldered clippings, photographs, and correspondence from the University of Georgia, Elizabeth Andrews, and William Awtrey. Enclosure materials from correspondence are noted.
Ethel Tison Chaffin was born on January 13, 1921 in Natchitoches, LA. From childhood on, she took dance classes with a variety of instructors and, as a college student, studied dance at Louisiana State University, New York University, the University of Maryland, and Bennington College. Instructors included John Martin (former dance critic at the New York Times), Charles Weidman (Humphrey-Weidman Technique), Ethel Butler (Martha Graham Technique), and Nina Fornoff (Hanya Holm Technique). Ms. Chaffin also participated in master classes with Martha Graham and Katherine Manning.
In 1943, Ms. Chaffin married Verner Franklin Chaffin and taught dance at Louisiana State University. She moved to Tuscaloosa, AL in 1947 following Mr. Chaffin’s appointment to the faculty of the University of Alabama’s Law School. While in Tuscaloosa, Ms. Chaffin opened her own studio in 1948 where she primarily focused on children’s dance instruction. Upon her husband’s recall to the armed services during the Korean War, Ms. Chaffin and their two children (Ethel Tison and Verner Franklin) moved to Japan to join her husband. During the family’s time in Tokyo, Ms. Chaffin attended numerous Kabuki and Noh drama performances and performed, with her children, in two traditional Japanese festivals.
Following their time in Japan, the Chaffins returned to Tuscaloosa where Ms. Chaffin again taught dance after the birth of the couple’s third child (Mary Davis) in 1954. In 1957, the Chaffins again moved, this time to Athens, GA, and Ms. Chaffin elected to retire from dancing after the birth of their fourth child, John Edwards, in 1960. Despite giving up dancing itself, Ms. Chaffin remains a dedicated proponent and aficionado of modern dance. She and Mr. Chaffin have made numerous donations to the University of Georgia in support of both the Law School and the Core Concert Dance Company.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Bennington School of the Dance
- Butler, Ethel
- Chaffin, Ethel T., 1921-
- Ethel Tison Chaffin
- Graham, Martha
- Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, La.)
- Manning, Katherine
- Martin, John Joseph, 1893-
- New York University
- University of Maryland, College Park
- Weidman, Charles
The Ethel Tison Chaffin Papers, circa 1930-1993 were received by the American Dance Festival Archives as a gift in 2010.
Processed by Amanda Wick, July 2012
Encoded by Amanda Wick, July 2012
One accession is described in this finding aid.