Archives at the Graduate Theological Union, A Growing Resource for Those Interested in Sacred Dance By Sister Martha Ann Kirk, Th.D.

Carla-deSola  Scholars, dancers, pastors, and anyone interested in arts, worship, spirituality, or history can delight in the growing Sacred Dance Archives at the Graduate Theological Union Library in Berkeley, CA. Those doing articles, thesis, or dissertations will find quality primary documents and video.  The materials can spark creativity in choreographers and give insight to historians and theologians.  With the encouragement and support of CARE, the Center for Arts, Religion, and Education, three major sources are available: Carla De Sola Collection, Douglas G. Adams Collection, and the Margaret Palmer Taylor Collection of Sacred Dance.

Carla De Sola has given hundreds of her papers, programs, and videos to the GTU Archives to begin the Carla De Sola Collection. From the favorable reviews in the New York Times and Dance magazine in the 1960’s of the dance of this Julliard graduate, through directing the Omega Liturgical Dance Company in residence at St. John the Divine Cathedral, through choreography for gatherings of the United Nations, the National Council of Churches, the Catholic Liturgical Conference, and myriad other groups, and now through continued teaching at the Graduate Theological Union, De Sola has had a profound impact.  Sister Martha Ann Kirk has been consulting this collection and interviewing De Sola about her life and creations to develop an oral history of her which could accompany the materials.  The collection includes the inscription when Modern Liturgy Magazine recognized De Sola with the prestigious Bene Award, “With an eye not only on ecumenical, but interfaith dialogue, her art embraces peace and justice. She dances on holy ground, always seeking to awaken people to the needs of planet Earth. Such a caring artistry, combined with a deep concern for liturgy, makes Carla De Sola the most influential performing artist of the last 20 years.”Doug-adams

According to the GTU Library website,  “Doug Adams, 1945-2007, was a professor in worship and the arts at the Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union both in Berkeley, California from 1976 to his death from cancer in 2007. Adams was an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He taught courses, lectured and conducted workshops nationally and internationally in worship, art, dance, and humor as well as authoring books on these subjects, articles for journals and newspapers, and encouraging, collaborating with, and editing books by other authors. He was a leading member of the Sacred Dance Guild in the United States and Canada. In 1987, Adams founded the Center for the Arts, Religion and Education (CARE) which became an affiliated member of the Graduate Theological Union.”   The GTU Library Collection “contains Adams’ writings, published and unpublished, edited works, lectures and teaching materials, sermons, working files for organizations and projects in which Adams participated, and collected research materials. Media formats include video in film and VHS tapes, audio in cassette and reel-to-reel tapes, and glass art slides. Finding aid contains complete lists of video and audio tapes, and art slides.”  For more information, see .

The life of Margaret Palmer Taylor, one of the early leaders in the Sacred Dance Guild can be studied in Archives at GTU. The website notes: “Margaret Palmer (1908-2004) was a pioneer in sacred dance in America. Born in Oakland, California, she was a daughter of a Congregational m-palmer-taylorminister. The family moved to Honolulu in 1917, where she learned creative dance in school. She continued to study dance, and earned her B.A. at Oberlin College in 1930, later attending Chicago Theological Seminary, 1931-32. Her first husband, Chester B. Fisk, was a minister, and Margaret began to incorporate sacred dance in the church worship services. She continued to expand her dancing, organizing rhythmic choirs and teaching in workshops, festivals, and classes in many denominational and college settings. She interpreted and choreographed dances for worship services well into her 90’s.  On November 16, 1960, she participated in a consultation on sacred dance by the Department of Worship and the Arts, National Council of Churches, at Riverside church in New York. Participants included Ruth St. Denis.”  The Archives include Worship the Lord, 1948, Vimeo:  Worship through Symbolic Movement, 1963, on Vimeo; and other resources and images. See
These archives are well situated at the Graduate Theological Union since the library has  a fine collection of books on religious arts. Students can concentrate in “Religion and Arts” when seeking masters or doctoral degrees. This area of concentration includes visual arts, film, dance, drama, literature, and music in their contemporary as well as historic expressions.  For more information about these archives or to arrange for a visit, email or call David Stiver, Special Collections Librarian,  at 510-649-2523.

(Sister Martha Ann Kirk, Th.D., a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of the Incarnate Word, hold a doctorate in Theology and the Arts from the Graduate Theological Union. As part of her studies there, she wrote Dancing with Creation: Mexican and Native American Dance in Christian Worship and Education and Celebrations of Biblical Women’s Stories: Tears, Milk, and Honey. See more


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One comment on “Archives at the Graduate Theological Union, A Growing Resource for Those Interested in Sacred Dance By Sister Martha Ann Kirk, Th.D.
  1. Your readers might be interested in knowing that Rev Dr. Margaret Ruth Eddy’s archives are now at Union Theological’s Burke Library too. Dr. Eddy was active with the Omega Dance Company studying and occasionally performing with Carla de Sola for about a decade. She saw it as an artful and living extension of her work in the church, the community and with spirit. On file is her dissertation on a related art form – the role of biblical storytelling in health and healing. Also available are hundreds of articles and artifacts on her share lifework with Rev Norman Eddy in East Harlem as part of the East Harlem Protest Parish from 1949 til 1963 and continued community work with women, schools, community members until her death in 1990. The archives continue into the 21st century with more of the housing, prison, drug rehabilitation and interfaith work that continue until Norm Eddy’s death in 2013. I discuss a small portion of this work in a new book – Dance Somatics and Spiritualities – Contemporary Sacred Narratives – now available on Amazon and its publisher – University of Chicago Press.


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