We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Moving Lessons

Margaret H'Doubler and the Beginning of Dance in American Education

Janice Ross

Publication Year: 2000

Moving Lessons is an insightful and sophisticated look at the origins and influence of dance in American universities, focusing on Margaret H'Doubler, who established the first university courses and the first degree program in dance (at the University of Wisconsin). Dance educator and historian Janice Ross shows that H'Doubler (1889–1982) was both emblematic of her time and an innovator who made deep imprints in American culture. An authentic "New Woman," H'Doubler emerged from a sheltered female Victorian world to take action in the public sphere. She changed the way Americans thought, not just about female physicality but also about higher education for women.
    Ross brings together many discourses—from dance history, pedagogical theory, women's history, feminist theory, American history, and the history of the body—in intelligent, exciting, and illuminating ways and adds a new chapter to each of them. She shows how H'Doubler, like Isadora Duncan and other modern dancers, helped to raise dance in the eyes of the middle class from its despised status as lower-class entertainment and "dangerous" social interaction to a serious enterprise. Taking a nuanced critical approach to the history of women's bodies and their representations, Moving Lessons fills a very large gap in the history of dance education.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (132.9 KB)
pp. 2-5


pdf iconDownload PDF (37.0 KB)
pp. v-vi


pdf iconDownload PDF (78.2 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (466.6 KB)
pp. ix-xiv

In 1926, the University of Wisconsin's Physical Education Department, after ten years of offering dance courses to college women, created the first university dance degree program in the world. Also in 1926, Martha Graham gave her first group dance concert in New York City. American modern dance and dance in American higher education crystallized in the ...

read more

A Reminiscence

pdf iconDownload PDF (361.8 KB)
pp. xv-xx

All great innovators and pioneers have three characteristics in common: a fierce commitment and uncompromising integrity to their ideas; a profound and lasting impact on society and culture; and a grand and eloquent vision. Margaret H'Doubler stands among the pioneers in the world of dance. She was a maverick in the field, a woman of strong integrity, a ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (89.8 KB)
pp. xxi-xxii

I would like to thank the extraordinary alumnae of the first years of the University of Wisconsin's dance program. These individuals were the cornerstone of my research with their generous sharing of memories of the early years of Margaret H'Doubler's program. Among these alumnae is Anna Halprin, who was the original inspiration for this study; my ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (430.5 KB)
pp. 3-8

I N THE SUMMER OF 1925, THE NEWLY LAUNCHED AMERICAN THEASTRICAL dance quarterly, The Denishawn Magazine, carried a three-page review of a new book on dance education, The Dance, and Its Place in Education. The Denishawn Magazine had been begun a year earlier, primarily as a vehicle for two of the leading American theatrical dancers of the time, Ruth St. Denis...

read more

1. Early Twentieth-Century Dance Education and the Female Body

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.1 MB)
pp. 9-23

ONE SUMMER DAY IN 1917, A YOUNG WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH and physical education teacher, Margaret H'Doubler, stepped to University of Wisconsin and asked the women to lie on the floor. Here, with the pull of gravity at a minimum, with the students' bodies relaxed and their limbs resting easily on the floor, H'Doubler described to the ...

read more

2. Nineteenth-Century Responses to Women’s Health and Sexuality: Art, Fashion, Dance

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.1 MB)
pp. 24-50

MARGARET H'DoUBLER HELD TWO BASIC BELIEFS FIRMLY IN place as she navigated her way ideologically through late nine teenth- and early twentieth-century prohibitions. The first was her belief that dance, especially what she initially called interpretive and aesthetic dance, has the potential to foster the emotional as well as physical ...

read more

3. Women, Physical Activity, Education: A Nineteenth-Century Perspective

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.7 MB)
pp. 51-72

THE BEGINNINGS OF DANCE IN AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION ARE nested in a larger period of health reform and in the larger question why dance education emerged as a part of the physical education curriculum. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw several booming movements of reform, including the Progressivism of the I900S and I910S, when general reformist ferment connected with social optimism. All of these general reform movements saw proper personal hygiene as a precondition...

read more

4. Blanche Trilling: Leader and Visionary in Women’s Physical Education

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.3 MB)
pp. 73-102

IN THE SUMMER OF 195 I, BLANCHE M. TRILLING, THE FORMER DIRECTOR of physical education for women at the University of Wisconsin, was called back from retirement to write a detailed account of the development of the women's physical education program for the university. The project was the idea of the dean of education, and he ...

read more

5. Margaret H’Doubler and the Liberty of Thought

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 103-122

WHEN BLANCHE TRILLING MADE TWENTY-SEVEN-YEAR-OLD MARGARET H'Doubler her emissary to the world of New York dance studios in the autumn of 19I6, neither she nor H'Doubler could have foreseen how fortuitous this selection would prove to be. Initially, their roles were simple: Trilling was an administrator, desirous of expanding her curriculum, and H'Doubler was a young instructor, eager to please but with a firm...

read more

6. Margaret H’Doubler and the Philosophy of John Dewey

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.7 MB)
pp. 123-144

JOHN DEWEY IS IN MANY REGARDS THE FATHER OF DANCE IN AMERICAN higher education. While he probably would not have disputed it, he was, in all likelihood, unaware of his paternity. It is therefore useful to explore John Dewey's philosophies of experience, nature, democracy, and art in relationship to the theoretical base for the beginnings of dance in American higher education. It can be argued that Dewey's ...

read more

7. Structuring Experience in the Classroom: Margaret H’Doubler Brings Dance to the University, 1917–1926

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.5 MB)
pp. 145-192

WHEN H'DOUBLER INSTITUTED THE NATION'S FIRST DANCE CLASS in higher education, she had watched a few dance classes, sampled a couple, and felt bolstered, ironically, by the fact that she herself had never really studied dance, much less performed it. Like her theatrical contemporary Isadora Duncan, H'Doubler as a dance teacher is both a mystery and a legend. The respective artistic and educational ...

read more

8. Margaret H’Doubler’s Classroom: Educational Progressivism in Theory and Action

pdf iconDownload PDF (592.5 KB)
pp. 193-200

THE MORE ONE PROBES H'DoUBLER'S CLASSROOM, THE MORE TRUE it seems to be that she created the conditions for her students to be the real innovators. In this regard Educational Progressivism was a persistent and profound, if unacknowledged, model for H'Doubler's shaping of her dance classes in the university. The influence of Educational Progressivism, shifts in art education practice and philosophy, and John...

read more

9. Margaret H’Doubler’s Legacy: Dance and the Performing Body in the American University

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 201-218

IF MARGARET H'DOUBLER HAD BEEN ABLE TO FORECAST THE EVOLUTION of dance in the American university beyond her retirement in 1954, she would likely have been more disconcerted than surprised by what she found. Beginning with the dance boom in the late 1960s, dance training for performance emerged as the emphasis of most college programs. By the I 970S dance education had become the poor stepchild of ...

Appendix 1: Granville Stanley Hall

pdf iconDownload PDF (242.1 KB)
pp. 219-222

Appendix 2: Dance Department Memorandum, December 1953

pdf iconDownload PDF (57.8 KB)
pp. 223-224


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 225-248


pdf iconDownload PDF (777.6 KB)
pp. 249-260


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
pp. 261-276

E-ISBN-13: 9780299169336
E-ISBN-10: 0299169332
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299169343
Print-ISBN-10: 0299169340

Page Count: 298
Illustrations: 38 b/w photos, 3 line drawings
Publication Year: 2000