Two deteriorating films of dance performances shot at the University of Iowa six decades ago are being saved from obscurity. The films from 1939 are believed to be the first cases of motion pictures being used as a medium for master’s theses at the U-of-I. University Library preservation chief Nancy Kraft describes what’s on the two old reels. One is original dance compositions, the other is collection of works illustrating dance movements.Filmed in what’s now Halsey Hall, the two films represent early efforts to popularize dance through motion pictures. It’s believed both of the filmmakers, Thelma Dodson and Luellen Bowles, are both still alive and efforts are being made to contact them. Kraft has landed a 77-hundred dollar grant to send the brittle films to Hollywood for restoration. She explains it’s important to preserve these time capsules in celluloid so students and professors of dance can study them. She says dance historians at the U-of-I very much want to see the hour’s worth of silent movies, shot in both black-and-white and color, to learn about how dance has changed — or how little it’s changed. Completion is expected in early 2003. The new versions of the film will be on DVD.
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