The Humphrey Legacy Today

Doris Humphrey’s legacy is growing in a robust and exciting manner. In the UK, Middlesex University has been a centre of Humphrey training for many years through Lesley Main’s teaching. Middlesex has the only training programme in the country where dance students can study both Humphrey and Graham techniques and the respective repertories throughout their undergraduate studies. A number of graduates have gone on to perform and teach Humphrey’s work. Many, many others have incorporated the Humphrey principles in choreographic work and in primary and secondary school teaching. Increasing international links and collaborations between today’s generation of Humphrey artists and exponents is ensuring that the technique and the repertory are experienced on a regular basis (see Links).

Lesley Main

Call-spiralfallLesley Main is a leading European exponent of Doris Humphrey’s dance tradition. She began her association with Ernestine Stodelle in 1985, and has danced in and directed a number of Humphrey’s major works, including The Call/Breath of Fire, Two Ecstatic Themes, Water Study, The Shakers, With My Red Fires, New Dance and Passacaglia. Lesley founded the Doris Humphrey Foundation in 1995 as part of the Humphrey Centennial Celebrations. She produced, directed and performed in a series of events for the Centenary including performances at The Royal Festival Hall and The Place Theatre London in collaboration with American dance artists and scholars including Ernestine Stodelle, Gail Corbin, Selma Jeanne Cohen and Millicent Hodson.

Lesley is Head of the Department of Performing Arts and formerly Principal Lecturer in Dance at Middlesex University, teaching Humphrey-based Technique, Repertoire and Performance. She has also taught extensively throughout Europe.

Publications include articles for a range of dance journals and conference presentations in the UK, Italy and Germany including Congress for Research in Dance (CORD) and the Society for Dance History Scholars (SDHS). Two recent publications are a book chapter arising out of an AHRC funded project, ‘Nature moving naturally in succession’ in Fensham Rachel and Carter, Alexandra (eds.) 2011 Dancing Naturally: Nature, neo-classicism and modernity in early twentieth century dance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-230-27844-8 and a sole-authored monograph for the Studies in Dance series published by SDHS/University of Wisconsin in 2012, Directing the Dance Legacy of Doris Humphrey: the Creative Impulse of Reconstruction.  USA: University of Wisconsin Press ISBN 978-0299-28584-5; ISBN (e-book) 978-0-299-28583-

For the past fourteen years, Lesley has been guest director in Turin, Italy, for the company and school of Arke Compagnia d’Arte. She performed regularly with the company and has directed a number of Humphrey’s works. Recent productions include Water Study and Passacaglia. She was invited to stage Passacaglia for Momenta Dance Company in Chicago, USA and revived the work for the company’s autumn season the following year. She is currently staging Humphrey’s signature solo, Two Ecstatic Themes for December 2014.

Gail Corbin

Gail Corbin pic

Gail Corbin is a leading exponent in the technique and repertory of Doris Humphrey.  Her longtime association with Ernestine Stodelle, an original member of the company of Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, began with Ernestine’s reconstructions of Two Ecstatic Themes and Air for the G String for the Jose Limon Company in 1977.  Gail assisted her in these reconstructions and served as a model for the solo roles.  She has continued to teach and perform these works along with other dances such as The Call and Breath of Fire, Quasi Waltz, Shakers and Water Study.  Because Ms. Corbin took part in the reconstructions and assisted Ms. Stodelle in the rebirth of these movements, Gail possesses a rich and cast knowledge of these works and a deep understanding of this technique.  She taught all levels of technique in Ernestine’s Silo studio for over twenty years.  Under the direction of Beatrice Seckler, also an original member of the Humphrey/Weidman group and Deborah Carr who worked with Charles Weidman, Gail was a featured dancer/soloist in the Deborah Carr Theatre Dance Ensemble performing the works of Charles Weidman: Lynchtown, Brahams Waltzes, Christmas Oratorio, to name a few.  Ms. Corbin has taught and directed Humphrey works all over the U.S. as well as Europe and Australia.  She has conducted several workshops in Oak Park, Illinois at the Academy of Movement and Music, which is also the home of the Doris Humphrey Society of which Gail is a board member.  Some of the other places Gail has taught this technique and repertory are Barnard College, Columbia University, The Juilliard School and St. Olaf College.  For the past several years, Gail has been a guest teacher at the Jose Limon School.  The demand for her expertise has taken Ms. Corbin to London, England where she performed Doris Humphrey’s works at Royal Festival Hall.  She taught at The Place, Middlesex University, Islington Arts Factory.  She is co-director of the Doris Humphrey Foundation UK.  Gail gave Master classes and performed at the renowned Folk-wang studios in Essen, Germany, Dance Theatre of Ireland, Dublin and Modern Movement Academy  in Sydney, Australia.  Gail is a featured dancer in two films: “The Technique of Doris Humphrey and Its Creative Potential” and “Charles Weidman On His Own.”  Ms. Corbin continues to be a sought-after coach, teacher and director of this important dance style.

Rachel Yates

Rachel moved to London from Liverpool in 1987 to study performing arts at Middlesex Polytechnic and it was here that she was introduced to the Humphrey Technique. In 1990 she joined the Humphrey-based company, Pioneers Dance directed by Lesley Main which then led her to teach the technique around London through community classes. Rachel joined Middlesex dance department as a part time lecturer in 1992 working alongside Lesley Main and continued her performing work with Pioneers Dance and subsequently the Doris Humphrey Foundation from 1995. During this period she was introduced to Chickenshed Theatre Company, and invited to join the artistic staff as an Associate Director. One of her key aims was to introduce the technique to the company’s dance work, matching the inclusive nature of the company with the accessible and theatrical approach of the Humphrey technique. Recently Rachel has directed Mother Of A Brown Boy, (shortlisted for Total Theatre’s Award for Best original work by an ensemble, and Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award 2007); On The Surface for the international theatre project Contacting The World; and was part of the directing team for Globaleyes which ran in London and at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Her creative work at Chickenshed in the last few years has given her the opportunities to travel to Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

Rachel Bradbear

Rachel Bradbear joined Middlesex University in 1999 teaching Humphrey technique and community dance modules. Studying Dance and English at Middlesex Polytechnic she then went on to teach dance in FE, perform and choreograph. Rachel studied Humphrey technique and repertoire with Ernestine Stodelle in USA for 2 years, becoming her assistant in 1999. While in US she became archives assistant at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Her research areas now focus on artistic collaborations in community settings with her company Inner Arts, creating works such as multi arts site specific project Bus Stopping taking place on and off a London Bus (2003).

Rachel also adapts Humphrey technique & repertoire for integrated groups and has studied and taught Alignment Therapy (a somatic practice) for disabled and non-disabled performers which she incorporates within technique class. Rachel completed MSc Dance Science programme at Laban where she researched injury rates and shoulder pain in dancer using wheelchairs. International work has included performances at Frederick Lowe Theatre in New York, and artistic advisor in Windhoek, Namibia for Ombetja Yehinga Organisation in 2004. She is currently Artistic manager for Contrl/Alt/Shft, an international youth dance project in partnership with Sadler’s Wells, aiming to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS through dance and film.

Kate Rogan


Kate Rogan trained as a dancer at London Studio Centre and Millennium Dance 2000, and has danced professionally in David Bintleys Samson et Dalila at the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), trade shows in the UK and Europe, and now specialises in the technique and work of Doris Humphrey. Kate joined Middlesex University as a Lecturer in Dance in 2006, where she teaches Humphrey-based technique, Pilates, Fitness for Dance, Dance Science, and Teaching Dance Technique. Kate trained to become a Humphrey-based technique teacher under the guidance of Lesley Main in 2006, later developed with respective Humphrey/Weidman/Limon specialists Gail Corbin, Deborah Carr and Jim May through The Doris Humphrey Society workshops in Chicago, USA in 2008 and 2009. Kate is a Trustee and Board Member of the Doris Humphrey Foundation UK, for which she organised the first UK intensive Humphrey-Weidman workshop in July 2009. She was awarded the Lisa Ullmann scholarship to return to the Doris Humphrey Society in Chicago USA in 2009, and in 2011 completed ‘Teaching Contemporary Limon’ with Alan Danielson and Geraldine Cardiel of the Limon Institute. Kate has performed in several of Humphrey’s works, including Passacaglia, Water Study, With my Red Fires, The Shakers, and Charles Weidman’s Brahms Waltzes. Kate holds a Professional Diploma in Performance from Millennium Dance 2000, BA hons Dance Studies (Science) from Middlesex University, MSc Dance Science from the University of Wolverhampton, PGCHE from Middlesex University, and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Kate is a also qualified Pilates teacher, Strength and Conditioning coach, and Exercise to Music Instructor. Her research interests are in enhancing dancers’ health, fitness, technique and performance, and she developed the Dance Fitness Indicator© (DFI).

Jillian Hopper

Jillian trained at Academy De La Danse, the University of Michigan-Flint under the direction of Kimberly Jones (Alvin Ailey), Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, and Joel Hall Jazz Dance Chicago, later studying at Middlesex University where she gained a BA Hons in Dance Choreography, and MFA (dance performance), University of Michigan. Jillian trained to become a Humphrey dancer and technique practitioner under the direction of Lesley Main in 2007 and has taken part in workshops for Humphrey dancers and teachers through the Humphrey Society in Chicago USA with leading Humphrey/Weidman/Limon specialists Gail Corbin, Deborah Carr, and Jim May in 2008 and 2009.  In 2008, Jillian furthered her training under Jim May at the Peridance centre (New York), and performed Humphrey’s Water Study under the direction of Gail Corbin. Jillian is currently assistant professor of dance at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance and is Artistic Director of The Dance Legacy Project at Michigan alongside creative partner Prof. Christian Matijas-Mecca. She specializes in the dance technique of Doris Humphrey with the aim of preserving the technique for future generations. She has taught professionally for Hillsdale College, Eastern Michigan University, Middlesex University (London, UK) The Place (London, UK) and Northern School of Contemporary Dance (Leeds, UK). As rehearsal director for U-M, Hopper has had the pleasure of rehearsing guest works by Ohad Naharin, Richard Alston, Lucinda Childs, Urban Bush Women, Alessio Silvestrin, and Shannon Gillen (Vim Vigor) among others.

Louise Kelsey


Louise trained to become a Humphrey teacher under Lesley Main in 2009. She holds a First Class BA (Hons) in Dance Performance, Masters in Choreography, and Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education: Teaching and Supporting Learning. Louise has experience working creatively for a breadth of institutions and companies including The Place, Arts Depot, Hot House Dance, University of Bedfordshire, Dance East, Unfold Motion (Romania), Delve Dance, Kansaze Dance and Middlesex University where she fulfilled roles of Programme Leader for Dance Performance and Senior Lecturer in Dance Technique and Choreography. Working under the direction of Lesley Main, Louise has studied and performed in repertory by Doris Humphrey (Water Study, With My Red Fires). Together, they also re-staged Humphrey’s solo Two Ecstatic Themes which was performed in the UK and USA between 2014-2016, including ‘Transmission: A Performance Symposium’, London and ‘Framing Justice Symposium’, Chicago. During 2019-2020 Louise acted as rehearsal assistant during Main’s re-staging of Humphrey’s Water Study.

Deborah Carr

Deborah Carr is a graduate of Stephens College where she studied with Harriett Ann Gray, soloist with the Humphrey-Weidman Company.  After graduation, Ms. Carr moved to New York and joined Charles Weidman’s Theatre Dance Company.  In 1976, she established her own company that performed original works by Ms. Carr and maintained many dances from the classic repertory of Charles Weidman and Doris Humphrey.  Deborah Carr’s Theatre Dance Ensemble was a well-respected company that was invited to perform in prestigious dance festivals such as the American Dance Festival at Purchase and the New Dance Group Retrospective.  In addition to Charles Weidman, Ms. Carr has worked with other Humphrey-Weidman dancers including Ernestine Stodelle, Beatrice Seckler, Peter Hamilton, George Bockman and Nona Schurman.  She had studied Limon technique with Ruth Currier and Betty Jones and has performed with Limon dancers Carla Maxwell, Gary Masters and Fred Mathews.  Ms. Carr has many years teaching experience on both the college and professional levels.  She has been on the faculty of St. Joseph’s College and City College in New York and has taught as a guest artist at universities throughout the country.  In the United States, she has set repertory on a variety of professional companies and also taught in England and Ireland.  Recently, she taught for the professional studies program at the Limon Institute and coached the Limon Company on Doris Humprey’s New Dance.  She joined the Stephens faculty as Guest Artist for the fall semester of 2003 and became full-time faculty in 2004-05.

Jim May

Jim May is Artistic Director of Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble and was a devoted discilple of Anna Sokolow for thirty-five years performing her work worldwide.  He also danced with the Jose Limon Company from the early 1960′s and continues to embrace these two distinct dance styles.  Mr. May is an internationally recognised teacher who has been on the faculties of SUNY Purchase, Juilliard School of Music and Princeton University.  He has received a 1997 Fulbright Scholarhsip to Mexico and a 2006 Senior Fulbright Scholarship to Chile.  A recipient of the Marcus Award for Teaching Excellence from Washington Univesity, Jim is on faculty at the Limon Institute, The Ailey School and Peridance in NYC, specializing in the Humphrey/Limon technique.  His choreography has been in the repertories of Dance Conduit, Dance Forum Taipei and Thoughts in Motion.  In 1999, Mr. May received the “Bessie Award” for lifetime achievement in the area of dance performance.

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© Doris Humphrey Foundation UK 2020