Adventures of a Travelling Historian – Washington D.C.

After a week in New York City I hit the road once more and made my way to Washington D.C. I really like this city and not just because it has a huge amount of museums and the they are pretty much all free – but that is certainly a big factor!

Here are a few highlights and ballet finds from my stay.

On my first day I visited the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and found a few lovely things.

The White Ballet, 1904 by Everett Shinn.

I loved these two curious collages featuring Tamara Toumanova by Joseph Cornell, 1940.

I also found modern dance pioneers Martha Graham (Paul R. Meltsner, 1938) and José Limón  (Philip Grausman, 1969). All these pieces are on permanent display.

I later found Ford’s Theatre where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. I loved the book tower in the accompanying museum – all works about Lincoln four floors high!

I was also able to get my readers card for the Library of Congress (its free you just need ID and proof of address) – I seem to be collecting library cards from around the globe! The library is really beautiful. The Performing Arts Reading Room was not in the glamorous building but next door – still an incredible resource!


Julie Kent coaching Nicole Graniero and Oscar Sanchez in Le Corsaire Pas de Deux for the upcoming Russian Masters program – with me watching!

One afternoon I got to spend some time with Washington Ballet and Artistic Director Julie Kent – this is a really great company that I first got to meet at Jacob’s Pillow. I watched part of the rehearsals for Les Sylphides, Le Corsaire and Prodigal Son. These works are all going to form part of The Russian Masters program which will open the company’s season featuring works by Petipa, Fokine, Balanchine and Ratmansky. The program will show how choreography has changed over the last 150 years and how these choreographers in particular have shaped ballet into what we know today. The Washington Ballet


Finally I went to both the Textile Museum and The National Museum of Women in the Arts. They are both great museums – the Textile museum has a really interesting exhibition on the use of scrap fabric and well as a great permanent collection. I love the Museum of Women in the Arts and was impressed at the range of works – it would be interesting however to see the work and representation of women in other aspects of the arts both visual and performing.

My favourite piece was a self-portrait by Alice Bailly from 1917.
I also found this in the book shop which I may just need in my life!

Now off to Chicago …