Helen R. Stevenson Collection of the Records of the Windsor Ballet and the Northern Connecticut Ballet

 of Windsor, Connecticut

 

Windsor Historical Society

96 Palisado Avenue, Windsor, CT 06095

© 2011 Windsor Historical Society

 

Creator: Stevenson, Helen R., 1935-2008

Dates: 1976-2008; bulk 1975-1982

Extent: 1 linear foot, 7 scrapbooks, 2 photograph albums

Accession #:  2011.56   

 

Administrative and Biographical History

            The Windsor Ballet was founded in 1976 in Windsor, Connecticut, by Helen R. Stevenson. This performing ballet school offered a complete program of ballet classes and performances for children, teenagers, and adults; all students were invited to participate in the semi-annual full-scale ballet productions. The dance program was sponsored by the Town of Windsor Recreation Department and rapidly grew to serve over one hundred students each year. Stevenson was the artistic director of the ballet, taught dance classes, and choreographed and directed the productions. In 1980 Stevenson organized the Windsor Ballet Company, a semi-professional civic ballet company. This small group offered the serious ballet student intensive training and more performance opportunities, including roles as the principal dancers in the Windsor Ballet productions.

The Northern Connecticut Ballet was established in 1986, incorporating the Windsor Ballet Company as a non-profit organization. The newly-reorganized group reached beyond the town of Windsor to attract students and audiences from neighboring communities. The curriculum continued to focus on an appreciation of classical dance and music, but students were also encouraged to develop their own dance personality.  By 2008 the activities of the Northern Connecticut Ballet were subsumed by the Connecticut Concert Ballet.

Helen R. (Holbrook) Stevenson grew up in Montreal, Quebec, and was introduced to the ballet at a very young age. She was a graduate of the Trafalgar School and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. At the age of nineteen she opened the Dance Theatre of Cape Cod near her family’s summer home in Harwich, Massachusetts. She taught dance classes using the Royal Academy of Dance pedagogy and directed and choreographed the performances of her students. After moving to Windsor, CT in 1960, she began teaching ballet for the town’s recreation department during the academic year while continuing to direct her school on the Cape in the summer months. The Windsor Ballet, established in 1976, soon became a full-time commitment and Stevenson closed the Cape Cod school after 22 years of operation.

Helen Stevenson was very active in the performing arts community in Windsor. She contributed her choreographic talent, directing experience, and enthusiasm to a variety of local groups including the Windsor Youth Theatre, the Windsor Jesters, and the Loomis Chaffee Theatre Associates. She enjoyed working directly with the dancers on stage, developing the dance sequences and encouraging the young performers. By the time of her retirement in 2007, Stevenson had choreographed more than 200 ballets and musical comedies for community theaters in the area. She passed away in 2008.

 

Scope and Contents

The Helen R. Stevenson Collection of the Records of the Windsor Ballet and the Northern Connecticut Ballet is comprised of seven scrapbooks, two photograph albums, and one linear foot of miscellaneous business records, choreography notes, and photographs. All the materials are from the personal records of Helen Stevenson, Artistic Director of the Ballets. The business records include Northern Connecticut Ballet board minutes for 1987-1997; contracts with principal dancers; publicity materials, and a collection of programs for the Nutcracker and Spring Gala productions in Windsor. One series includes Stevenson’s resume and her curriculum for beginner levels of ballet instruction.

Although the Society’s collection does not include her work on Cape Cod and is unable to document the entirety of Helen Stevenson’s career, the scrapbooks and choreography notes do provide a sense of the style and breadth of her work during this time period. Seven scrapbooks contain photographs and mementos from the years 1976-1982. Helen Stevenson was choreographer for all the productions featured in the scrapbooks and she assembled the albums from her collection of personal memorabilia. The productions documented include Broadway shows produced by the Windsor Youth Theatre and the Windsor Jesters, evidence of an active performing arts community in Windsor, CT.  The scrapbooks contain performance programs; casual photos of rehearsals, performances, and cast parties as well as professional photographs of the dancers; notes of appreciation and thanks from cast and parents; reviews and announcements published in the local newspaper; birthday and get well cards.

The ballet Cinderella is the most completely documented production. The collection contains a detailed choreography, technical notes, some sketches for the set design and costumes, professional photographs, and rehearsal notes regarding the December 1978 performance in Windsor, CT. The collection also includes watercolor sketches for costumes for the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Coppélia and sets of performance photos taken by photographers Richard C. Holbrook, South Yarmouth, MA between 1976-1982; James Fournier of Windsor, CT, in the late 1980’s; and Creative Camera of East Windsor Hill, CT, in the 1990s.

 

Arrangement of the Collection

  • Records of the Northern Connecticut Ballet

               A.  Incorporation papers and bylaws

               B.  Board minutes 1987-1997

               C.  Contracts and leases

               D.  Financial records

               E.  Fundraising materials

               F.  General operations

               G.  Publicity

  • Ballet school brochures

               A.  Windsor Ballet 1977-1986

               B.  Northern Connecticut Ballet 1987-1991

  • Programs

               A.  Windsor Ballet 1976-1986

               B.  Northern Connecticut Ballet 1987-1995

  • Choreography

  • Costume sketches

  • Photographs, film negatives, and slides

  • Papers of Helen R. Stevenson

               A.  Resume 1987

               B.  History of ballet companies

               C.  Teaching materials

               D.  Personal cards and mementoes

  • Scrapbooks

               A.  December 1976-August 1977

               B.  July 1977-August 1978

               C.  December 1977-June 1978

               D.  December 1978-August 1979

               E.  December 1979-August 1980

               F.  May 1980-August 1981

               G.  December 1981-August 1982

  • DVDs  [anticipated addition to the collection]

 

 

Box List

Box 1.  Series I. through Series VII. (Additional photos in Box 3)

Box 2.  Series VIII Scrapbooks

  • Black scrapbook with gold lettering  (#2011.56.1)

                  Windsor Ballet

The Nutcracker

December 1976

                  Windsor Ballet

The Magic Toyshop

May 1977

                  Windsor Youth Theatre

My Fair Lady

August 1977

  • Red scrapbook with gold snowflakes and decorative border  (#2011.56.2)

                  Windsor Youth Theatre

A Funny Thing Happened…

July 1977

                  Windsor Youth Theatre

West Side Story

August 1977

                  Windsor Jesters

Kiss Me Kate

March 1978

                  Windsor Jesters

Brigadoon

March 1978

                  Windsor Youth Theatre

Guys & Dolls

August 1978

  • Dark orange scrapbook with gold decorative border  (#2011.56.3)

                  Windsor Ballet

The Nutcracker

December 1977

                  Windsor Ballet

Graduation Ball

April/May 1978

                  Windsor Ballet

Spring Gala

June 1978

  • Red scrapbook plain with gold decorative border ( #2011.56.4)

                  Windsor Ballet

Cinderella

December 1978

                  Windsor Youth Theatre

Funny Girl

August 1979

  • Navy scrapbook with red lettering and border  (#2011.56.5)

                  Windsor Ballet

The Nutcracker

December 1979

                  Windsor Youth Theatre

Funny Girl

August 1979

  • White scrapbook with gold decorative border  (#2011.56.6)

                  Windsor Ballet

A Spring Gala

May 1980

                  Windsor Ballet

The Nutcracker

December 1980

                  Windsor Ballet

A Spring Gala

May 1981

                  Windsor Youth Theatre

Grease 

August 1981

  • Black scrapbook with gold decorative border  (#2011.56.7)

                  Windsor Ballet

The Nutcracker

December 1981

                  Windsor Ballet

Spring Gala

May 1982

                  Windsor Youth Theatre

Wizard of Oz

August 1982

                  Windsor Youth Theatre

Babes in Arms

July/August 1982

 

Box 3.  Series VI Photographs

  • Clamshell box of photographs 1971 – 1982 by Richard C. Holbrook  (#2011.56.8)

  • Album of photographs 1981 Nutcracker by Richard C. Holbrook  (#2011.56.9)

       

 

Related materials

Subject files:  Organizations and Clubs – Windsor Jesters   

 

Subject Terms

Ballet companies – Connecticut

Ballet dancing--Study and teaching—Connecticut

Community theater – Connecticut – Windsor 

Stevenson, Helen R., 1935- 2008

Cirillo, Ernest P., 1934- 1998  

Northern Connecticut Ballet Company

Windsor Ballet

Windsor Youth Theatre      

 

Administrative History

WHS volunteer Sandy McGraw did the preliminary sorting and inventories of the scrapbooks, choreography, and photographs during August and Sept. 2011. WHS librarian Barbara Goodwin appraised and selected the Windsor materials, arranged and described the collection, and prepared the finding aid in November 2011.  Stevenson sketched and outlined her choreography notations in spiral bound student notebooks; these scattered pages of diagrams were removed from the notebooks and placed in individual archival folders.

The Society only retained materials which directly pertained to Stevenson’s work in Windsor, CT. Two scrapbooks documenting the activities of the Loomis Chaffee Theatre Associates for the period 1972-1975 were transferred to the Loomis Chaffee School Archives. Scrapbooks, choreography, and photographs documenting the activities of Stevenson’s ballet programs on Cape Cod in the 1960s and 1970s were offered to the Harwich Historical Society, Harwich, MA.

 

 

 

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