Highlighting Women in Creative Arts: Nellie-Bond Dickinson

With the upcoming Fall Festival of Creative Arts, we took the opportunity to look at some of the women who have contributed to the creative arts here at Florida State. Since the founding of the Florida State College for Women, our campus has been absolutely lush with artists and creative minds of all types, and our collections speak to a variety of arts that have come out of FSCW/FSU from students and faculty alike.

“Dialogue at Night.” Choreographed by Nellie-Bond Dickinson, 1959. School of Dance Records, Heritage and University Archives, http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSUSOD_OS4_photo_104.

While reviewing the collections for this project, we found one name that kept popping up again and again in the School of Dance Records – Nellie-Bond Dickinson.

Nellie-Bond Dickinson (1912-2003) was born in Wilson, North Carolina. She attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and then Columbia University for her masters. When she came to FSCW in 1935, dance was still largely taught out of the physical education department, and limited to tap and country dancing.

During her nearly 30 years on faculty, Dickinson (nicknamed “Bondie”) transformed the program into what we know it as today, and is credited with bringing modern dance and creative movement to Florida State. Dickinson also planned and directed the first ever Evening of Dance, which the college still puts on annually with great success.

Nellie-Bond Dickinson and Louis Horst, 1962. School of Dance Records, Heritage and University Archives, http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSUSOD_OS4_photo_105.

Dickinson’s influence is seen everywhere you look in the collections – photographs of students practicing and performing, credited to her; show programs listing her as director, choreographer, and performer; and correspondences with some of the most well-known dancers and composers of her time, who came to perform at FSU upon her personal request.

Even as time goes on and her name disappears, her legacy is visible in the continuation of the Evening of Dance, and Florida State’s reputation as an institution of modern dance. There is now even an endowment in her name through the College of Fine Arts.

Within the School of Dance Records collection, you can also find her professional papers related to her career at Florida State. These papers include letters of recommendation from Martha Graham and Louis Horst, itemized lists of Dickinson’s hours training at prestigious dancing institutes, programs for An Evening of Dance over several years, itineraries for her touring dance/theater group, and newspaper clippings she collected over the years. The collection also contains several of her choreographer’s journals, where researchers can map out the progression of her works and see her creative process.

Evening of Dance Program, 1959. School of Dance Records, Heritage and University Archives. http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSUSOD_Programs_1959_001.

Nellie-Bond Dickinson’s records, and more collections on the history of women in the creative arts, can be found in the Special Collections and Archives online and in person. Make sure to check out the Fall Festival of Creative Arts to learn more about art at FSU, both past and present.

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