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TitleErnest Berk Collection
DescriptionArticles, personal log books, dance theatre programmes and radioscripts of Ernest Berk, dancer trained by Mary Wigman and Professor at the Guildhall School of Music.
Date1938 - 1984
Extent and medium1 box
Level of descriptionFonds
Creator nameBerk; Ernest (1909-1993); Dancer, choreographer, composer
Administrative historyErnest Berk: b. 1909, Cologne, Germany; d. 1993. Berk was a solo dancer and innovative choreographer in the field of modern ballet. He was educated at the Rheinische Musikhocheschule (Rhine College of Music) and also learned under the tutelage of Mary Wigman at the Wigman Institute in Germany from where he ran his own dance company. The music of India and China provided special inspiration for Berk's works. Whilst in Germany he produced a ballet for Max Rheinhardt at the Salzburg Festival. He came to the UK in 1935 and produced ballets for the Glyndebourne Festivals, for Covent Garden and various other West End productions as well as acting as choreographer for the first year of the Edinburgh Festival. One of the ballets choreographed by Berk, "Tilustrum", won an honourable diploma at the International Choreographic Competition in Copenhagen, 1947. Berk's company, "Dance Theatre" produced and performed works in various theatres throughout the UK. In the years preceding WWII he founded the "Modern Dance Group" in London and produced "Buddha the Enlightened", a ballet commissioned by John Masefield. He collaborated with the composer Peter Ury who wrote music for several of Berk's works; most notably, "The Family Suite". The German born singer and actress, Agnes Bernelle also featured in several of his works. Berk married Liselotte Heymansohn, a fellow dancer who was also born in Cologne. They had one daughter, Esther, who now carries on the family tradition as she teaches the Lotte Berk method of dance in Berkshire. Ernest and Lotte Berk collaborated on many dance works during their marriage and amicably divorced after 30 years together. Although mainly interested in modern ballet, Berk was also known for his skill as a mime artist and percussionist. He went on to develop a keen interest in electronic music later in life and took up a post as lecturer at the High School of Arts in Berlin, which he held until his death.

Letters, newscuttings, articles , concert programmes and audio tapes of Ernest Berk are held in the Historishes Archiv Koln.

Information sourced from:
Obituary for Lotte Berk at
Obituary for Lotte Berk at
Obituary for Lotte Berk at
Kohler, Martin; Kremers, Manfred. 'Musique concrete & Modern Dance' medienbrief,2/2003,pp57-58.

By Elizabeth Jones.
Archival historySome items in the Ernest Berk Collection were transferred from the Peter Williams Collection before the collection was accessioned. Some items may have been purchased from the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association in 1992, though no offical paperwork exists to confirm this.
Conditions governing accessNo restrictions on access apply.
Conditions governing copyingPhotocopying and photography is allowed for private research only and due acknowledgement of the author must be made. A 'Copyright Declaration' form must be filled out before any photocopying of archival material can take place. Photographs can only be copied where Laban owns the copyright, a copy is to be included in a final year dissertation or is for personal research. Copying of audiovisual material is not permitted without the permission of the copyright holders. Please consult the Archivist if you would like to copy any material.
System of arrangementCollection re-ordered for cohesiveness. Business papers and personal papers separated.
Finding aidsThis collection has been fully catalogued and is available to search on the Laban Archive catalogue.
Related materialSee also a photograph of Ernest Berk in the Peter Williams Collection in the Laban Archive. A major Ernest Berk collection is held at the Historisches Archiv Koln which has particular emphasis on electronic music. West Sussex Record Office holds records of the Chichester Ballet Club of which Ernest Berk was a member. Recordings of works by Berk or featuring him can be found at the British Film Institute and the British Library Sound Archive.
LocationMain Repository
TermModern dance History 20th century
Arch_NoteDescription and catalogue compiled by Elizabeth Jones, postgraduate archives administration student at Glasgow University, 2008.

Show related Persons records.

CodePerson/Org Name
DS/UK/233Berk; Ernest (1909-1993); Dancer, choreographer, composer
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