Doris Hering, 1920-2014
Doris Hering, a critic who surveyed the dance world for decades, beginning in the 1940s, and was later the founding executive director of a national organization that promoted regional dance throughout the United States, died on Oct. 15 in the Bronx. She was 94.
Her death was confirmed by Nancy Mason Hauser, a friend.
As a critic for Dance magazine and other publications, Ms. Hering charted the rise of the New York City Ballet; the American debuts of troupes like the Sadler’s Wells Ballet from Britain and the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets from the Soviet Union; the flourishing of American modern dance; and the experiments of Merce Cunningham, Alwin Nikolais and the iconoclastic Judson Dance Theater.
She began reviewing for Dance in the late 1940s and, from 1951 to 1971, was the magazine’s associate editor and principal critic. Early on, immersed in the New York dance scene, she underwent a change of outlook in 1957, when she was given an out-of-town assignment.
Asked to cover the second Southeastern Regional Ballet Festival in Birmingham, Ala., she went, she later admitted, with a touch of Manhattan snobbery, skeptical that communities outside a few large metropolitan centers could produce high-quality dance. What she saw amazed her, she said, and she began to include more regional news and reviews in the magazine.
Her exposure to regional dance occurred as it was becoming a movement nationwide. Besides the one in the Southeast, there were the Northeast, Southwest, Pacific Western and MidStates regional ballet associations. In 1972, to coordinate their activities, the groups formed the National Association for Regional Ballet, later renamed Regional Dance America, and Ms. Hering was named executive director.
She held the post until 1987, when she returned to freelance criticism for Dance and other publications. She continued writing into her 90s.
No immediate family members survive.
Ms. Hering was born in Brooklyn on April 11, 1920, the daughter of Harry Hering, an artist and engraver, and the former Anna Schwenk. Although Ms. Hering studied music and dance as a child, she majored in Romance languages at Hunter College in New York, hoping to teach French.
Unable to find a teaching job, however, she went to a secretarial school and worked for an advertising agency before finding her way into dance journalism. In 1985 she received a master’s degree in Romance languages from Fordham University.
Ms. Hering’s books include “25 Years of American Dance,” which she edited, and “Giselle & Albrecht: American Ballet Theater’s Romantic Lovers.” At her death, she had been working on two more: a biographical study of the pioneers of American regional dance and an anthology of her own criticism.
By JACK ANDERSONOCT. 26, 2014
Doris Hering on Doris Hering
When I was a youngster, I was fascinated by the word "pioneer." It conjured up someone who hacked down trees and forded rivers. When, many years later, I became somewhat of a pioneer, I found that it just meant that you were the first to do something.
I began in the Jamaica Model School, a seemingly ancient public elementary school where we were the models for student teachers. It was a solid beginning. I was all set at the age of twelve to be a teacher when I grew up.
In that time, ca. 1937, Hunter College was the cradle of would-be teachers, so that's where I went. (The tuition was free then.) I graduated trailing a string of academic honors, among them, Phi Beta Kappa and awards in French, Latin, and English. As a change of pace, I played piano in the college orchestra.
My training? To be a high school French teacher. Jobs? There were none. We were gearing up for the second world war.
So I acquired a scholarship to secretarial school and a second scholarship toward my MA in French at Fordham University. A number of years later I became a member of the Hunter College Hall of Fame. But back in 1941, I had yet to find my first job - any job.
Two years in a publishing house and two more in a direct mail advertising agency followed. But dance followed me with a doggedness all its own. I studied dance with a passion. No, I didn't want to be a dancer. I wanted to write about dance.
Four more years at writing advertising copy ensued, but I spent nights and wee-ends seeing, doing, reading about, and writing about dance. My hapless boyfriends were all dragged to dance performances. Then in 1952 I was made associate editor and principal critic for Dance Magazine. Nirvana! But it was a strange Nirvana - hard work, long hours, and little pay. I loved it anyway.
Twenty years flew by. In my so-called spare time, I managed to turn out articles for something like 39 other publications. I also wrote four books, one of which was accepted as the thesis for my MA at Fordham. (Thereby hangs a tale, but more of that at another time.)
Although I am a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, I had developed an interest in what was going on in dance around the country. I had even seen some of the companies and felt that the magazine should be writing about them. The opportunity came and with it, an exciting new career.
Nancy Hanks, head of the National Endowment for the Arts, held out two jobs and asked me to choose one. The first one was as director of the national Endowment Dance Program. The other was to develop and head an organization of decentralized dance companies all over the United States. It didn't take me long to decide on the latter.
Not only was it something I cared about, but I had met Dorothy Alexander, who had organized the first regional ballet festival in 1956 in her hometown of Atlanta and who had generously served as mentor (and friend) to me in my nascent interest in decentralization.
And so the National Association for Regional Ballet was born in two rooms above the marquee of the Palace Theatre Building on 47th Street and Broadway in Manhattan.
I'll never forget the elation I felt several days later as I rode down Broadway in the cab of a truck bearing my "new" desk. Did I say "new"? There was no such thing.
The Endowment stipulated "used". But it was still lovely to me. And I hired an asst., Beverly D'Anne, who eventually became director of the Dance Program of the New York State Arts Council.
Challenges? I met them coming and going. In the process I conducted seminars and panels in ninety-seven regional festivals and have engaged in consultancies in forty-two states. When we closed that office the organization had grown to 123 companies in five regions of the country and in addition to the five festivals every springtime, the companies were acquiring new choreography with funding raised by the national office (which grew to five people), and they had a voice not only through several publications, but through my attendance at the conferences of other arts organizations.
The directors and their dancers also attended summer conferences on the "how to" of choreography, and I organized the first in an intended series of two-week conferences led by experts in all aspects of an artistic director's job.
And what was my reward for this dance merry-go-round? Was it the Capezio Dance Award that called me a "crusader for dance," the Dance Magazine Award, the Dance Critics' Association Award? Not really. It was the joy of watching those young people performing with increasing confidence, increasing imagination. And it was the enriching friendships with artistic directors who give generously of themselves and of their experience.