Nancy Lee Ruyter


Balkan, international

Nancy Lee Ruyter 2014


Nancy Lee Ruyter is a dance historian, teacher, and choreographer who retired as a Professor of Dance at the University of California, Irvine at the end of June 2014, after 32 years there. Her degrees in history include a B.A. from University of California, Riverside, and a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University. Her practical training in dance includes ballet, modern, Spanish, East Indian, Balkan, and other world dance forms.

Nancy began traveling to the former Yugoslavia and to Bulgaria in the early 1970s. She attended some of the summer courses sponsored by the folklore institute of Zagreb and held on the island of Badija (and sometimes elsewhere).

She began working on the languages of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria and doing research in libraries and archives. She speaks Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, and Bulgarian and has a reading knowledge of French and Italian.

Nancy had a folk dance and music ensemble for a while in Claremont. It was named "Jasna Planina Folk Ensemble" (clear mountain). She continued with the Balkan folk dance for a while after beginning her position at the University of California, Irvine in 1982, but there was little interest there among the dance majors, so she discontinued the class.

In July of 2014, Nancy went to the Ethnochoreology Symposium on Korčula. The symposium is held in a different place every two years and is always in a place that still has living folklore practices–so in addition to scholarly presentations, it includes visits to villages to observe and/or participate in events. She's been going to most of these symposia for the last several years. She then spent most of October in Europe (Austria, Spain, and Athens). At the symposium Nancy was very happy to be with Elsie Dunin (an important leader of the group) and also Allegra Snyder, as well as many other colleagues from all over.

Nancy has had professional membership in many organizations, including ASTR (American Society for Theater Research), Bulgarian Studies Association, CORD (Congress on Research in Dance), Dance Critics Association, Folk Dance Federation of California South, ICTM (International Council for Traditional Music): Ethnochoreology Working Group, IFTR/FIRT (International Federation for Theater Research): Choreography and Corporeality Working Group, Irvine Hispanic Theater Research Group, Society for Dance Research (London), Society for Ethnomusicology, Society of Dance History Scholars, Spanish Dance Society, Theater Library Association, and World Dance Alliance.

Nancy made an estate gift to support the future management and research use of the Nancy Lee Ruyter Collection. The gift will establish the Nancy Lee Ruyter Library Fund, which will also support the preservation, management, growth, and research use of the Libraries' highly recognized Dance Collection.

In addition to her significant estate gift, Nancy has made a generous current gift to support the processing and preservation of archival materials that she donated some years ago on the work of François Delsarte (1811-1871), the French voice and acting teacher who developed an important system of expression that has influenced the training of performing artists in Europe and the United States and the development of twentieth-century modern concert dance.

Her publications include "Reformers and Visionaries: The Americanization of the Art of Dance" (1979); "The Cultivation of Body and Mind in 19th-Century American Delsartism" (1999); and many articles on the Delsarte system and its uses, Spanish dance, Balkan dance, Latin American and Spanish theater, and theater movement.

Dances Nancy has taught include Baroš oj Baricam, Bitoljka, Dnolučka Truska, Horo from Dragalevtsi, Kačerac, Šarano, and Štiri Snehe so se Spominale.