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Marcia Thayer papers

Identifier: IWA0689

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Scope and Contents

The Marcia Thayer papers date from 1927 to 2013 and measure 3 linear feet in 18 boxes. The papers are arranged in eleven series: Biographical information, Education, Dance companies, Dance productions, Paul Engle poetry, Teaching responsibilities, University of Iowa Department of Dance, Newspaper Clippings, Photographs, Audiovisual, and Artifacts.

The Biographical Information series contains Thayer's, correspondence, resume, scrapbooks, and eulogy. The Education series contains notes from her undergraduate and graduate class work as well as yearbooks and a scrapbook.

Thayer's efforts to invite professional dancers and their companies to present and teach in the Department of Dance are represented in the Dance Companies series, which consists of publicity brochures and correspondence.

The Dance Productions series consists of news releases, programs, correspondence, and production records. Included are Dance Gala posters, Orchesis modern dance club programs dating from the early 1930s, publicity and club reports, and budget and membership records as well as Midwestern Dance Symposium programs and correspondence dealing with artist searches. The sub-series Madrigal Dinners contains programs and notes from twenty years of participation in the dinner theater production.

The Paul Engle Poetry series is comprised of poetry exchanged between Thayer and Paul Engle. Engle was a professor of English and director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.

The Teaching Responsibilities series contains student papers and classroom handouts. Included are records of the Saturday School of the Dance taught by Thayer.

The University of Iowa Department of Dance series is comprised of departmental publications pertaining to the curriculum, application forms, and undergraduate and graduate dance programs. Blue prints of a proposed conversion of the mirror room to a dance theatre complete the series.

The Newspaper Clippings series is comprised of a collection of review and general interest articles, photographs and a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings from 1964 to 1985.

The Photographs series consists of photographs of dance productions at the University of Iowa, professional dance companies, dance classes, and portraits. Marcia Thayer is depicted in many of the photographs throughout the series. Photographs of classes and activities offered by the Department of Physical Education for Women between 1927 and 1939 depict social dancing, synchronized swimming, and a dance production. Annual Dance Theatre productions are documented in photographs and negatives.

The Audiovisual series consists of a film of eleven dances recorded at the Communications Center. The 20-minute film consists of solo and duet performances by Marcia Thayer and Lar Lubovitch, and solo and group productions by unidentified dancers. A videotape of the film is available for viewing.

A 1982 Dance Gala and "An American in Iowa" button comprise the Artifacts series.


  • Creation: 1927 - 2013


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Dancer, choreographer, musician, and educator Marcia Claire Belsher Thayer was born in 1936. In her youth Thayer appeared as a lead dancer and actress for the Magic Ring Theatre in Portland, Oregon and also played the viola and violin for a number of operatic, symphonic and theater productions. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree inDance and English from Mills College in 1956 and continued her graduate work at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa). Thayer completed a master's degree in Speech and Dramatic Art in 1960 and fulfilled the course requirements and comprehensive examination towards a Ph.D. in the same field.

Upon arriving in Iowa, Thayer performed in University Theater productions as a dancer, actress and later a choreographer. She taught classes in movement for actors and reviewed dance concerts for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. As head of the Dance Program in the Department of Physical Education for Women at the University of Iowa (1962-1974), Thayer expanded the dance curriculum and developed a program for dance majors. She also began the process of inviting professional dance groups to perform in Iowa City, and initiated the Midwestern Dance Symposium for teachers and students.

Thayer also advanced performance opportunities for student choreographers and performers through yearly productions of the University of Iowa Dance Theatre that featured the "Young Choreographer's Concert," "Discovery," and "Vivachi!" Thayer's creative work included plays, musicals, operas, and dances. She acted, danced, choreographed, and directed numerous productions in Iowa, Massachusetts, Oregon, and New York.

Tragically, Thayer's dancing career was ended by a back injury suffered during a dance production. Unable to dance, Thayer shifted her passion to the study of Ireland. Thayer died in Ireland after completing a course in Irish literature during the summer of 1982.


3 Linear Feet (Alt. Extent statement: 1 videocassette [V282]; 1 film [F4]; 1 CD ; Artifacts in Box 6; Photographs in boxes 3-6, 8, 17-18 and map case)

Language of Materials



Dancer, choreographer and educator who worked in Iowa, Massachussetts, Oregon and New York.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 719) were donated by Alicia Brown-Matthes in 2000 and David Thayer (donor no. 1340) in 2014 and subsequent years.

Related Materials

The University of Iowa Department of Physical Education for Women records (IWA).

Jun-Nicole Matsushita, 2004; Emma Barton-Norris, 2023.
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)