Ninety two years ago today, dance archivist David Vaughan was born in London, England. Vaughan was the archivist for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1976 until it disbanded in 2012. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company was located in Westbeth in the West Village since 1971. In addition to being the archivist, Vaughan is also a choreographer, dancer, actor, and singer. He has performed in New York City, both on and off Broadway, along with in regional theaters, cabarets, on television and in film.
Vaughan came to New York from England in 1950 to study at the School of American Ballet. Vaughan’s ballet choreography was used in Stanley Kubrick’s 1955 film Killer’s Kiss and he has worked with both modern dance and ballet companies. It was at the School that he first met Merce Cunningham, who briefly taught there. He began studying with Cunningham in the mid-1950s, and became the administrator when Cunningham opened his own studio. In 1976 he was made the official archivist after he showed an interest in collecting documentation to make a chronology of Cunningham’s works.
In addition to his dance work, Vaughan is also a writer on dance. He wrote The Royal Ballet at Convent Garden, Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years, and Frederick Ashton and His Ballets. In 2007, Vaughan was interviewed alongside Cunningham as part of GVSHP’s Westbeth Oral History project. In it, Vaughan and Cunningham talk about the beginnings of the company, how it came to Westbeth, and the community of Westbeth and surrounding neighborhood from the 1970’s until present time. Listen to the Merce Cunningham Oral History here, and the rest of our Westbeth Oral History Collection here.