The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses the archives of dance titans like Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Now it will also be a home to the history of hip-hop dance.
The library has acquired the archive of Michael Holman, a hip-hop polymath who since the late 1970s has been a downtown dance impresario, filmmaker and journalist, as well as a musician and choreographer. This acquisition will become the library’s first hip-hop collection.
“The library is making a statement,” Mr. Holman said in an interview. “Ballet, modern dance, tap — the library is placing hip-hop culture on the same pedestals as other established dance movements.”
Much of Mr. Holman’s archive is video: filmed underground performances by b-boys and break-dancers, with appearances by Jean-Michel Basquiatand other artistic luminaries. Among the collection’s highlights are projection reels from Mr. Holman’s experimental films and drafts of his screenplay for the 1996 biopic “Basquiat.” Oral history is captured on hours of audiotape recordings, and over 100 photographs provide crude glimpses of the hip-hop scene. Mr. Holman even gave the library an old Macintosh computer.
“I was wearing all these different hats,” Mr. Holman said. “If you wanted to do that, there was no one to stop you.”
Now, he added, he is glad he thought to preserve all these materials. He hopes future researchers glean how D.I.Y. hip-hop was in its early days. “There was this great subcultural alchemy,” he said. “They were able to make something from thin air.”