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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 417

John Bernd papers


Papers of choreographer John Bernd (1953-1988) documenting his career as a dancer and choreographer.


  • 1972-1988

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to most of this material. Some audiovisual materials may require reformatting before access can be granted.

This collection is not housed at the Harvard Theatre Collection but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should consult the Harvard Theatre Collection to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


6 linear feet (6 boxes)

The collection contains choreographic plans, correspondence related to John Bernd's work, photographs, audiotapes, videotapes, newspaper and magazine clippings, promotional materials and a journal that he kept during one of his hospitalizations.

Many of the folders retain the identification provided by the donor, Maryette Charlton.

Biographical / Historical

John Jeffery Bernd, born May 8, 1953 in Lincoln, Nebraska, was an American choreographer and dancer. Bernd graduated from Antioch College with a bachelor's degree in dance and performance studies. Among his teachers were Twyla Tharp, Sara Rudner, Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Jasper Johns. He also spent 12 years as a professional swimmer.

Early in his dance career, Bernd performed in the works of Meredith Monk, Jane Comfort, Jeff Weiss and Melissa Fenley. He choreographed and performed works during 1978-1988 in venues around the United States and abroad. Bernd's work incorporated autobiographical themes, most prominently homosexuality and his struggle with AIDS, with which he was first diagnosed in 1981. Bernd's Surviving love and death chronicles his personal struggle with the disease and the community-wide effect of AIDS. Most of his works were performed as solos, but he collaborated extensively with Tim Miller, Anne Bogart and Ishmael Houston-Jones.

Bernd was an active member of New York's dance and performance community. Closely involved with Performance Space 122, he later became the associate director. In 1986 he received a Bessie award for his piece, Lost and found (scenes from a life). He continued working until his death in 1988. Bernd died of AIDS at New York University Medical Center on August 28, 1988.


The collection is organized into seven series :

  1. 1. Choreographic Works (101 folders);
  2. 2. Photographs (20 folders)
  3. 3. Subject Files (18 folders)
  4. 4. Audio Recordings (1 box)
  5. 5. Video Recordings (1 box)
  6. 6. Sketchbooks (1 box)
  7. 7. Oversized Materials (1 box)

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

1988-1989.82 and 1994-1995.133. Gift of Maryette Charlton; received: 1989, 1994.

General note

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Julia E. Collins, under the supervision of Beth Carroll-Horrocks.

Bernd, John. John Bernd papers: Guide.
Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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