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Annelise Mertz Papers

Identifier: WUA-03-wua00344

The Annelise Mertz Papers focuses her time in St. Louis as the founder and artistic director of Washington University in St. Louis’ Dance Theater, Dance St. Louis, and St. Louis Ragtime Ensemble. Included in the collections are writings by Mertz, correspondence to and from Mertz, subject files, clippings, programs and brochures, periodicals and journals, posters, print material, photographs and slides, awards, scrapbooks, and audiovisual material.

All audiovisual material is located in the Film and Media vault.


  • 1946-2011


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


9 linear feet

14 boxes

Biographical Information

A force on the St. Louis dance scene for more than five decades, Mertz was a cele­brated teacher, performer, choreographer, and champion for the arts. In 2001, the university dedicated the Annelise Mertz Dance Studio in Mallinckrodt Center — its primary dance rehearsal/performance space — in her honor. In 2004, she received the Missouri Arts Award, the state's highest honor for achievement in the arts.

Born in Berlin in 1918, Mertz trained in ballet, modern dance, Laban theory and notation, and Wigman technique, pursuing graduate work with choreographer Kurt Jooss at Germany’s renowned Folkwangschule, now part of the University of Essen. She danced professionally throughout Europe with several distinguished companies, including the Kurt Jooss Dance Theatre; the Dance Company of the State Opera, Berlin; and the Municipal Operas of Darmstadt and Dusseldorf.

Mertz immigrated to the United States in 1955, teaching at the University of Illinois–Chicago before coming to Washington University in 1957. She quickly made her mark on campus, founding and serving as artistic director of Washington University Dance Theatre and, in the mid-1960s, spearheading the creation both of the Dance Major Program, which she directed for some 31 years.

In 1966, Mertz founded and served as the first president of Dance St. Louis, a not-for-profit organization that continues to sponsor performances by nationally known modern dance companies. In 1978 she founded the St. Louis Ragtime En­semble (later the St. Louis Dancers), a professional troupe that, over the next decade, would perform throughout the St. Louis region and abroad, including concerts in Ireland and Germany.

As a choreographer, Mertz earned a reputation for creating highly personal works that were also imaginative, witty, and theatrical. Over the years, she staged more than 40 original pieces at venues ranging from the Saint Louis Art Museum and St. Louis Opera Theatre to Cooper Union in New York City and the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.

Though retired since 1988, Mertz remained a regular presence in the Performing Arts Department. In 2002 she edited and contributed an essay to the book The Body Can Speak: Essays on Creative Movement Education with an Emphasis on Dance and Drama (University of Illinois–Carbondale Press). Mertz died on Thursday, April 28, 2011.

—Washington University Performing Arts Department

Related Materials

See also WUA00343 Performing Arts Department Records.

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Schnuriger and Caroline Riffle in Summer 2019.

Annelise Mertz Papers
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 May 11: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the University Archives Collecting Area

Sonya Rooney
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495