(letter to the Commissioner of Hospitals, NYC, 1951)
Unable to support themselves by performing in New York, partially due to being overshadowed by American Modern Dancers and unappreciated for their ‘light’ and ‘comic’ styles, the Bartenieffs fell back upon their in-depth knowledge of human anatomy and in 1938 were licensed to practice Massage in NY. They then opened a private practice in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where Irmgard worked until 1942 when she left to pursue studies in Physical Therapy at NYU. In 1956, when Balanchine dancer (and wife) Tanaquil Le Clercq contracted polio, the Physical Therapist called in to help was none other than Irmgard Bartenieff, who had earned her PT license 10 years earlier.
Irmgard's license and badge
In 1944 Bartenieff was asked by Dr. George Deaver to work in the poliomyelitis unit of the Willard Parker Hospital, a unit she managed until 1953. In 1954 Bartenieff became the coordinator of the rehabilitation program at the Blythedale Home for Children in Valhalla, NY. From 1958 through 1962 she joined Dr. A.D. Gurewitsch (Eleanor Roosevelt’s personal physician) as his research therapist at the Institute for the Crippled and Disabled and in his private practice. It was during this period that Bartenieff started exploring the concept of fundamental aspects of movement and establishing concrete exercises that could be performed by those in rehabilitation. This work eventually led to the development of the Bartenieff Fundamentals and the Basic 6 exercises taught to students of movement analysis around the world.