Shirley Clarke Biography

Shirley Clarke (October 2, 1919 – September 23, 1997) was an Academy Award-nominated American independent filmmaker.

Born Shirley Brimberg in New York City, Shirley Clarke was the daughter of a Polish-immigrant father who made his fortune in manufacturing. Her mother was the daughter of a multimillionaire Jewish manufacturer and inventor. Her sister was the writer Elaine Dundy. Her interest in dance began at an early age but met with the disapproval of her father, a violent bully.

Clarke attended Stephens College, Johns Hopkins University, Bennington College, and University of North Carolina. As a result of dance lessons at each of these schools, she trained under the Martha Graham method, the Doris Humphrey-Charles Weidman technique, and the Hanya Holm method of modern dance. She married Bert Clarke to escape her father's control, so she could study dance under the masters in New York City. She started her artistic career as a dancer in the New York avant garde modern dance movement. She was an avid participant in dance lessons and performances at the Young Women's Hebrew Association.