Hanya Holm
Hanya Holm is known as one of the “Big Four” founders of American modern dance. She was a dancer, choreographer, and above all, a dance educator.

Connection with Mary Wigman

Born as Johanna Eckert, Holm was drawn to music and drama at an early age, so she attended the Institution of Emile Jacques-Dalcroze throughout her childhood and young adult life. At the age of 28, she saw the German expressionist Mary Wigman
Mary Wigman
Mary Wigman was a German dancer, choreographer, and dance instructor.A pioneer of expressionist dance, her work was hailed for bringing the deepest of existential experiences to the stage...

 perform, and decided to continue her dance career at the Wigman School in Dresden where she soon became a member of the company. Mary Wigman and Hanya Holm shared a special bond through movement. Egyptian Dance was said to be the first time Wigman realized the artistic impression Holm was capable of. She had the creative will and ability to shape a choreographic vision into reality. Wigman invited Holm to teach, co-direct the Dresden School, and in her recognition of the opportunity that opening a school in New York could offer the world of dance, eventually sent Holm to launch a Wigman branch in New York City (on September 26, 1931). The initial letters of certification and agreement from Wigman to Holm about the migration over to America to direct the school were found in her house after her death in 1992. These letters were published in Dance, Business, and Politics: Letters from Mary Wigman to Hanya Holm. In the letters the salary was laid out making sure that the transfer would continue to support her son, Klaus, who stayed in Germany, and the letter of agreement signed by both parties "promises to apply all her strength to the advancement of the New York Wigman School and to conduct the work according to Mary Wigman’s ideas ... as well as to see that the M.W. philosophy of dance is implemented faithfully within and outside the New York Wigman School in every possible way". Holm was not only capable of rising to the challenge of representing the Wigman name and teaching philosophy, she also helped to shape the school and build an influence of her own. Due to the rise of fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

 and a need to distance the school from German ties, it became known as the Hanya Holm Studio (1936–1967).

Holm Technique and Choreography

Holm had a unique form of technique that shaped generations of dancers including Alwin Nikolais
Alwin Nikolais
Alwin Nikolais was an American choreographer.Nikolais studied piano at an early age and began his performing career as an organist accompanying silent films. As a young artist, he gained skills in scenic design, acting, puppetry and music composition...

, Mary Anthony, Valerie Bettis
Valerie Bettis
Valerie Elizabeth Bettis was an American modern dancer and choreographer. She found success in musical theatre, ballet, and as a solo dancer.-Biography:...

, Don Redlich, and Glen Tetley
Glen Tetley
Glen Tetley was an American ballet and modern dancer as well as a choreographer who mixed ballet and modern dance to create a new way of looking at dance, and is best known for his piece Pierrot Lunaire.-Biography:Glenford Andrew Tetley, Jr. was born on February 3, 1926 in Cleveland, Ohio...

. Her technique stressed the importance of pulse, planes, floor patterns, aerial design, direction, and spatial dimensions. Holm's movement emphasized the freedom and flowing quality of the torso and back, but remained based on universal principles of physics for motion. Holm trained through improvisation
Improvisation is the practice of acting, singing, talking and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings. This can result in the invention of new thought patterns, new practices, new structures or symbols, and/or...

 so, a specific movement vocabulary or phrasing that could be carried on through classes does not exist; instead her focus was about learning through discovery. Choreographically her movement focused on the body’s relation to space and emotion, which was an extension of Wigman and Rudolf Laban
Rudolf Laban
Rudolf von Laban aka Rudolf Laban was a dance artist and theorist whose work laid the foundations for Laban Movement Analysis and other more specific developments in dance notation...

. She worked on movement that projected into space. Holm's stylistic idea was about "absolute dance" without pantomime or dramatic overtones. Attention to conveying an idea in her choreography was more important than the dancers' technical ability. Holm would say, "I want to see a sign of passion. I want to see the raw if struggling to express itself. A work must have blood."

Invited by dance director Martha Hill
Martha Hill
Martha Hill was one of the most influential American dance instructors in history. She was the first Director of Dance at the Juilliard School, and held that position for almost 35 years.-Biography:...

, Holm was one of the founding artists at Bennington College
Bennington College
Bennington College is a liberal arts college located in Bennington, Vermont, USA. The college was founded in 1932 as a women's college and became co-educational in 1969.-History:-Early years:...

 in 1934 along with Martha Graham
Martha Graham
Martha Graham was an American modern dancer and choreographer whose influence on dance has been compared with the influence Picasso had on modern visual arts, Stravinsky had on music, or Frank Lloyd Wright had on architecture.She danced and choreographed for over seventy years...

, Charles Weidman
Charles Weidman
Charles Weidman is a renowned choreographer, modern dancer and teacher. He is well known as one of the pioneers of Modern Dance in America. He wanted to break free from the traditional movements of dance forms popular at the time to create a uniquely American style of movement...

, and Doris Humphrey
Doris Humphrey
Doris Batcheller Humphrey was a dancer and choreographer of the early twentieth century. Humphrey was born in Oak Park, Illinois but grew up in Chicago, Illinois. She was the daughter of Horace Buckingham Humphrey and Julia Ellen Wells and was a descendant of pilgrim William Brewster...

, who came to be some of the most influential modern dancers of their time: "The Big Four". The American Dance Festival
American Dance Festival
The American Dance Festival is a six and four-week school for dance and a six-week summer festival of modern dance performances, currently held at Duke University and the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, North Carolina....

 (ADF) arose from Bennington College. This was an opportunity for modern dancers to come together to take class and present new works. Holm's first major work, Trend, (1937) dealt with social criticism and incorporated Ausdruckstanz and American techniques. In 1941, she started a Center of Dance in Colorado Springs where she had summer courses and was able to perfect her creative exploration technique.

In 1948, she choreographed for Broadway: Ballet Ballads and Kiss Me, Kate which led to twelve other musicals. Holm's dance work Metropolitan Daily was the first modern dance composition to be televised on NBC, and her Labanotation
Laban Movement Analysis
Laban is a way and language for interpreting, describing, visualizing and notating all ways of human movement. Created by Rudolf Laban, LMA draws on his theories of effort and shape to describe, interpret and document human movement...

 score for Kiss Me, Kate
Kiss Me, Kate
Kiss Me, Kate is a musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. It is structured as a play within a play, where the interior play is a musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. The original production starred Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk and Harold Lang.Kiss...

(1948) was the first choreography to be copyrighted in the United States. She also choreographed Out of This World
Out of This World
- Film and television :*Out of This World , a U.S. television series, 1987–1991*Out of This World , a 1962 British science fiction television series*Out of This World , starring Veronica Lake...

, My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe...

(1956), Camelot
Camelot is a castle and court associated with the legendary King Arthur. Absent in the early Arthurian material, Camelot first appeared in 12th-century French romances and eventually came to be described as the fantastic capital of Arthur's realm and a symbol of the Arthurian world...

(1960), and Anya (1965).She also directed a 1960s television musical adaptation of Pinocchio
The Adventures of Pinocchio is a novel for children by Italian author Carlo Collodi, written in Florence. The first half was originally a serial between 1881 and 1883, and then later completed as a book for children in February 1883. It is about the mischievous adventures of Pinocchio , an...

. Holm choreographed extensively in the fields of concert dance and musical theatre. Other works by Holm include: Tragic Exodus, They Too Are Exiles, Dance Of Work and Play and Dance Sonata

Holm as a Dance Educator

Hanya Holm's approach to teaching was to liberate each individual to define a technical style of his or her own that should express their inner personality and give freedom to explore. She would tell her students, "You have a perfect right to branch out, if you have the stuff in you, if you discover your own richness, if you have something to say." Holm's philosophy of teaching was how to find the essence of dance and understand where the movement comes from in the body that way it is a natural response in the dancer's body. She brought weltanschauung to her dance teaching. Holm was strict; she expected greatness from her students which would come from a willingness to work hard. It was her thought that if you worked hard and truly wanted it, you would achieve the desired outcome. Holm had an extremely keen eye, she had the ability to look at something and verbalize what she wanted using elaborate imagery and analogies. She used her technique class as a preparation for her improvisation and composition classes. These classes were where the students could expand and experiment on the skills that were presented in class, making the movement innate in their bodies. A large amount of Holm’s choreography came from the improv and comp classes. Hanya Holm taught anatomy, Dalcroze eurhythmics, improvisation, and Labanotation at her school. She taught at Colorado College, Mills College, University of Wisconsin, Alwin Nikolais School, and was the Head of Dance Department in New York's Musical Theatre Academy. After 1974, she taught at the Juilliard School (Martha Hill, director) in New York. In 1988, a documentary of her life Hanya: Portrait of a Pioneer narrated by Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews
Dame Julia Elizabeth Andrews, DBE is an English film and stage actress, singer, and author. She is the recipient of Golden Globe, Emmy, Grammy, BAFTA, People's Choice Award, Theatre World Award, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award honors...

 and Alfred Drake
Alfred Drake
Alfred Drake was an American actor and singer.-Biography:Born as Alfred Capurro in New York City, the son of parents emigrated from Recco, Genoa, Drake began his Broadway career while still a student at Brooklyn College...

, and featuring interviews with Holm, Nikolais, Murray Louis, and others, was released by Dance Horizons.

Her son was Broadway lighting designer Klaus Holm. She and her son are interred in Hanover Township
Hanover Township
-Illinois:* Hanover Township, Cook County, Illinois* Hanover Township, Jo Daviess County, Illinois-Indiana:* Hanover Township, Jefferson County, Indiana* Hanover Township, Lake County, Indiana* Hanover Township, Shelby County, Indiana-Iowa:...

, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
- Demographics :As of the 2010 census, the county was 90.7% White, 3.4% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 1.0% Asian, 3.3% were of some other race, and 1.5% were two or more races. 6.7% of the population was of Hispanic or Latino ancestry...


Holm has been honored by the National Dance Association
National Dance Association
The , headquartered in Reston, VA, is an association within the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance...

, in 1976, with the Heritage Award for her contributions to dance education. She was inducted into the National Museum of Dance C.V. Whitney Hall of Fame
National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame
The National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, in the Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga, New York, was established in 1986 and is the only museum in the nation dedicated entirely to dance. It contains photographs, videos, artifacts, costumes and biographies. The museum is located in the former and...

 in 1988.

External links

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