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Hanya Holm (birth name Johanna Eckert) born in March 3, 1893 in Worms, Germany and died November 3, 1992 in New York City. She is known as one of the “Big Four” founders of American modern dance. She was a dancer, choreographer, and above all, a dance educator.[1]

Contents

Connection with Mary Wigman

Hanya 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 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.[2] Mary 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 (September 26th 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. These letters are evidence of the responsibility Wigman was entrusting to Holm. In them, 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”.[3] 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 and a need to distance the school from German ties, it became known as the Hanya Holm Studio (1936-1967).[4]

Holm Technique and Choreography

Hanya Holm had a unique form of technique that shaped generations of dancers including Alwin Nikolais, Mary Anthony, Valerie Bettis, Don Redlich, and Glen Tetley. 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.[5] Hanya Holm trained through improvisation so, a specific movement vocabulary or phrasing that could be carried on through classes doesn’t 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. She worked on movement that projected into space.[6] 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.[7] 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.”[8] Holm was one of the founding artists at Bennington College in 1934 along with: Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, and Doris Humphrey who came to be some of the most influential modern dancers of their time, “The Big Four”. Out of Bennington College the festival ADF, American Dance Festival was pioneered. 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.[9] 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 score for Kiss Me, Kate (1948) was the first choreography to be copyrighted in the United States. She also worked on My Fair Lady (1956), Camelot (1960), and Anya (1965). Holm choreographed extensively in the fields of concert dance and musical theatre.[10]

Other works 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.”[11] Hanya Holm thought that teaching was a fundamental part of a dancer’s life; it let her know how much she knew which in turn helped her as a dancer. Her 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 dancers’ 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.[12] Holm had an extremely keen eye, she had the ability to look at something and verbalize what she wanted using elaborate imagery and analogies.[13] 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.[14] 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 in New York, and was the Head of Dance Department in NY Musical Theatre Academy. After 1974, she taught at the Juilliard School in New York. In 1988, a documentary of her life Hanya: Portrait of a Pioneer narrated by Julie Andrews and Alfred Drake, and featuring interviews with Holm, Nikolais, Murray Louis, and others, was released by Dance Horizons.

Holm 's son was broadway lighting designer and educator Klaus Holm . She and her son are both buried in Hanover Township , Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

She was honored by the National Dance Association, in 1976, with the Heritage Award for her contributions to dance education.

References

  1. ^ "Hanya Holm." The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Ed. Debra Craine and Judith Mackrell. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2000. 235.
  2. ^ Sorell, Walter. Hanya Holm; the Biography of an Artist. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969.17.
  3. ^ "Dance, Business, and Politics: Letters from Mary Wigman to Hanya Holm", 1930-1971. Claudia Gitelman; Marianne Forster; Mary Wigman; Hanya Holm. Dance Chronicle, Vol. 20, No. 1. (1997), pp. 1-21. JSTOR
  4. ^ Foulkes, Julia.Modern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey. The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.121.
  5. ^ Cristofori, Marilyn. "Hanya Holm." International Dictionary of Modern Dance. Ed. Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf. Detroit: St. James Press, n.d. 358.
  6. ^ Sorell, Walter. Hanya Holm; the Biography of an Artist. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969.162-163,165.
  7. ^ Nancy Reynolds and Malcolm McCormick. "Hanya Holm." No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century.New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. 167-168.
  8. ^ Sorell, Walter. Hanya Holm; the Biography of an Artist. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969.103.
  9. ^ Nancy Reynolds and Malcolm McCormick. "Hanya Holm." No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century.New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.170.
  10. ^ "Hanya Holm." The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Ed. Debra Craine and Judith Mackrell. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2000. 235.
  11. ^ Sorell, Walter. Hanya Holm; the Biography of an Artist. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969.102-103.
  12. ^ Sorell, Walter. Hanya Holm; the Biography of an Artist. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969.167-169.
  13. ^ Sorell, Walter. Hanya Holm; the Biography of an Artist. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969.172.
  14. ^ Sorell, Walter. Hanya Holm; the Biography of an Artist. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969.171.

External links

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