Hanya Holm, Photo by Benedict Frenkel A 1937 photograph of Hanya Holm, at a time when her teaching and the tours of her own dance company were influential in the spread of modern dance in America. (Photograph by Benedict Frenkel; from the Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.)


One of the legendary pioneers of American modern dance in the 1930s, Hanya Holm (1893-1992) was born in Germany and studied at the Dalcroze Institute in Hellerau. She studied in the 1920s with Mary Wigman in Dresden, eventually becoming a member of her company and chief instructor at her school. In 1931 Holm settled in New York to direct the Wigman Institute founded at the behest of Sol Hurok; in 1936, in response to rising antifascist sentiment, it was renamed the Hanya Holm School of Dance. An inspiring teacher, she served on the faculty of the Bennington School of the Dance, which produced her most ambitious choreographic work of the 1930s, Trend; from 1941 to 1984 she taught summer classes at Colorado College. In 1948 she scored a Broadway hit with her dances for Kiss Me, Kate (1948); other Broadway successes followed, including My Fair Lady (1956) and Camelot (1960). Holm's teaching emphasized space, and in choreographing—even for Broadway—she made regular use of improvisation. Her theater work achieved a rare degree of dramatic and choreographic fusion.

Learn more in Hanya Holm, an essay by Tresa Randall.



"Wouldn't it be Loverly?" from My Fair Lady (1956), choreographed by Hanya Holm. Holm's ability to adapt to many forms and integrate dance into the staging of musical theater productions made her a sought-after choreographer for the Broadway stage.