Hanya Holm

The Holm technique was created by modern dance pioneer, dance educator, and choreographer Hanya Holm (born Johanna Eckert in Germany), and has influenced the styles of many generations of dancers. Holm’s attendance at the Institution of Emile Jacques-Dalcroze from childhood to early adulthood, as well as her time spent watching dancer Mary Wigman greatly influenced her dance technique. After teaching at one of Wigman’s German school’s, Holm was sent to New York City in 1931 to start a new branch of the Wigman dance schools. From 1936 to 1967, the New York school was known as the Hanya Holm Studio, due to the need to mask the school’s German ties. Hanya Holm is known as one of the “Big Four” of modern dance, along with Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman. In 1934 at Bennington College, these four became the founding artists of the American Dance Festival.

The Holm technique stresses pulse, planes, direction, aerial design, floor patterns, creative exploration, and dance without dramatic overtones. Many are unaware of it, but part of the warm-up in the Holm technique was directly influenced by Joseph Pilates, creator of Pilates exercise. There is no specific phrasing ascribed to the Holm technique because she trained through improvisation and encouraged learning dance through discovery. With choreography, Holm was again influenced by Mary Wigman and Rudolf Laban, creator of Laban Movement Analysis, and theories of spatial dynamics. Because of these influences, Holm’s choreography focused on projecting the body’s movement into space; she felt conveying the idea behind choreography was more important than the dancer’s technical ability. The following quote from Hanya Holm describes how she felt about conveying meaning through choreography: “Dances without purpose have false starts and stops.”

“Metropolitan Daily” was a dance work by Holm that became the first modern dance composition to be televised when it aired on NBC. In 1948, Holm choreographed “Kiss Me, Kate” for Broadway; the Labanotation score was the first choreographical work to be copyrighted in the United States. She produced many more works for Broadway musicals and concert dance, including “Ballet Ballads” in 1948, “My Fair Lady” in 1956, “Camelot” in 1960, and “Anya in 1965”.

Holm taught her dance technique at Colorado
College, the University
of Wisconsin, New York’s Musical Theatre Academy, the Alwin Nikolais School, and Julliard. Notable dancers that were shaped by the Holm technique include Mary Anthony, Valerie Bettis, Glen Tetley, and Alwin Nikolais.