Browsing Theses and Dissertations by Subject "Dance History"
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Hanya Holm in America, 1931-1936: Dance, Culture and CommunityThough she is widely considered one of the "four pioneers" of American modern dance, German-American Hanya Holm (1893-1992) occupies a shadowy presence in dance history literature. She has often been described as someone who fell in love with America, purged her approach of Germanic elements, and emerged with a more universal one. Her "Americanization" has served as evidence of the Americanness of modern dance, thus eclipsing the German influence on modern dance. This dissertation challenges that narrative by casting new light on Holm's worldview and initial intentions in the New World, and by articulating the specifics of the first five years of her American career. In contrast to previous histories, I propose that Holm did not come to the U.S. to forge an independent career as a choreographer; rather, she came as a missionary for Mary Wigman and her Tanz-Gemeinschaft (dance cultural community). To Wigman and Holm, dance was not only an art form; it was a way of life, a revolt against bourgeois sterility and modern alienation, and a utopian communal vision, even a religion. Artistic expression was only one aspect of modern dance's larger purpose. The transformation of social life was equally important, and Holm was a fervent believer in the need for a widespread amateur dance culture. This study uses a historical methodology and accesses traces of the past such as lectures, school reports, promotional material, newspaper articles, personal notebooks, correspondence, photographs, and other material--much of it discussed here for the first time. These sources provide evidence for new descriptions and interpretations of Holm's migration from Germany to the U.S. and from German dance to American dance. I examine cultural contexts that informed Holm's beliefs, such as early twentieth century German life reform and body culture; provide a sustained analysis of the curriculum of the New York Wigman School of the Dance; and consider how the politicization of dance in the 1930s--in both Germany and the U.S.--affected Holm and her work.