Dancing With Principle: Hanya Holm in Colorado, 1941–1983

Boulder, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 2001.
Index, sources, notes, appendixes, photos. xii + 190 pages.
6 x 9 inches. $45.00 hardcover; $17.50 softcover.

     We all know Claudia Gitelman as an immaculate scholar, and her book, Dancing With Principle, Hanya Holm in Colorado, 1941-1983, proves us right.  However, along with facts she gives us a lot of reminescent fun.  Along with where, how, why, what, and when, she tells about much about “who,” and most of them we all know.
     The years she covers are the years of the coming of age of American Modern Dance, reminding us of the aesthetic debt we owe to Hanya.  There are so many hidden goodies regarding movement and aesthetic philosophy that I became reacquainted the energy, drive and purpose that I knew as Hanya.   — Ruth Grauert

You may purchase this book at Dancing With Principle: Hanya Holm in Colorado, 1941–1983

Dancing With Principle is also available in ebook format through libraries that are members of netLibrary and have purchased the title.


Dancing With Principle: Hanya Holm in Colorado, 1941–1983
Review by Modupe Labode, Colorado Historical Society

For forty-three years, Hanya Holm, a central figure in modern dance, led a summer school at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. This school not only enhanced the artistic reputation of the city but also was an important center for dance education in the United States. The book's author spent her first summer at Colorado College in 1959; Claudia Gitelman continued to be associated with Holm until the dancer's death in 1992.

Although Hanya Holm's name may not be familiar to the casual follower of modern dance, dance historians consider her to be one of the “big four” modern dance innovators. (Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Wiedman round out the quartet.) Most people in the United States became familiar with Holm's work through her choreography for several Broadway musicals, including Kiss Me, Kate and My Fair Lady. Holm also directed the New York premiere of The Ballad of Baby Doe.

Holm, née Johanna Kuntze, was born in Germany in 1898. She studied dance with Mary Wigman, and in 1931 Holm moved to New York City to establish a school to teach her mentor's technique. With Hitler's ascent to power, Americans became suspicious of a school teaching dance techniques developed in Germany. Holm, with Wigman's assent, changed the name of the school to the “Hanya Holm Studio.” The dancer thus began a career in the United States and became well known as a choreographer and teacher. Gitelman carefully analyzes Holm's constantly changing relationships with both Colorado College and her students during the four decades of summer schools. The author also provides a balanced assessment of the end of Holm's relationship with Colorado College in 1983. Gitelman is herself a choreographer and a professor emerita at Rutgers University and provides great insight into Holm's career as a teacher. The author conducted a wide variety of interviews with people associated with Holm at different stages of her career and has used these interviews to good effect.

Gitelman makes it clear that she is not writing a biography; rather she focuses on Holm in Colorado Springs, an aspect of Holm's career that has been neglected. However, the author seems to have assumed that the readers have some background in dance, either as performers, students, teachers, or dedicated fans. Given these parameters, a reader who is not familiar with the world of modern dance (such as this reader) is not provided with the necessary context to fully appreciate Holm's work. For example, a brief sketch of Holm's life in Germany would have been helpful. It is also difficult to keep track of what Holm was doing when she was away from Colorado Springs. Scholars of modern dance will appreciate this book. Gitelman provides two appendixes detailing the students enrolled at the dance program and the programs of the Colorado College summer dance concerts. This book also contributes to the study of Colorado Springs as a center for the arts.

Modupe Labode, chief historian for the Colorado Historical Society, formerly taught history at Iowa State University. She received her Ph.D. degree from Oxford University and has written articles on missionaries in southern Africa.

Published online August 2002