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SUNDAY, JAN 27 2013, 02:00 PM

The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art presents Hilde Holger—Her Legacy (2012, dir. Primavera Boman, 60 min.), a documentary on the life of Austrian-born expressionist dancer and choreographer Hilde Holger. After fleeing Nazi Vienna, Holger founded dance schools in both Bombay and London, and pioneered inclusive dance.

A discussion between Boman—the filmmaker and Holger’s daughter—and journalist Stephanie Genkin will follow.


By the time she died in 2001 at the age of 95, Hilde Holger had transformed modern dance, first as a pioneering dancer and choreographer and later as a celebrated dance teacher. As a principal exponent of expressionist dance, she has had a lasting influence on three generations of choreographers and dancers. As an educator, she insisted on the highest standards, waging a constant struggle against uncritical self-glorification, against surrendering to vulgarity. In her art and her teaching she never shied from taking great risks, occasionally scandalizing critics and audiences in the process. But her students adored her.

Her vision of dance was one of total theater, embracing radical design and movement. A dancer, she contended, must be a technician, an artist and a full human being. No movement could be important if it wasn't guided by thought and emotion.

Her dances, critics said, offered audiences an escape -- from the ordinary world of the intellect, and from our sad and serious reality. Holger was capable of taking people into the country of the soul of myth and legend and fairy-tale, of color and rhythm, where all our sadness dissolves into rainbow colored clouds. And so she populated her ballets with giants and fairy-children in the garden of a happy land witches dancing in the fire and darkness on the Brocken mountain performing their unholy rites crystals and gnomes weaving their rhythms in the caverns of the earth, and the Golem, the terrible elemental of dark power. 

Perhaps only a city of such cultural ferment as Vienna between the wars could have produced an innovative artist like Hilde Holger who became both the embodiment of expressionist dance and its passionate advocate. "I do not want you to function as a machine," she exhorted her students in Vienna, Bombay and London, the three cities she would call home during the course of her long career. "I expect from you heart, brain, imagination and expression in your movements. And humanity human feelings as expressed in the art of Van Gogh, Picasso and Goya." In 1968 she became the first choreographer to put young adults and children with severe learning disabilities on stage in a commercial theatre.

[Image: Hilde Holger performing Mechanical Ballet, Vienna, 1926]

More information >> hildeholger.com


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The Brooklyn Museum
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Forum, 4th Floor
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, New York 11238

This program is free with Museum admission.

Please visit the >> Brooklyn Museum's website for information on admission.