Magazine article Dance Teacher

The Other Martha

Magazine article Dance Teacher

The Other Martha

Article excerpt

The Other Martha

A new documentary tells the fascinating story of Martha Hill.

Martha Hill (1900-1995) may very well be the most important figure in American dance history that people know the least about. A new documentary by filmmaker Greg Vander Veer is about to change all that. Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter gives the great dance legend her rightful place in history.

Put simply, Hill is the reason that modern dance flourished in the United States. In 1934, she launched The Bennington School of the Dance, with a faculty that included Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham, Charles Weidman and Hanya Holm. As the founder of the dance department at Juilliard, she was the first to combine modern dance and ballet training in an academic setting, which is now the norm.

"She took away the names of the techniques in classes," says Daniel Lewis, who was present at the very first conversations about the film in the 1980s. "Your class schedule would say the name of the teacher." Lewis, the now retired dean of dance at New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida, worked as Hill's assistant at Juilliard for 20 years.

Another of Hill's innovations has become a tradition that continues today at Juilliard: Dance students benefit from performing the works of professional choreographers. "We might not know Anna Sokolow's work if it weren't for Martha. About 70 percent of Sokolow's work was done on Juilliard students," says Lewis, who danced with the José Limón Dance Company from 1962 to 1976. …

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