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Erika Thimey

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Erika Thimey
A newspaper photo of a woman with dark hair, looking downward and to her right.
Erika Thimey, from a 1941 American newspaper.
DiedSeptember 20, 2006
Hagerstown, Maryland
NationalityGerman, later American
Occupation(s)Dancer, dance educator
Years active1930s-1990s
Known forModern dance, liturgical dance

Erika Thimey (1910 – September 20, 2006) was a German dancer and dance educator, based for most of her career in Washington, D.C.

Early life


Thimey was born in Itzehoe, Germany in 1901. She trained as a dancer in Berlin, and in Dresden with Mary Wigman and Hanya Holm.[1][2]



Thimey performed one season with an opera in Dessau, before she moved to the United States in 1932.[3] In 1936, she danced the lead role of Undine in a large summer spectacle involving over 100 dancers and a live orchestra, celebrating the fountains in Chicago parks.[4] She was dance director at the North Shore Conservatory in Chicago, before she moved to Boston in 1938, to teach and dance with Austrian dancer Jan Veen.[5] She performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra, and toured the United States with Veen.[6][7]

Beginning during her Chicago years,[8] Thimey was known for her works in liturgical dance,[9][10] and was an active member of the Sacred Dance Guild of America.[1] "She regards sacred dancing simply as a modernization of the age-old pageantry of the church," explained a Chicago newspaper in 1941.[11]

Thimey was a dance teacher and choreographer in the Washington, D.C. area for most of her career. She was dance instructor at King-Smith Studio School.[12] She opened her own school, Dance Theatre Studios, in 1944, with classes for adults and children. Her students performed as the Washington Dance Theatre.[13][14][15] She also taught modern dance at Howard University,[16] and at various schools, camps, and community organizations.[1][17] Among her notable students were Paul Sanasardo[18] and Susan Rethorst.[19]

She was a co-founder of the Modern Dance Council of Washington in 1953. She retired from teaching in 1979. There was a retrospective concert of her works in 1980, at an art gallery on Capitol Hill.[20]

Personal life and legacy


Thimey retired to Smithsburg, Maryland in 1979, and lived in a converted church with her sister, Hertha Woltersdorf.[21] The sisters offered their unusual home for performance and exhibit space,[22][23] and Thimey worked with local churches on liturgical works until 2001. She died at a nursing home in Hagerstown, Maryland, in 2006, aged 96 years.

Thimey's papers, including films, videotapes, and sound recordings, are in the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.[1] There is a 1980 interview with Thimey on video in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library.[24] There is also a 1985 interview with Thimey (audio only) in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.[25] and some correspondence in the Pola Nirenska collection at the Library of Congress.[26]

The Erika Thimey Dance and Theatre Company, co-founded by James E. Mayo, continues to perform in the Washington area.[27] There is an Erika Thimey Scholarship in Dance at the University of Maryland.[28]


  1. ^ a b c d Archive record, Erika Thimey Collection, Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
  2. ^ Manning, Susan (2006). Ecstasy and the Demon: The Dances of Mary Wigman. U of Minnesota Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-8166-3802-4.
  3. ^ "Rhythmic Dances With Devotional Christmas Theme". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 1935-12-14. p. 7. Retrieved 2020-04-10 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ "103 South Side Girls in Cast of Fountain Dance; Three Night Spectacle to Open Friday". Chicago Tribune. 1936-07-12. p. 36. Retrieved 2020-04-11 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ Weber, Jody Marie (2009). The Evolution of Aesthetic and Expressive Dance in Boston. Cambria Press. pp. 111–112. ISBN 978-1-60497-621-2.
  6. ^ Martin, John (19 December 1941). "Veen-Thimey in Recital". The New York Times. p. 34 – via ProQuest.
  7. ^ "Boston Dancer Duo Pleases in Program at STC Last Night". The Maryville Daily Forum. 1943-04-02. p. 3. Retrieved 2020-04-10 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Religious Dance for Millikin". The Decatur Daily Review. 1938-03-10. p. 32. Retrieved 2020-04-11 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ Taylor, Margaret Fisk (2009-11-01). A Time to Dance: Symbolic Movement in Worship. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-60899-131-0.
  10. ^ "Dancer to Stage Sermon in Motion at Boro Church". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 1941-05-03. p. 10. Retrieved 2020-04-10 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ "Lord's Prayer is Theme for Church Dance". Chicago Tribune. 1941-03-23. p. 29. Retrieved 2020-04-10 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ Jewell, Margaret (February 1940). "News from the Dance Section". Journal of Health and Physical Education. 11 (5): 316–317. doi:10.1080/23267240.1940.10625910.
  13. ^ Wolfe, Katherine (May 1950). "Dance Section News". Journal of the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation. 21 (4): 242–246. doi:10.1080/23267232.1950.10626201.
  14. ^ "Erika Thimey's Dance Theatre Will Dance Two Evenings at Park Arts Festival". The Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland). 1974-06-24. p. 49. Retrieved 2020-04-10 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ "Erika Thimey Dancers to Perform". The Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland). 1975-06-18. p. 7. Retrieved 2020-04-10 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "From Washington D.C." Journal of the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation: 34. June 1954.
  17. ^ "Miss Erika Thimey to Dance Sunday at Camp Norfleet". The Burlington Free Press. 1951-08-11. p. 9. Retrieved 2020-04-11 – via Newspapers.com.
  18. ^ "Paul Sanasardo". Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  19. ^ "A Conversation about SUPA: Choreography in Depth". Contact Quarterly. June 2011. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  20. ^ Jackson, George (1980-05-17). "Erika Thimey". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  21. ^ Powell, Libbie (1971-06-23). "Smithsburg Church Now Home to Famed Dance Instructor". The Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland). p. 27. Retrieved 2020-04-10 – via Newspapers.com.
  22. ^ Sussman, Marcella (1980-09-14). "Church Building Becomes Home for 'Church Dancer' (1)". The Baltimore Sun. p. 288. Retrieved 2020-04-11 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ Sussman, Marcella (1980-09-14). "Church Building Becomes Home for 'Church Dancer' (2)". The Baltimore Sun. p. 289. Retrieved 2020-04-11 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ "Erika Thimey: dances and conversations". NYPL Digital Collections. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  25. ^ "Oral history interview with Erika Thimey". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  26. ^ "Pola Nirenska collection". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  27. ^ "Erika Thimey Dance and Theater Company". GuideStar. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  28. ^ "Scholarships, fellowships and grants". School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, University of Maryland. Retrieved 2020-04-10.