Hilde Holger

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Hilde Holger
HH Portrait 1925.tif
Born Hilde Sofer
(1905-10-18)18 October 1905
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died 24 September 2001(2001-09-24) (aged 95)
Camden, London
Nationality British, Austrian
Known for Dance, choreography and teaching
Movement Expressionism and Integrated dance
Spouse(s) Adershir Kavershir Boman-Behram (1940-1975, 1989-2000)
Website Official website
Hilde Holger in 1926
Hilde Holger in 1925
Hilde Holger in 1925
Hilde Holger in 1926

Hilde Boman-Behram (birth name Hilde Sofer, stage name Hilde Holger; 18 October 1905 – 24 September 2001) was an expressionist dancer, choreographer and dance teacher whose pioneering work in integrated dance transformed modern dance.[1][2]


Holger came from a liberal Jewish family. She was born in 1905, the daughter of Alfred and Elise Sofer Schreiber.[3] Her father wrote poetry, and had died by 1908. Her grandfather made shoes for the Austrian court.

After Nazi Germany invaded Austria, Holger fled Vienna in 1939, because her entry into England was denied, she went to India.[4] In Mumbai she met the homeopath and art loving Dr. Ardershir Kavasji Boman-Behram, they married in 1940.[5] Her mother, step-father and fourteen other relatives all perished in the Holocaust.

Hilde Holger had two children. The first was born 1946 in India, her daughter Primavera Boman-Behram. In New York she became a dancer, sculptor and jewelry designer. In 1948 Holger's family emigrated to Britain.[5] Her second child, a son named Darius Boman-Behram, was born in 1949. He had Down syndrome, but inspired Holger to work with physically disabled people.


Hilde Holger started to dance at age six. At that time she was too young to join the Vienna State Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, so she settled for ballroom dancing lessons taken with her sister (Hedi Sofer), until she was accepted to study with radical dancer Gertrud Bodenwieser,[6] then a professor at the Vienna State Academy. They were admirers of the work of Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis, as well as the artists of the Secession. Holger soon rose to be Bodenwieser's principal dancer and friend, and toured with Bodenwieser's company all over Western and Eastern Europe. She toured with her own Hilde Holger Dance Group as well. At age eighteen she had her first solo performance in the Viennese Secession. Later in the Viennese Hagenbund and theaters in Vienna, Paris and Berlin, her much-lauded expressionist dance caused quite a stir. Because of her passion for dance, in 1926 she formed the New School for Movement Arts in Palais Ratibor, right in the heart of Vienna. Her children's performances were danced in parks and in front of monuments there.

Javanische Impression, 1931

On 12 March 1938 Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany sent troops into Austria, and adopted a law to unify the country with Austria, at that time it was forbidden for Jews to perform. She received help to flee Austria from her friend Charles Petrach. She decided to go to India because that country's art was the most compelling to Western people, she said at that time.

Dance with Symbols, by Charles Petrasch in 1940's India

In India she had the opportunity to incorporate new experiences into her work, especially the hand movements of Indian dance. Classical Indian dance has over three hundred of them, used to express life and nature. In 1941 Holger founded a new school of dance in Bombay, she took students of all race, religion and nationality without prejudice. Like when she was in Vienna, Holger again took part in the artistic community. Amongst her friends included the Indian dancer Ram Gopal, he danced in Holger's dance school. In 1948 because of the partition of India and the growing violence between Muslims and Hindus she emigrated again, this time to Britain.

Once in England, her Holger Modern Ballet Group performed in parks, churches and theaters. She again opened a new dance school, The Hilde Holger School of Contemporary Dance and remained faithful to their style of teaching that the body and mind must form one unit in order to be a good dancer. Her breakthrough in London, 1951, celebrated Holger with the premiere of "Under the Sea", inspired by the composition by Camille Saint-Saens.

In 1972 she performed a piece entitled "Man against flood", it was in honour of the Chinese Communist Party member Rewi Alley. It included dancers forming a human wall against a flood of water.[7]

Her performance "Apsaras" (1983) explored her experiences in India. In the summer of 1983 she went back to India, where she had been last in the year 1948. There she worked as a choreographer for a large dance group directed by Sachin Shankar.

Holger was particularly proud of her work with the mentally handicapped. She created a form of dance therapy for children who, like her son Darius, have Down syndrome. Holger was the first choreographer who mixed professional dancers with young adults with severe learning disabilities. In 1968 at the Sadler's Wells, Holger orchestrated "Towards the Light", with music by Edvard Grieg. It was pioneering, innovative, and one of the first integrated dance pieces to be seen on a professional stage.[8]

Life work[edit]

Hilde Holger left a lasting impression on three generations of dancers and choreographers. While teaching her standards were high and she was not afraid of risk.[2] She accepted students without prejudice, including students with disabilities, as long as they were sincere. One of her students, Wolfgang Stange, continued her work with people with learning difficulties, like Down syndrome and autism, as well as people with physical disabilities. Stange's Amici Dance Theatre Company which was the first physically integrated dance company in Great Britain, which created a performance entitled, HILDE, that was performed at the Riverside Theatre in London in 1996, and at the Odeon in Vienna in 1998. This HILDE Performance in Vienna excited the Ballet Master of the Vienna State Opera Ballet, who in turn put a performance on the stage of the Opera House with people with learning disabilities. These performances were received with great applause!

In her last few weeks Holger still held dance lessons in her basement studio in Camden, London, where she lived for more than fifty years. Among some of her students included Lindsay Kemp, Liz Aggiss, Jane Asher, Royston Maldoom and Carl Campbell.


Year Performance Music Notes
1923 Trout
1926, Funeral March for a Canary Lord Berners
1926, 1988 Mechanical Ballet Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack
1929 Hebraischer Tanz solo Alexander Veprik
1929 Sarabande und Bourree Johann Sebastian Bach
1929 Tanz nach Rumaischene Motive Béla Viktor János Bartók
1929 The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastien Claude-Achille Debussy
1929 Chaconne & Variations George Frideric Handel
1929 Mutter Erde Heinz Graupner
1929 Lebenswende Karel Boleslav Jirák
1929 Englischer Schafertanz Percy Aldridge Grainger
1929 Marsch Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev
1931 Javanische Impression Heinz Graupner
1933 Kabbalistischer Tanz Vittorio Rieti
1936 Ahasver Marcel Rubin
1937 Golem Wilckens
1948 Russian Fairy Tales Alexander Borodine, Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky
1948 Emperors new Clothes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
1948 Pavane Maurice Ravel
1948 Viennese Waltz Johann Strauss II
1948 Annunciation
1948, 1954 Selfish Giant
1948 Tales and Legends in Modern Ballet
1952 Dance with Tambourines Fritz Dietrich
1952 Slavic Dance Antonín Dvořák
1952 Nocturne Heinz Graupner
1952 Dance with Cymbals on the Indian Ocean
1954 Aztec Cult (Sacrifice)
1954 Barbar the Elephant
1954 Old Vienna
1954 Orchid
1954 Rhythm of the East
1954 Tibetan Prayer Songs
1955 Hoops Georges Bizet
1955 Jazz Heinz Graupner
1955 Men & Horses John S. Beckett
1955 Valse Caprice Aram Khachaturian
1955 Toccata Paradies
1955 Galliarde-Siciliano Ottorino Respighi
1955 Under the Sea Camille Saint-Saëns
1955 Angels
1955 Dance Etudes
1956 Prelude Johann Sebastian Bach
1956 Theme and Variations George Frideric Handel
1956 Etude
1957 Allegro Vivaci Johann Sebastian Bach
1957 Stranger Aaron Copland
1957 Café Dansant George Gershwin
1957 Witches Kitchen and Walpurgisnight Paul Dukas
1957 Nativity George Frideric Handel, Franz Schubert, Johann Sebastian Bach
1957 The Toyshop Aram Khachaturian
1957 March Lev Knipper
1957 Sale Johann Strauss II
1957, 1961, 1974 Egypt Giuseppe Verdi
1957 Bird
1957 The Hunter and the Geese
1957 Madonna
1958 Dance with Bells John S. Beckett
1958 Ritual Fire Dance Manuel de Falla
1958 Song of the Earth Antonín Dvořák
1958 Dance for four Women Joaquín Turina
1958 Dance Divertissement
1960 Allegro Arcangelo Corelli
1960 Imaginary Invalid Gioachino Antonio Rossini
1960 The Farmer’s Curst Wife Peter Warlock
1960 Frankie and Johannie Peter Warlock
1960 Dawn of Life
1960 Secret Annexe
1960 West Indian Spiritual
1961 Pierrot Johann Sebastian Bach
1961 The House of Bernarda Alba (The Sisters) Joaquín Turina written by Federico Lorca
1961 Metamorphoses Ovid
1961 Dance for Two Germaine Tailleferre
1963 Narcissus (The Image) Heinz Graupner
1963 Lady Isobel and the Elf Knight Peter Warlock
1963 Dream Wilckens
1963 Dance for Men
1965 Nightwalkers Olivier Messiaen
1965 Canticle of the Sun Johann Pachebel
1965 Ballad of the Hanged (Villons Epitaph)
1965 Cain’s Morning
1965 Creation of Adam & Eve Olivier Messiaen
1965 Saint Francis and his sermon to the birds
1968 Salome Philip Croot
1968 The Wise & Foolish Virgins Philip Croot
1968 Towards the Light Edvard Greig
1968 Angelic Prelude – Inspirations Giuseppe Torelli
1970 The Scarecrow
1971 Snowchild
1972 Tribal Nocturne Béla Viktor János Bartók
1972 Tranquillity Alan Hovhaness
1972, 1974 Bamboo Aram Khachaturian
1972 Shiva and the Grasshopper Gordon Langford
1972, 1974 Renaissance Federico Mompou
1972, 1974 Hieronymus Bosch Roger Cutts
1972 Inspirations Sergei Rachmaninoff, Claude Debussy
1972 Suspension Maurice Ravel
1972 The Hypopatic Doctor Gioachino Antonio Rossini, Franz Schubert
1972 Bauhaus Erik Satie
1972 Embrace Erik Satie
1972, 1979 Prelude Giuseppe Torelli
1972 Man against Flood Yin Chang-Tsung
1972 Flight
1972 Honore Daumier
1974 Paul Klee Spring Awakening Béla Viktor János Bartók
1974 Archaic
1974 The Hunter and the Hunted
1974 Spring Awakening
1975 Mobiles Alfredo Casella
1975 Rockpaintings Roger Cutts
1975 Toulouse Lautrec Erik Satie
1976 The Park
1977 Prelude and Chorale César Franck
1977 Sacred and Profane Dance
1979 Tower of Mothers Carl Orff
1979 We are Dancing Johann Sebastian Bach
1979 Tradisches Ballet choreographed by Oskar Schlemmer
1979 Homage to Barbara Hepworth Heitor Villa-Lobos
1979 African Poetry
1979 Apsaras
1983 Poems on a Boy’s Painting poems by Ke Yan, pictures by Bu Di
1983 The Bow and Arrow
1983 Fishes
1983 The Letter
1983 The Manikin
1983 The Penguin Story
1983 Pick a Back
1983 Sea and Sand
1983 Sea – Clouds – Sparkling Lighthouse – Flames
1983 Umbrellas
1983 What is a Poem
1984 Scherzo Frédéric Chopin
1984 The City Marcel Rubin
1984 Don Quixote
1984 Ritual
1988 Children of the Vorstadt Franz Lehár
1988 Death and the Maiden Franz Schubert
1988 Hands David Sutton-Anderson
1988 Four Seasons Antonio Vivaldi
1988 The Family Hugo Wolf
1988 Childrens Games
1988 Egon Schiele in Memoriam
1988 Flemish Picture Sheet
1988 Fluteplayers
1988 The Least is the Most
1988 Models
1995 Whales
2000 Rhythms of the Unconscious Mind


  1. ^ "Hilde Holger  : Central European Expressionist Dancer". www.50yearsindance.com/category/hilde-holger/. 2011. Retrieved 2016-02-12. 
  2. ^ a b "Hilde Holger  : Central European Expressionist Dancer". www.hildeholger.com. 2007. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Julia Pascal (2000-03-08). "Adi Boman : Scientist on an unresolved search for a cancer cure". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  5. ^ a b "Ardeshir Kavasji Boman Behram 1909–2000". sueyounghistories.com. 2008-12-22. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  6. ^ Vernon-Warren, B. and Warren, C. (Eds) (1999) Gertrud Bodenwieser and Vienna's Contribution to Ausdruckstanz. Routledge. ISBN 90-5755-035-0, pg. 22
  7. ^ Lei, W. (28 October 1972) Man Against Flood. The New Evening Post.
  8. ^ Julia Pascal (2001-09-26). "Hilde Holger : As a dancer and teacher she kept the spirit of German expressionism alive in London". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Denny Hirschbach, Rick Takvorian (Hg.)(1990): The Power of Dance. Hilde Holger. Wien.Bombay.London.Bremen: characters + tracks. ISBN 3-924588-19-8

External links[edit]