Hilde Holger

1905 – 2001

by Marina Sassenberg

Water, fire and earth, the elements which reportedly occur as themes in Hilde Holger’s solo dances and choreography, fascinated her from the age of three, when she discovered the magic world of her grandfather’s garden. Born on October 18, 1905 in Vienna, she had been living in her grandparents’ home in the city’s suburb of Pötzleinsdorf from the time of her father’s death together with her mother and her sister, Heidi. Her parents were Alfred Sofer and Elise, née Schreiber.

Her mother encouraged the child’s imagination and joy in movement, so that in 1919, at the age of fourteen, she began studying with Gertrud Bodenwieser at the State Academy for Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna. Two years later she became Bodenwieser’s assistant and participated in establishing the Bodenwieser Group. In 1923 she gave her first solo recital in the House of the Vienna Secession movement. This was followed by performances in France, Poland and Czechoslovakia. In 1926 she left the Bodenwieser Group to establish her own dance school, the New School for Movement Art, in the baroque Vienna Palais Ratibor. In the period that followed she produced works with both political and Jewish themes: Wacht auf! (Wake Up!), a movement chorus in the framework of the Rote-Hilfe-Revue (1926), Four Pictures from the Time of the Paris Commune (1927), Hebräischer Tanz (Hebrew Dance, 1929), Kabbalistischer Tanz (1933) and Ahasuerus (1936).

In 1939 a friend helped her to emigrate to Bombay, where she lived for nine years, first working as a therapeutic masseuse (a profession she had acquired at the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna prior to emigrating), then as a solo dancer and from 1945 as the director of a school for dance. In 1946 she gave birth to a daughter, Primavera, with whom she moved to England in 1948, in the wake of her physician husband, Adi Boman-Behram. The religious strife between Hindus and Muslims and the subsequent massacres were unbearable for someone whose entire family had been massacred by the Germans.

In 1951 she had her London breakthrough with Under the Sea, based on a composition by Camille Saint-Saëns, which was first performed in the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. With her concept of using the altar steps as a stage, Hilde Holger consciously provoked a public discussion of the use of churches as theater space.

In 1949, Hilde Holger gave birth to her son Darius, who suffered from Down Syndrome. This led her to begin teaching dance to other young people with the same condition. A student of hers who attended one of these lessons was at first amazed to discover that when things did not go well Holger gave free rein to her temperament and scolded her pupils for their errors. On second thought, she realized that Holger was right in treating them just as she would “normal” students. This work led to Holger’s creating Towards the Light, to music by Edvard Grieg. First performed in 1969 at the Sadlers Wells Theater in London, the pioneering work introduced dance therapy to England.

Art and culture in the metropolis (Rockpaintings, 1975) and the processing of her experiences in India (Asparas, 1983) were the major themes of her works, which were performed primarily at the Hampstead Theatre and the Commonwealth Theatre. However, she “never abandoned her Vienna point of departure, as a philosophical place” (Hirschbach/Tavorian, 61).

Hilde Holger died in London on September 22, 2001.


Hirschbach, Denny, and Rick Tavorian. Die Kraft des Tanzes. Hilde Holger: Wien-Bombay-London. On the Life and Work of the Dancer, Choreographer and Dance Teacher. Bremen: 1990.

A detailed index of her works can be found on pages 82–89.

Archival material c/o Denny Hirschbach, verlag Zeichen und Spuren, Bremen.

Lexikon Jüdische Frauen. Edited by Jutta Dick and Marina Sassenberg.


This encyclopedia was first published in 2005. Do you have updates to this person's life? Links to online resources of interest? Are there areas of this person's life you feel should be mentioned in the article, or mentioned in more detail? Let us know.


This looks like an excellent addition to the Bibliography. Many thanks for documenting these references and posting them here.

HILDE HOLGER (1905-2001)

Here are some other books that Hilde Holger is in.

Hilde Holger’s Bibliography

1. Kunst in Oesterreich 1934 Verlag Kunst in Oesterreich Almanach Leoben

2. Exhibition of dance photos and papers, of Viennese expressionist dancers, first shown in Australia, then in London at the Royal Festival Hall; opening on December 16th 1981. (Included in the show was Anna Pavlova) lists scanned

3. Biography. Die Kraft des Tanzes, Hilde Holger by Denny Hirschbach and Rick
Takvorian– Wien, Bombay, London. Zeichen + Spuren, 1990. Verlag GmbH, Bremen.

4. Tanz Foto, Annaherunger und Experimente 1880 – 1946 Osterrerchisches Foto Archive in Museum Modermen Kunst; Museum des 20 Jahrhonderts, Wein, December 1990 – January 1991. Dr Monika Faber.

5. Striding Out by Stephanie Jorden. Published by Dance Books Ltd.,
London 1992

6. Zwischen Aufbruch und Verfolgung Kunstlerinnen der Zwanzinger und dreisiger jahre – Zeichen + Spuren 1993. Verlag GmbH, Bremen.

7. Judische Frauen im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert Lexikon zu Leben und Werk – Rowohit Taschenbuch Verlag 1993, GmbH, Reinbek bei Hamburg.

8. Imboden – published 1996 in Birn, Switzerland by Rene Perret (forgotten photographer)

9. Kringel, Schingel, Borgia, Materialien zu Peter Hammerschlag. Verlag Turia und Kant, Wein 1997

10. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture,
1910-1935 by Karl Toepfer, University of California Press 1997

11. Design Fur die Zukunft by Roger Coleman. Verlag DuMont. Orig.-Ausg. – Koln 1997

12. Anton Josef Trcka, Edward Weston, Helmut Newton – Kestener Gesellschaft, Scalo Zurich – Berlin – New York. 1st edition 1998.

13. Antios – Anton Josef Trcka 1893-1940 – Verlag Christian Brandstatter, Wien – Munchen 1999
14. Osterreich Tanzt: History and the Present, ……published by Festspielhaus, Bohlau Verlag 2001, Wien, Koln, Weimar..edited by Andrea Amort and Mimi Wunderer-Gosch (Hg.)

15. Making an Entrance by Adam Benjamin- published by Routledge (UK),
December 2001

16. Frauen in Wien. Ein Fotoband von Alisa Douer published by Magistrat der Stadt Wien 2002

17. Wiener Melange 1902 by Heike Herrberg & Heidi Wagner. Edition Ebersbach, Berlin 2002

18. Inclusive Design, published by Springer, August 2003

19. Creative and expressive Dance Movement Theory for older adults using the Holger Method – Who says it’s all down hill from here? By Jaqueline Waltz,. University of Herts,, 2003

20. Rethinking Dance History edited by Alexandra Carter published by Routledge (US & UK), March 2004

21. Quasi una fantasia - Juden und die Musikstadt Wien Exhibition at the Jewish Museum Vienna. Leon Botstein and Werner Hanak. 14thMay 2003- 21stOctober 2003 [Second catalogue produced in English for the same show presented later in New York at the Yeshiva University Museum, 8thFebruary 2004 - 30thJune 2004.]

22. Wien,Stadt der Juden. - Die Welt der Tante Jolesch - Exhibition at the Jewish Museum Vienna. Joachim Riedl. 19thMay 2004 – 31st October 2004.
Verlag Paul Zsolnay.

23. Anarchic Dance, by Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie.. Published by Routledge (UK & US), February 2006

24. Hilde Holger’s early Viennese solos were shown in the British Library in a show titled “Breaking the Rules. The Printed Face of the Avant Garde 1900- 1937”. 9th November 2007 –30th March 30th 2008. --Curator, and author, Dr Stephen Bury.
The videos were of solos reconstructed by Liz Aggiss,. Music played by Billy Cowie.

25. The Other Schindlers by Agnes Grunwald-Spier. Published by The History Press, UK, May 2010

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How to cite this page

Sassenberg, Marina. "Hilde Holger." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. April 8, 2010 <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/holger-hilde>.