Dancers’ Voices Across Time, in the Things Left Behind

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Dancers’ Voices Across Time, in the Things Left Behind

Primavera Boman inherited the London home of her mother, Hilde Holger, more than 20 years ago and looking at each item has been revelatory. “I’m learning who my family is,” Boman said.

Boman had known that her mother was a prominent expressionist dancer and choreographer in Vienna, Bombay and London. But she didn’t know the extent of Holger’s influential dance career, first performing with Gertrud Bodenwieser’s dance group, and then with her own touring company, Hilde Holger Tanzgruppe, all before World War II.

“I had no idea that my mother was so well known in Vienna before Hitler came,” Boman said. “I’m becoming like a historian, a conservationist, an archivist.”

After years of trying, though, Boman still hasn’t placed the collection. She has done the sorting and the cataloging, and maintains a detailed inventory of every sketch and letter, ready for the opportunity to make her donation. Even in cases when an archive readily expresses interest, that initial work is mainly the family’s responsibility, and it requires endurance.

Léo Holder, the son of the artist, dancer and choreographer Geoffrey Holder and the dancer Carmen de Lavallade, 92, said that when Holder died in 2014 some of the stored items hadn’t been seen in 30 years. “They lived in a 5,000-square-foot loft,” Léo said of his parents. “By the time we moved out of that loft, there was maybe 500 square feet of walking space left.”

Until then, he hadn’t realized the scope of the materials. “It’s movie history, it’s Black history, it’s Black theater history,” he said. “It’s more than just one thing.”

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