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Erika Hanka

(1905—1958)


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(b Vincovci, Croatia, 18 Jun. 1905; d Vienna, 15 May 1958)

Austrian dancer, choreographer, and director. She studied modern dance under Bodenwieser (1923–4) and ballet with Irmgard Thomas, making her debut with Fritz Kaiserfeld in Graz, 1927. The same year she founded a school of dance and gymnastics in Vienna. Between 1929 and 1935 she danced at the Düsseldorf Opera House where she was also assistant to the ballet director (1931–5), after which she joined Ballets Jooss in exile in England (1935–8). She returned to Germany to work as choreographer and ballet director at Apollo Theatre Cologne (1938–9), then at Essen Opera House (1939–40), Hamburg State Opera House (1940–2), and finally, after the success of her ballet Joan von Zarissa (mus. Egk, 1940, revived 1941 in Vienna), she took over direction of the Vienna State Opera Ballet (1942–58). The company was struggling with low standards and morale but during the war and post-war years she succeeded in building up a strong repertory of works—many choreographed by herself—in the modern Ausdruckstanz idiom. Her best-known work is probably The Moor of Venice (mus. Blacher, 1955). As the public's taste for ballet revived in the late 1940s she began to focus on more classical training and repertory. The last premiere she oversaw was of a Balanchine work, marking the company's return to an international status.

Subjects: Dance.


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