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Hilde Holger

Also Known As: "Hilde (Hilda) Boman-Behram"
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Death: September 24, 2001 (95)
Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Alfred Sofer and Elise Wohl , Sofer
Ex-wife of Ardershir Kavasji Boman-Behram, Doctor and Homeopath
Mother of Private and Darius Boman-Behram
Sister of Hedwig Sofer

Managed by: Rina Talmore
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Hilde Holger

Hilde Holger


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.

Hilda came from a liberal Jewish family and the daughter of Alfred and Elise Sofer Schreiber. Her father wrote poetry, and had died by 1908. Her grandfather made shoes for the Austrian court.

In 1938, Hilde Holger, of Jewish extraction, was forced by the Nazis to close her school and was forbidden to perform or work. Many of her family were to perish in Auschwitz.

In 1939, she emigrated to Bombay where she met her husband, a Parsi (Zoroastrian) doctor and homeopath, Arde Bohman Behram.

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. Her second child, a son named Darius Boman-Behram, was born in 1949. Darius, who had Down syndrome in addition to a severe heart defect and wet lungs this 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.

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.


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. 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.


Hilde Holger was especially proud of her work with the mentally disabled. Her motives were deeply personal. In 1949, she gave birth to a son,With the same resolve and perseverance that characterized all endeavors she undertook, Hilde Holger methodically set about the healing and rehabilitation of her son. She created a form of dance therapy which children like Darius could benefit from.

Obituary by Primavera Boman Behram The Guardian, Friday 12 September 2008:

Further Reading

Jewish Women's Archives

Leslie Horvitz: The Hilde Holger Biography.

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

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Hilde Holger's Timeline

October 18, 1905
Vienna, Austria

Year 1905
Numerative 2185
Code 1
Volume Wien
Last Name Sofer
First Name Hilda
Parents/Annotation Alfred/

September 24, 2001
Age 95
Greater London, England, United Kingdom