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Martha Hill's Legacy

Martha Hill was the founding director of the dance programs/departments at New York University’s School of Education (teaching dance in the Physical Education department starting in 1930 and initiating the graduate program in dance education in 1938), Bennington College (1932), and The Juilliard School (1951) as well as the summer festivals The Bennington School of the Dance (1934) and The Connecticut College School of the Dance (1948), precursors to The American Dance Festival, one of the most important dance festivals in the United States, now held at Duke University. With these programs and festivals, Hill established early and diverse models for dance in higher education: Dance in Physical Education, Dance as part of the Liberal Arts, Dance in a Conservatory, and the Summer Dance Festival. It should be noted that she held full-time appointments at Bennington College and New York University simultaneously while also directing summer dance programs, which indicates her enormous drive and energy. Hill brought in renowned professional choreographers to teach her students at all of the institutions where she directed dance. By bringing professionals into higher education, she exposed her students to the highest artistic standards. She also became a benefactor, through the institutions, to the dance artists by giving them teaching work and producing their choreography. In addition, she combined ballet and modern together as a training method at Juilliard, a revolutionary concept in the 1950s in the United States. This affected the blending and merging of the two forms as other training institutions followed her model, leading dancers to become highly skilled in both genres. When the Juilliard Dance Division was in danger of being closed, at the time of the school’s move to Lincoln Center, Hill waged a fierce battle to keep the division intact, and she won. Hill was the moving force behind the scenes of 20th century American concert dance and dance education and tied the two together in a lasting relationship that continues today to the betterment of both.

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