Film Reviews

MISS HILL: MAKING DANCE MATTER

By • Jan 21st, 2015 •

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“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

This quotation was the rule in which Martha Hill lived and dedicated her life. Perhaps she was aware of these words by the German philosopher who died three months before her birth. This woman from the bible belt, where dance was considered lewd and forbidden, climbed the ranks during a time when social injustice dominated as she thrived during the great depression, remaining a defining force through the Reagan era to create, nurture, and give everlasting life to the art of dance.

Art is a passion and Martha’s passion was modern dance. In a life that spanned nine decades of undeterred dedication to move the form forward, it is no stretch to state that Miss Hill was the nucleus of its movement; a whirlwind who knew no bounds, touching the lives of those with similar desire. Today her legacy is its continuance, the students mentored, their dance companies, and even a marriage.

In the dance world, notables such as Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, and Hanya Holm are part of the Hill saga. As Julliard’s first Director of Dance, modern dance and ballet would be taught equally as they must compliment one another. This sets the stage for a drama that could be referred to as The Battle of Lincoln Center. Co-founder of the New York City Ballet, George Balanchine, a friend of the Rockefeller family who were creating Lincoln Center as a cultural center. Importance of this historic project was so great that President Eisenhower partook in the ceremonial ground breaking. This feisty and relentless ‘dance teacher’ took on Balanchine and big money with a grassroots campaign. If this were depicted in a modern comedy, she would have set social media ablaze climaxing in a dance-off — winner takes Lincoln Center.

The documentary chronicles her life by presenting moving and still images that parallel the technical capabilities of the times during her almost century long existence. Black and white film footage, 4×5 photos, snapshots, beautiful large format portraits, and barely surviving video footage, all pay tribute to her lasting memory. Everyone interviewed who knew Hill speaks of her with fond memories, amusing anecdotes, and above all – reverence.

As the film states, most people do not know Martha Hill. Her story is quite epic and what an interesting biopic it would be. If you are a dancer, you owe it to yourself as an artist to see, MISS HILL: MAKING DANCE MATTER, to honor the person that paved your way to the dance floor.

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