Mary Anthony, a national treasure and legend of modern dance, died in her dance studio home in the East Village in New York City on May 31, 2014 at the age of 97. Anthony was recognized as one of the leaders of the modern dance movement both as a choreographer and an exceptional teacher. She received countless accolades, citations and awards including the 2004 recipient of the Bessie Award for lifetime contribution to the field of modern dance, the Martha Hill Award in 2006, and the Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke’s Balasaraswati Award from American Dance Festival. In 2011 she received a citation from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer at her 95th birthday, declaring November 11 as Mary Anthony Day.
A native of Kentucky, in the early 40’s Anthony received a scholarship in dance with Hanya Holm. She eventually joining the Holm Company and became assistant to Holm. Anthony was an original member of the radical modern dance organization The New Dance Group in the 1940’s. Anthony started the Mary Anthony Dance Theater in 1956.
Following the premier of Anthony’s signature work Threnody – for which composer, Benjamin Britten gave his special permission to use his Sinfonia da Requiem – Louis Horst wrote, “Here is the most beautiful and complete dance composition this observer has seen.” Her company performed throughout the United States for over 40 years, including appearances at Jacob’s Pillow, The American Dance Festival, and the Berkshire Music Festival at Tanglewood. They toured as part of the Dance Touring Program of the National Endowment for the Arts, and for over 30 years presented New York City seasons.
An internationally recognized choreographer and teacher, Anthony has had her works added to the repertory of Pennsylvania Ballet, Bat-Dor Company of Israel, the Dublin City Ballet, Dancefusion in Philadelphia and the National Institute for the Arts of Taiwan. New York Times dance critic Jennifer Dunning described Anthony’s Songs as “hauntingly lyrical with the emphasis on simplicity and ageless craft.” She taught at her own studio at 736 Broadway for over 50 years, until retiring last year. A Tribute to Mary Anthony was presented as part of Fridays At Noon at the 92nd Street Y, honoring her legacy in modern dance and her 97th Birthday in November 2013.
Former company member, Daniel Maloney who is the Artistic Director of the Mary Anthony Dance Theater Foundation, was a devoted son to her, caring for Anthony until her passing. Donations in Mary Anthony’s memory can be made to the Mary Anthony Dance Theater Foundation and sent to 736 Broadway, New York NY 10003. A memorial service will be scheduled in July for more information please call the studio at 212-674-8191.