The dance world mourns Mary Anthony

Mary Anthony, a modern-dance fixture, dies in New York at the age of 97

Mary Anthony

Mary Anthony Photograph: Courtesy Peter Basch

Mary Anthony, a longtime figure in modern dance as a performer, choreographer and educator, died at her downtown studio home on May 31 at the age of 97. In a Time Out New York interview ten years ago, she credited her eternal youth to dance; at the time, she still participated in daily class. Both spry and warm, Anthony, a Kentucky native, began dancing after a childhood illness; her parents enrolled her in an exercise program at a local gymnasium. “There were parallel bars, rings, walking on beams, and I hated all of it,” she said. “But there was a folk-dance group. So I put up with the rest for that.” She moved to New York in the '30s, but after Martha Graham refused to give her a scholarship, she began training with Hanya Holm, eventually joining her company and becoming her assistant. Anthony, also a founding member of the New Dance Group, ran a school out of her studio; both Anna Sokolow and Bertram Ross taught there. In 2004, she said that no matter whom she was teaching—actors or dancers—she stressed the same point: “You have to water your plant with other art. You have to go to a museum once a week. If you go to the Met, pick a room and stay there for an hour. You should read a poem a day. I have refused to come in to the 21st century. I don’t have a cell phone or e-mail. I don’t use any of the things that hinder people talking to each other.”

Donations in Anthony’s memory can be made to the Mary Anthony Dance Theater Foundation (736 Broadway, New York, NY 10003). A memorial service will take place in July. For now, read a poem in her honor. ​