Holt, Claire, 1988-

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Claire Holt was born in Riga, Latvia in 1901. Her family moved to Moscow in 1914; in 1920 she married, and shortly thereafter she and her husband emigrated from the Soviet Union. In 1921 they settled in New York, where Holt attended Brooklyn Law School, the Cooper Union Art School, and Columbia University School of Journalism. From 1928-30, Holt was a reporter for the New York World. Her assignments there included dance reviews, which were published under the name Barbara Holveg. Holt made her first trip to Indonesia in 1930 and spent most of the decade there, studying dance, working for the anthropologist Willem Stutterheim, and then assisting the Swedish dance archivist and patron Rolf de Maré with his photo and film documentation of Indonesian dance. As the war loomed. Holt returned to the United States, where she worked in the 1940s and early 50s as a research assistant to Margaret Mead, as a research analyst for the Office of Strategic Services, and as a foreign affairs specialist for the State Department. She resigned from government service in 1953, protesting the security regulations spurred by McCarthyism. The rest of Holt's life was spent teaching at Cornell University, where in 1962 she helped found the Modern Indonesia Project. Her return to Indonesia in the mid-1950s and again in 1969 provided material for her book Art in Indonesia: Continuities and Change. Holt died in Ithaca, New York, in 1970.

From the guide to the Claire Holt papers, circa 1928-1970, (The New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.)


Claire Holt was born in Riga, Latvia in 1901. She served as a reporter for the The New York World, publishing dance reviews. She traveled to Indonesia in 1930 where she studied dance, working with the anthropologist Willem Stutterheim, and then assisting the Swedish dance archivist and patron Rolf de Mare with his photo and film documentation of Indonesian dance. She returned to the U.S. and served as a research assistant to Margaret Mead, as a research analyst for the Office of Strategic Services, and as a foreign affairs specialist for the State Department. She came to Cornell University, where in 1962, she helped found the Modern Indonesia Project.

From the description of Claire Holt papers, 1930-1970. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 63937691

Deena Burton (1948-2005), an American dancer and expert in Indonesian dance was born in Brooklyn to Arthur and Beatrice Burton. As child and young adult, Burton studied dance with Marjory Mazia, at the Henry Street Settlement, and at the New Dance Group. She went on to study Asian theater at the University of Wisconsin under A. C. Scott, where she first discovered Javanese dance. After graduation, Burton continued to study Indonesian dance, first with Hardjjo Susilo in Hawaii and then with Ben Suharto and Theresa Suharti at the Center for World Music in California.

In 1976, Burton traveled to Java where she studied and researched dance-drama for four years, studying with masters like Sudji, a master of the topeng babakan dance form and Kandeg, a master of the wayang orange dance form. She danced with several Indonesian companies and was a member of the Ratna Budaya Dance Company from 1978-1980, appearing in the works of leading Indonesian choreographers such as Sardono, Endo Suanda, and S. Karjono. Burton's study of Indonesian dance was unique in that she studied a wide variety of dance styles including Monkey style, clown style, Gagah or strong male style, Alusan or refined male style, and the Putri style that was traditionally danced by women. Throughout her career, Burton would remain interested in both the classical Javanese court style of Yogyakarta, and the village oriented mask dance-drama from Cirebon area in West Java.

In addition to studying dance, Burton initiated and organized several projects in Indonesia. She produced traditional village performances for a series of cultural tours for Westerners, and in 1979, she coordinated a video dance documentation project sponsored by the Jakarta Department of Cultural Affairs.

In 1980, Burton moved back to New York City and began performing extensively. In 1981, she choreographed Arabian Nights with Chameleon Theatrix and in 1982 she co-choreographed Red Snow which was directed by Korean artist Du-Yee Change. Additionally, Burton performed with the Asian American Dance Theatre, the Asia Society, Hospital Audiences, and with Gamelan Son of Lion. Burton also founded the Bali-Java Dance Theatre in 1982. The following year, Burton convinced the Indonesian Consulate in New York to allow a Javanese gamelan that had been stored in the consulate's basement since the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair to be used. Initially called the New York Indonesian Consulate Gamelan, the ensemble was renamed Gamelan Kusuma Laras. Burton acted as the administrative director and often performed in the gamelan, playing the bonang panerus.

In 1984 and 1985, Burton co-organized the Artists Inspired by Asia festival, a festival of American performances of Asian music, theater, and dance. In 1986, Burton produced a similar festival focused solely on Indonesian art called Artists Inspired by Indonesia. She also began the process of turning Bali-Java Dance Theater and Gamelan Kusuma Laras into a not-for-profit arts organization, Arts Indonesian, of which she was the director until her death.

In 1984, she met composer Skip La Plante, who would become her husband in 1989. Together they created The Ramayana (1984), a solo dance piece where Burton portrayed a multitude of characters in traditional Javanese dance styles while La Plante played accompanying music. In 1985, Burton restaged Ramayana with a larger cast for the East-West Fusion Theater. Burton and La Plante continued to collaborate with performances of the The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1987), Pak Kandeg's Stor y (1988), Arjuna Wiwaha (1995), and Panji Tales (2000).

During this time, Burton continued her academic work. She graduated with a Master's degree in Arts Administration from Columbia University in 1982. The New York Public Library's Library of the Performing Arts hired Burton, in 1986, to edit ten hours of footage shot in the 1920s of Indonesian court rituals and performances by ethnographer Tassilo Adam. In 1990, Burton enrolled in the Performance Studies program at New York University, where she received her doctorate in 1997, writing her dissertation on the ethnologist Claire Holt.

Claire Holt was a Lativian-born, and Russian-educated American, who lived in New York City in the 1920s and the Dutch East Indies in the 1930s, where she met Margaret Mead and other prominent sociologists and archeologists, including Willem Stuttenheim who became her mentor and lover. Holt returned to the United States to work for government intelligence until she resigned that post in 1954 to take the position of Associate Researcher at Cornell University, a situation she held until her death. Holt's seminal work was Art in Indonesia: Continuities and Change, published in 1967.

Burton returned to Indonesia two more times. In 1989, she obtained a Fulbright Grant to bring the edited Adam's films to Indonesia where she screened and presented copies of the finished work to various educational institutions and dignitaries. During this trip, Burton studied dance with Rama Sasminto Marsadawa and gave birth to her son Roan. In 1996, Burton returned to Indonesia to research her dissertation on Holt, as well as perform with the Gamelan Kusuma Laras at the Yogyakarta Gamelan Festival.

Following her graduation from New York University, Burton joined the faculty of Eugene Lang College, teaching courses on Asian theater and dance as well as working with Young Audiences New York, teaching dance workshops at various elementary and grammar schools. Burton died of cancer, in 2005, at the age of 56.

From the guide to the Deena Burton papers, 1927-2005, 1976-2003, (The New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Holt, Claire. Claire Holt papers, 1930-1970. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Cora Alice Du Bois papers, 1869-1988 (inclusive), 1912-1985 (bulk) Tozzer Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
creatorOf Deena Burton papers, 1927-2005, 1976-2003 The New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.
creatorOf Claire Holt papers, circa 1928-1970 The New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.
referencedIn Burton, Deena. Deena Burton papers, 1927-2005 (bulk 1976-2003). New York Public Library System, NYPL
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Burton, Deena person
associatedWith Burton, Deena. person
associatedWith Cornell University. Indonesian Arts Project. corporateBody
associatedWith Cornell University. Southeast Asia Program. corporateBody
correspondedWith Du Bois, Cora Alice, 1903- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Art, Indonesian
Painting, Indonesian
Sculpture, Indonesian


Birth 1988-06-11



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