Celebrated dancer Holley Farmer teaching in the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts. Photo Rafael Hernandez, Courtesy of CalArts. Click here for high resolution photos.
Renowned Dancer and Educator Holley Farmer to Join Faculty and Direct the BFA Program in Dance at CalArts
A principal dancer for 12 years with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Farmer is currently teaching Cunningham’s technique to students in The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts.
The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts is pleased to announce the appointment of Holley Farmer as faculty and Director of the BFA Program in Dance. “To study dance at CalArts means being part of a one-of-a-kind creative community,” said School of Dance Dean Dimitri Chamblas. “With her stellar background as a dancer and choreographer, her years as a central figure in one of the world’s seminal dance troupes, and deep skills as an educator, Holley brings a mastery of technique and profound understanding of dance’s past, present and future to CalArts Dance.”
Farmer performed with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) from 1997-2009, created the role of Babe in Twyla Tharp’s Broadway musical Come Fly Away, and stages work for the Merce Cunningham Trust. In 2011, she began staging the works by Cunningham, and creating her own choreographies. For the last eight years, she has taught theory and practice courses, and has served on the faculty at Mills College, Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College, Nassau Community College, and CSU Long Beach, along with national guest teaching and lecture engagements.
Farmer brings her exceptional experience in dance and higher education to CalArts where, this fall, she will be teaching a class in Merce Cunningham’s technique. “I love seeing students discover how they do this technique,” she told Dance Teacher magazine. “The layer that’s broadest and foundational is passing on information that’s both specifically personal (my point of view) and universal to dance artists. The students and I see what happens with the combination of my information and point of view, and their information and point of view. Inevitably, we’re all changed by it.”
CalArts students will benefit from Farmer’s deep first-hand knowledge of Cunningham’s technique and specific dances. As a stager, she is authorized by the Merce Cunningham Trust to teach and present the choreographer’s dances. “I am an original source of the legacy,” she noted. “I’d go crazy if I wasn’t in an academic setting with the opportunity to pass the practice forward.”
In 2019, she staged MCDC’s Canfield MinEvent, with the original musical score by Pauline Oliveras, for CalArts Dance. Students performed the work for the CalArts Winter Dance Concert at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) and the Sharon Disney Lund Theater on CalArts’s campus, and at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood. That same year, Farmer participated as a teacher and coach for the Night of 100 Solos, part of the Merce Cunningham Centennial Celebration— allowing students to see Cunningham’s techniques in context of a global event.
While with the MCDC, Farmer received the New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award for Sustained Achievement. Her career with the company included performing in a repertory of over fifty dances, 13 original roles created for her by Cunningham, with multiple seasons at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Paris Opera, Théâtre de la Ville, the Barbican, and venues in 23 countries.