Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck //

Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck
8 January 1908 - 23 April 2006

Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck, 98, founder of the Philadelphia Dance Academy, died April 23, 2006, at the Sunrise Senior Living Center in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Born in Kiev, Russia, in 1908, she came to Philadelphia as a child. Her husband, Nicholas Nahumck, to whom she was married in 1941, died in 1993.

Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck portrait

A pioneer in modern dance, dance pedagogy and Labanotation, she began her dance studies in Philadelphia in 1924 at the studio of Riva Hoffman, a proponent of Isadora Duncan's dance style. Nahumck danced with the Irma Duncan company from 1930-1931 and was well-known as a premier Duncan dancer. In 1929 she moved to New York and studied with Hanya Holm, Mary Wigman, Martha Graham, and at the Anna Duncan studio, and in 1931 was a co-founder of the New Dance Group. After a serious injury, she returned from New York to Philadelphia in 1943 and one year later established a dance school, the Philadelphia Dance Academy, which incorporated modern, folk, ballet, Duncan and other dance traditions, as well as Labanotation. Nahumck's Philadelphia Dance Academy was absorbed by the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts in 1977 and continues today as The University of the Arts (UArts) School of Dance.

"Nadia's legacy will live on here at The University of the Arts and throughout the dance world," said Susan Glazer, Director of the UArts School of Dance. "What evolved from her founding of the Philadelphia Dance Academy is truly inspirational."

Nahumck founded the Philadelphia Dance Academy in 1944, organized a college division in 1954 with the Philadelphia Musical Academy (now The University of the Arts School of Music), and opened an accredited K-12 private school, the Performing Arts School of Philadelphia in 1962. She was recognized as a leader in dance notation by the Dance Notation Bureau and the International Council for Kinetography Laban. In 1993, she wrote Isadora Duncan: The Dances through a grant from the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She also wrote a series of dance notation workbooks for children, teens, and professional dancers and wrote Labanotation for a wide variety of dances, including some from the television program, American Bandstand.

Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck in an undated studio portrait, probably the early 1930s. © The University of the Arts. Do not use without permission.

Nahumck at a workshop circa 1967
© The University of the Arts. Do not use without permission.

Nahumck was a charter member of the Society for Ethnomusicology and a frequent contributor to conferences and journals. She was an adjunct faculty member of the Curtis Institute of Music, Swarthmore College, Temple University, the Academy of Vocal Arts, the Philadelphia Musical Academy (now The University of the Arts School of Music), and received a major grant from the U. S. Department of Education to develop a comprehensive curriculum in dance for secondary schools.

"We are all indebted to Nadia Nahumck," said UArts President and CEO Miguel Angel Corzo. "Her wide-ranging, influential and dynamic contributions are a unique legacy to the world of dance."

Nahumck with UArts President Miguel Angel Corzo at a UArts reception for Nahumck, April 27, 2002.
© The University of the Arts. Photo: Eugene A. Bolt, Jr.

UArts reception honoring Nahumck, April 27, 2002.
Left to right: Pearl Schaeffer, Sydney Cohen Schwartz, David Lodge (seated), Hedra Packman,
Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck, Jeri Packman, Gwendolyn Bye, and Stella Moore, another great friend of the UArts School of Dance.
© The University of the Arts. Photo: Eugene A. Bolt, Jr.

Her 51 choreographed dances and 75 published studies include work with Philadelphia-born composer James DePriest and for the Children's Concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Several well-known modern dancers, including Ronne Arnold, Dyane Gray, Judith Jamison, Sharon Pinsley, and Riitta Vainio, not to mention current UArts faculty members Peter Bertini, Nancy Berman Kantra, Pearl Schaeffer, and Jon Sherman studied with Nahumck. Former students such as Hedra Packman and Gwendolyn Bye are working to carry on her legacy. Her school was surely among the first dance studios in Philadelphia to be integrated from the beginning. Through The University of the Arts, Nahumck's legacy of excellence continues, and her private and professional library has been given to The University of the Arts University Libraries and Archives.

Thanks to Gwendolyn Bye and Hedra Packman for their contributions to this page.

Nahumck in an undated studio photo.
© The University of the Arts.


Wakin, Daniel J. "Control of Dances Is at Issue In Lawsuit." New York Times, Tuesday, September 4, 2007, p. E1.
Although this article does not mention Chilkovsky Nahumck, it does provide some discussion of the New Dance Group.

Dunning, Jennifer. "Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck, 98, Dancer." [obituary] New York Times, April 29, 2006, p. C10.

International Encyclopedia of Dance: A Project of Dance Perspectives Foundation, Inc. Selma Jeanne Cohen, founding editor. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. See index under Chilkovsky and under Nahumck.

Foulkes, Julia L. "'Angels Rewolt!': Jewish Women in Modern Dance in the 1930s." American Jewish History, 88.2 (June 2000), p. 233-252.

Kevles, Barbara. "A 20th Century School of Dance." Dance Magazine 38 (May 1964): 20-22.

"N. C. Nahumck, 98, dance innovator." [obituary] Philadelphia Inquirer, May 1, 2006, page B14.

Lloyd, Margaret. The Borzoi Book of Modern Dance. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949.

Of, By, and For the People: Dancing on the Left in the 1930s. Edited by Lynn Garafola; with contributions by Russell Gold, Ellen Graff, Edna Ocko, John O. Perpener III, Stacey Prickett, Barbara Stratyner; preface by Barbara Melosh. Madison, WI: Society of Dance History Scholars, 1994. See index under Chilkovsky, Nadia.

Polak, Maralyn Lois. "Interview: Nadia Chilkovsky: Stretching Muscles and Minds." Today [Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday magazine], August 3, 1975, page 6.

Smith, Jane Abbott. "Children United in Love of Rhythm: Dance School Builds One World with Joy, Fellowship and Fun." Christian Science Monitor, Saturday, October 18, 1947.

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Last updated 14 January 2008 sjm

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