Halina Hulanicka – dancer, choreographer, pedagogue – was born on 18 October 1899 in Kiev, the-then Russian Empire. She died on 21 January 1975 in Warsaw.
In 1916-1921, she studied at Klaudia Isaczenko-Sokołowa’s Contemporary Dance School in Kiev, Janina Mieczyńska’s School of Rhyhmic and Fine Arts in Warsaw (which originally operated as a branch of the Emil Jacques-Dalcroze Institute), and in Paris with Isadora Duncan and at André Guichot’s School of Acrobatics.
(...) when it comes to preparatory techniques, I think each dancer ought to go through the classical technique. I myself still attend Zygmunt Dąbrowski’s school of classical dance, since to my mind it is the classical technique that facilitates the female dancer in her work, stated Hulanicka in an interview published in a 1936 issue of the Światowid periodical.
Hulanicka was a pioneer of French modernism and a propagator of the Duncanian current in Poland.
In her preliminary battle, the young dancer won the favors of the Warsaw audience; her first appearance (29 January 1922 – ed.) was a genuine triumph, for it is hard to compete with Ms. Hulanicka’s predicament for the art she practices. Apart from impeccable technique, enormous musicality, great sense of rhythm, she also possesses the irreplaceable charm of youth (…) Given her somewhat tall stature, Ms. Hulanicka’s lightness and swiftness (bizarrely gracious steps (…) are admirable, wrote Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz upon witnessing Halina Hulanicka’s debut at the Polski Theatre in Warsaw.
In 1922-39, Hulanicka performed in Poland and abroad, giving recitals in the form of minor dance variations inspired by Polish, Spanish and exotic dances. She spent most of that time in Paris, performing at such major stages as Olympia and Palace. A champion of the rumba, her spectators were always enchanted by her solo piece, The Medusa, in which Hulanicka’s bare hands (and a highly original attire) imitated the waving arms of the eponymous character.
The repertoire of the “liberate” (Duncanian) artist would be amiss without choreographic interpretations of such musical pieces as Federico Mompou’s Jeunes filles au jardin or Claude Debussy’s La plus que lente. Apart from dancing to music by Strauss, Schubert, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, Hulanicka also utilized her acting skills in grotesque dances (Lalka i Pierrot, Mechaniczna markiza [The Doll and the Pierrot, Mechanical Marquise]). In 1927, she played a Georgian dancer in Ryszard Ordyński’s film Mogiła nieznanego żołnierza [The Grave of an Unknown Soldier]. In 1929, she won the 1st prize at the Dance Tournament in Warsaw.
She engaged in teaching as early as the 1920s, working as a pedagogue in Warsaw alongside her artistic projects. She taught plastic (Duncanian) dance at Janina Mieczyńska’s school, where she was a co-director, and collaborated on the plasticity of stage movement with the experimental Reduta Theatre . She also taught at the Dramatic Department of the Warsaw Music Conservatory. In 1934-38, she held classes in dance acrobatics, first with the dancers of the Wielki Theatre ballet company, and then – following the inclusion of the subject in professional curricula – with the students of the Warsaw Ballet School (at the introductory level). 1934 saw Hulanicka sit on the jury of the 2nd International Dance Competition in Vienna, in which Polish dancer Ziuta Buczyńska won the 1st prize for the best artistic dancer.
During World War II, Halina Hulanicka was deported to Germany as forced laborer. She did not resume her stage career upon returning to Poland. In 1947-51, she worked as a clerk for choreography at the Provincial Department of Culture in Wrocław. Extending her assistance to the Wrocław ballet company, which grew in size at the time, she also collaborated with local theatres. In May 1948, she worked on the plasticity of movement in Franciszek Zabłocki’s Fircyk w zalotach [The Dandy’s Courtship], directed by Maria Leonia Jabłonkówna (Dolnośląski Theatre), and in December 1949 she choreographed Sergei Rozanov’s Grass Adventures directed by Elżbieta Kalinowicz (Młodego Widza Theatre).
It was at the Młodego Widza Theatre that Hulanicka worked as the director of the ballet (1948-49). In 1951 (according to Bożena Mamontowicz-Łojek), or in 1952 (according to Irena Turska), she was appointed the artistic director of the State Choreographic Secondary School in Sosnowiec. She also choreographed for the Song and Dance Ensemble “Zagłębie” (est. 1953), a sole company presenting the local folklore in the Zagłębie region. August 1955 saw the move of the Sosnowiec school to Bytom, where it was transformed into the Ballet School, with Hulanicka appointed its first director. While at the Ballet School, she also taught classical and characteristic dance.
In 1959, with Zbigniew Korycki taking over as the director of the Bytom Ballet School, Hulanicka moved to Warsaw, where she continued to teach at the Warsaw Ballet School (classical and characteristic dance). Retiring in 1968, she taught for two more years, conducting classes in artistic gymnastics at the Warszawianka Sports Club.
She was interred at the Protestant Reformed Cemetery in Warsaw. Photographs of Hulanicka have been preserved until today, along with her interviews from the Interwar Period, as well as a number of reviews of her performances and some of her dance choreographies, collected and published in one volume as Etiudy taneczne [Dance etudes].
Compiled by Joanna Brych