Hanya Holm was born in 1893 as Joanna Eckert in Worms, Germany. In the 1920s, Holm moved to Dresden to study with the German modern dance pioneer Mary Wigman, quickly becoming one of Wigman's most promising protégées. In the early 1930s, wary of Adolf Hitler's growing influence, Holm accepted dance impresario Sol Hurok's offer to run a Wigman school in the United States.
Though her school was based in New York, Holm traveled extensively to perform and teach. She first visited Colorado in 1933 when she taught at the Perry Mansfield Dance Camp in Steamboat Springs.
Holm's connection to the region became an enduring one. She began teaching an eight-week summer course at Colorado College in 1941, returning to the state every summer to teach for 43 years. Holm's yearly summer classes made Colorado a destination for modern dancers, and had an impact on dance and dancers in the state and region for decades.