Biography/Organization History

Klarna Pinska was born in 1904, and moved to the United States as a young girl. She studied under Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn at the Denishawn School of Dance from 1920-1926 both in Los Angeles and New York. In the early 1930s, following some professional experiences in theater, Pinska went on to become head teacher at the Ruth St. Denis School of Dance in New York. Pinska’s position at the Ruth St. Denis School allowed her to put on performances featuring her own choreography and direction. During this period, Pinska assisted Ruth St. Denis with the choreography of a ballet, which premiered at Boston Symphony Hall, and additionally directed with Harry Losee and Lenore Shaffer a dance composition that premiered at Carnegie Hall. In 1940, Pinska and St. Denis directed a ballet that was featured at the New York World’s Fair. Pinska was also a student herself, and in the 1930’s studied under Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and Louie Horst as well as learning the Martha Graham Method with teachers Jane Dudley and Sophia Maslow.

In 1941, Klarna Pinska relocated to the west coast where she worked as a welder in the shipyards and taught dance and dance therapy to adults and children. Dance therapy interested Pinska so much that she worked for three years under the guidance of Dr. John Cowan, bone specialist and Dean of U.C. Medical School. Pinska demonstrated dance for doctors and attempted to use dance to help aid in the recovery of patients. She produced plays for and taught dance movements to the cast of the North Beach Players from 1941-1949. Pinska worked as a dance therapist at the U.C. Medical School throughout the 1950s and 60s. She also taught children’s classes at the Walter Beggerstaff Studio from 1960-1964. Pinska reunited with Ruth St. Denis and served as her assistant in from 1963-1966, scheduling performances and promoting events.

In the 1970s, Klarna Pinska gained recognition for reviving the spirit of Denishawn by conducting master classes, lectures and performances at college and universities. Pinska was awarded the title of dance historian by UCLA next hit in 1975, and was honored by Abraham D. Beane, mayor of New York City for her contributions to modern dance and dance education. She choreographed and directed The Spirit of Denishawn in 1977, which was well received by the dance community. Pinska worked to set up performances with the American Dance Festival in 1980. Klarna Pinska died in 1994 in San Francisco.