(1910–1972) the first local dancer to gain a large audience, who began, c. 1931,
performing her own choreography. Buchla’s dances, reportedly acclaimed by dance critics throughout the country, were a mixture of modern dance and Hungarian folk dance. She was the featured performer at the State of Ohio’s first dance symposium, hosted in 1933 by Ohio University, that drew students and devotees of modern dance from Ohio State, Wesleyan, Oberlin, Cincinnati, Kent State, the University of Virginia and the City of Detroit. Set to the music of Debussy, Chopin, Kodaly and the beloved Hungarian violinist and composer Jenö Hubay (1858–1937), her dancing evoked for Athens critic Forest Hopkins by turns the simplicity of Greek sculpture and the “severe and stylized [spirit of] Egyptian art. In some art circles,” said Hopkins, “Miss Buchla’s dancing is called modern, perhaps because of its free use of the entire body, particularly the torso, yet it is classic in conception. It carries refinement of form and simplicity of design molded successfully with the music.” She had studied ballet as a young girl and then in the late 1920s discovered modern dance.
“Buchla’s work as a whole merits high praise,” Cleveland Plain Dealer music critic Herbert Elwell wrote, “and there is no doubt about her success in her concert here, for the spectators lingered in their seats and clamored for more.” He praised “the subtle grace, the objectivity, the persuasive and suggestive immobility characteristic of [her] style.” Her physical beauty evoked for him “classic models,” while her arresting “personality made what she does seem important and interesting. Her dancing is sculpturesque in slow motion, and a sense of beauty is created in every line, which shows grace of movement. The impression at any moment is one of sculpture liquified and flowing with life.”
Eleanor Buchla at work (Cleveland Public Library/Photograph Collection)
A strong proponent for dance in the schools, Buchla not only opened Cleveland’s first modern dance studio but also began a dance curriculum in the city’s summer playgrounds. She provided the choreography (and directed a number of productions) for several area theaters, including the Hudson Players, the Peninsula Players and, for six years, Cain Park in Cleveland Heights, and was instrumental in cultivating the first
Modern Dance Association, which was founded in 1934. An interesting footnote: Buchla was the sister-in-law of celebrated Cleveland artist Kalman Kubinyi. In the 1960s she and her husband Julius Kubinyi joined other Ohio families in providing temporary homes for Hungarian refugees in the wake of the uprising against the communist government. Though both Eleanor and Julius were born in America, they learned Hungarian from their parents and visited Hungary. In 1943 she played a key role in founding the Peninsula Library, on whose board she served until shortly before her death in 1972.