Binnie Ritchie Holum, dancer and actress, dies at 64

Dancer, choreographer, playwright and actress was co-founder of the Baltimore Women's Theatre Project

  • Binnie Ritchie Holum
Binnie Ritchie Holum
September 29, 2014|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | The Baltimore Sun

Binnie Ritchie Holum, a dancer, choreographer, playwright and actress who had been a co-founder of the Baltimore Women's Theatre Project, died Sept. 21 at her parents' home near Saranac Lake, N.Y., of a gioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor.

She was 64.

"Her talent was just endless and she had more energy than three people combined," said Harvey M. Doster, her collaborator, who is director of the International Baccalaureate Theater Program at St. Timothy's School in Stevenson.

"I loved working with her and we just clicked, when I met her in 1985 under a tree at St. Tim's. We clicked at that first moment because we had the same attitude about life."

The daughter of Charles Ritchie, an investment banker, and the late Mary Anne Ritchie, a homemaker, who died 48 hours after her daughter, the former Anne Starr Ritchie was born and raised in Philadelphia.

After graduating in 1966, from Garrison Forest School, Ms. Holum earned an associate's degree in 1968 from the old Bradford Junior College in Haverhill, Mass.

In 1976, she earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Delaware, and a master's degree in 1978 in dance education from Temple University.

Ms. Holum, who performed under the stage name of Binnie Ritchie Holum, began her career in Philadelphia as the principle dancer with the John Gamble Dane Theater and the South Street Dance Co.

"She also pioneered in the field of liturgical dance in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del., and Washington," said her husband of 42 years, the Rev. Robert M. Holum, a Lutheran minister. "She never studied theater formally but learned by doing. She really came to it naturally."

In 1984, after Ms. Holum and her family moved to Baltimore's Hunting Ridge neighborhood, she joined the Naked Feet Dance Co. and the Kimberly Mackin Dancers, where she was both a choreographer and a dancer.

She was a co-founder of the Baltimore Dance Co., and a movement theater company, Splitting Image, where three of her original plays, "Closets," "Lucy Juice and Other Family Recipes" and "Legends," were produced with Mr. Doster, her co-founder.

For more than 30 years, everything Ms. Holum wrote, Mr. Doster edited and directed, and the pair even performed together.

For years, Ms. Holum directed the dance program at St. Timothy's School and choreographed numerous student productions.

"I was directing 'The Runaway' and I needed a choreographer," said Mr. Doster. 'We talked about the show and we liked each other instantly and became great, great friends. The last show we did at St. Tim's five years ago was 'For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf.'"

With Maravene Loeschke, who taught for years in Towson University's theater program and currently is on leave from her role as president of the university, and Linda Chambers, Ms. Holum established the Baltimore Women's Theatre.

Ms. Holum worked with Baltimore actress and dancer Maria Broom in creating thematic dances for participants in yearly Baltimore citywide Lutheran day camps.

"When Binnie danced, she was pure, graceful and thoughtful energy — no movement was wasted," said Ms. Broom.

"As a person, Binnie was light personified, conscientious, grounded, full of grateful happiness," she said. "She gave much to her gardening as she did when she was onstage. She was intelligent, fun and adventurous to be with an earthy sense of spirituality. All those equalities were evident in all of her dancing, her acting and her writing."

Even though Ms. Holum had moved to Washington, she continued to work in Baltimore, and appeared in productions at Theatre Hopkins, The Vagabonds, Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, Fell's Point Corner Theatre and the Theatre Project.

In a 2006 production of "What I Did Last Summer," Ms. Holum played the free-spirited artist Annam, who was "unaffectionately known as 'The Pig Woman,'" wrote Sun drama critic J. Wynn Rousuck at the time.

"Binnie Ritchie Holum imbues Anna with so much self-possession and cocksureness, there's no question that she'll leave her imprint on the impressionable Charlie," observed Ms. Rousuck.

Of her superb acting in such plays as "Whose Life Is It Anyway," "Shirley Valentine," and "Wit," led Ms. Rousuck to write that Ms. Holum was "a force in Baltimore theater."

In recent years, Ms. Holum performed with the Pendragon Theatre Co. in Saranac Lake, and appeared in such productions as "Bus Stop," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "The Gin Game," and "Angels in America."

Mr. Holum was a member of Luther Place Memorial Church, 1226 Vermont Ave., Washington, where services will be held at 11 a.m. on Oct. 18. A memorial gathering will be held in March 2015 at St. Timothy's School.

In addition to her husband, Ms. Holum is survived by her daughter, Solveig "Suli" Holum, an actress who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is know professionally as Suli Holum; her father, Charles Ritchie of Saranac Lake; a brother, James Michael Ritchie of Saranac Lake; a sister, Dorothy Devore of Portsmouth, N.H.; and a granddaughter.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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