The heir of the tradition of balletic stage dancing pioneered by Bessie Clayton, Harriet Hoctor like Clayton trained in the classical tradition, enrolling in the New York's Normal Dancing School (an institution headed by a Russian ex-patriot) while a teenager. Her family was socially well-connected and Hoctor's dance recitals were well attended by blue book audiences when she was still sixteen. When Harriet requested to be allowed to become a professional dancer, her mother consented.
Hoctor worked initially in vaudeville, supporting dancers Snow & Columbus in 1922. In 1924-1925 she worked as the premiere danseuse of the Duncan Sisters' musical "Topsy and Eva." Her abilities as dancer and choreographer improved, particularly after partnering with William Holbrook, and designing her vaudeville mini-shows, such as "Dancing Unusual." In 1927 she determined to make a place on the Broadway stage. She was the sole commendable feature of the short-lived revue "A La Carte."
Florenz Ziegfeld, seeing that virtuosity he had first glimpsed in Bessie Clayton, secured her as a feature in "Three Musketeers," permitted her to choreograph Gershwin's "An American in Paris" in "Showgirl," and she was one of the chief attractions of "Simple Simon." After Ziegfeld's death, she starred in Earl Carroll's elaborate Vanities of 1932. She choreographed "Hold Your Horses" in 1933, then migrated to Hollywood and became featured in a number of musicals in the 1930s. She taught dance during the last phase of her professional life, opening a school in Boston in 1945. David S. Shields/ALS