|Initially a graduate of Jacques Dalcroz’s who
his Eurythmics in
connection with the Rousseau Institute, following her study in Ascona - Mary
Wigman became a leading expressionist
dancer. The Monte Verita experiment also paralleled Rudolf Steiner who
called his own reinvention, Eurythmiy,
German "Eurythmie" (at what is now called Goetheanum) - and Isadora Duncan’s dance
based on Greek classical art. A leading light of ‘Modern Dance’ Mary
however, became the most influencing European Choreographer of her time.|
Delius saw in Wigman's dance a new form of art that had been, according to hirn,denied to humanity for thousands of years. He called this dance "Körpersprache", body language. Dance was to reclaim its "original" role as the "ur-language"communicating what literature had carried out so far.For Wigman, who had left her home in Hannover at the age of twenty-three to become an independent woman in the world of art and dance, it is the first evening when her self-awareness as a 'professional dancer' begins: "Ich war völlig benommen, konnte mich nicht einmal an diesem unerwarteten Erfolg freuen... Ein
Tor hatte ich aufgetan, hinter dem der Lebensraum der "Tänzerin" sich weitete.”2
In the next decade, Wigman would grow into a well-recognized innovative artist of modern dance, an achieved choreographer, leader of a dance troupe, and founder of her own dance schools in Dresden and Berlin. By the mid-twenties Wigman and her dance troupe were touring all over Germany. Wigman's name would not only be regularly on the advertisement columns of every major city in Germany , but she was performing all over Europe, in the Netherlands , the Scandinavian countries, Italy and Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic . It is interesting to see how Wigman, a young woman from a well-to-do bourgeois farnily from Hannove , who had never learned dancing until the age of twenty-four could debut as a dancer in only three years and become a world-famous dancer and choreographer in less than ten years. While most dancers begin rigorous training in institutionally designated schools from the earliest age possible, preferably before the age of ten, Wigman's career took off at the age of twenty-seven when most dancers are in their prime. Ausdruckstanz, the new expressive dance of Germany of which Wigman would become a leading pioneer and pedagogue, was a new form of art that was in the making. The innovative character of Ausdruckstanz made it possible for Wigman' s almost "instant" success to happen; but it was also this very same characteristic of "novelty" that challenged Wigman to work constantly at distinguishing her choreographies from others. Indeed, the success ofWigman's innovation was partly based on the popularity of dance at the time: both the explosion of dance halls and in terms of the development of dance as a performance art in its own right. Uncountable number of lay dancers were occupied with various forms of bodily expressions: from Ausdruckstanz and rhythmic gymnastics to cabaret performances and social dances.Wigman explained once how everything - her career, the school and her pedagogy came about because nothing was impossible in an age that experimented so radically with different types of dances:
Ich habe nie angefangen, die [pädagogik] war immer da! Sie war genauso da, wie die Bühnenlaufbahn plötzlich da war. Auch die pädagogische Arbeit war gegeben, weil die Menschen da waren. Und von Theorie: nichts! Von Thematik: nichts! Wir waren frei wie die Vögel in der Luft und haben einfach alles mögliche gemacht und versucht. Zum Schluß stellte sich heraus, daß es alles tatsächlich Sinn und Verstand hatte. Aber erst - im Grunde genommen hinterher.3
But what exactly was it that seemed to be "suddenly there" for Wigman and her dance? What was the atmosphere ofthe time that made it possible for Wigman to try everything and anything with dance? What was the context in which "performance" in general, but specifically dance performance, came to define people's awareness that they were living in a new time? In the remainder of the chapter, I will examine the cultural context out of which someone like Wigman could come about as a pioneer of dancer, make her career, and self-represent herself as a constant innovator, and thus, a "modernist". One goal of this chapter is to tell the story behind and around Ausdruckstanz, the space that was opened up by the various social, cultural and aesthetic interests of the time that allowed such an innovation in "movement" to come about. German modem dance was a form of "movement" that was not merely an aesthetic reaction to its preceding form of dance, ballet, but it also expressed the idea that movement could be more than aseries of ritualized gestures. Dance was the key to understanding various cultural developments in modemity, a "Symbol der Avantgarde" and a "Schlüsselmedium aller Künste, die das neue, technische Zeitalter als eine durch Bewegung definierte Epoche zu reflektieren suchen't 4 "Movement" and "rhythm" were the catchwords of the time. In other words, representations and images of dance came to assume poetological role that went beyond the act of performance. In order to understand the role that dance played in the social imagination of the time, I look into various cultural discourses that developed towards the end ofthe 19th century, especially the scientific and pseudo-scientific discourses that dealt with the theme of dance and bodily movements. Another goal of the chapter is to talk about the "modemism" of Ausdruckstanz, the status of dance as modemist innovation, by looking at its key figure, Mary Wigman. In the studies of German modemism, dance has traditionally been treated as inferior art and often left out of the historiography. At most, it has been treated as part of the theater reform or the dance craze of the twenties 5. One reason lies in the specific nature of Ausdruckstanz, which was both "modernist" and "avant-garde":Ausdruckstanz was "modernist" in its effort to create "absolute" dance which refers only to the essen ce of dance, bodily movement, but it was also "avant-garde" by trying to break the barrier between art and life and bring the culture of dance to lay people.6
Thus, while Wigman and her disciples such as Gret Palucca or Harald Kreutzberg were performing on theater stages, "modern" dance was also becoming popular among lay people in the form of group dances, gymnastics and physical therapy. As a result,the common periodization of German cultural history that is based on clear breaks between Expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit and National Socialism -produces stories of Wigman that sometimes turn her into ''fulfillment of Zeitgeist" and another times into "a footnote and an absence.'" In her fine-grained study of Wigman's career, Susan Manning offers a reading of the history of Ausdruckstanz that challenges conventional correlationsbetween the form of art and ideology.8 Instead of identifying the various "tendencies" in the forms of Wigman's works (Le. Expressionist, proto-fascist etc.) as corresponding to specific ideology, Manning shows how "her modemism significantly shifted over the course of her career in response to changing working conditions and socio-political contexts.”9
Nevertheless, this approach is still based on the understanding that Ausdruckstanz was a modemist innovation in dance and therefore assumes its status as a "movement" in art history. If Ausdruckstanz does not fit into the history of "modernism" that is conventionally understood under such concepts as "self-referentiality", "irony", "autonomy", "ambiguity", "denial of Zeitgeist or a collectivity", "rigorously experimental" and "effacement of content" etc., then maybe the modernism of Ausdruckstanz needs different descriptions.10 After all, Ausdruckstanz was about "Zeitgeist", had clear content (Le. solving social problems), was not self-referentiallike an object in the hall of endless mirrors (it constantly referred to the social problems and ideals), was not ironie (was dead serious in its effort to develop new way of living), and its rigorous experimentalism was nothing of scientific nature or pertaining to knowledge (it was aIl about experiencing andfeeling). In order to explore this, I move away from these charaeterizations of aesthetie movements, such as modemism or avant-garde, and reexamine the origin of Ausdruckstanz by looking at Wigman, the key figure and developer of the dance. Her identity as a modern dancer, choreographer as weIl as a woman lead her to aetively engage with her persona as an artist. This is why it is important to explore Wigman's career path. Just as dance did not fit into the modemist tradition, Wigman, who self identified herself as the "ugly-duekling", could not fit into the traditional form of dance, ballet, either. In this way, her aehievement of creating a spaee for herself as a pioneer of a form of art ean be read as a blueprint for understanding the complexities behind the "modernism" of Ausdruckstanz. More generally speaking, the construction of her persona as a modem artist reflects something about how the modernist perspective construeted itself. Who was Mary Wigman then? How did she come into the scene of "danee"? Wigman's early life was marked by two important places: Hellerau, a smaIl town near Dresden , where she leamed rhythmic gymnastics under Emile Jaeque Dalcroze, a Swiss music pedagogue, and Ascona , Switzerland , where she trained und er Laban and became a professional daneer. Both were pi aces that promoted reformative and avant-garde ideals with the foeus on 'rehabilitating' the human body and perception that seemed to be crippled in the meehanized modern society. In fact, dance culture in Germany involved a specific kind of idealization of the "movement" of the time that was based on the effort to find a new basis of human expression. Wigman's innovation of dance developed from this cultural context in which bodily movement assumed a key role in reawakening its natural expressiveness. Dance functioned as the medium for sodal regeneration and those who practiced dance in Ascona conceived thernselves as cultural revolutionaries before they did as "dancers."
The colonies were ab out creating a utopian community for a new form of "life" and dance functioned as the primary medium of expressing it. In short, dancing meant living.
Born into a well-to-do bourgeois family in Hannover in 1886, Karoline Sofie Marie Wiegemann attended the höhere Töchterschule until the age of fourteen. 11
University education had just become available for women, but her dream to attend the university and become a professional woman was shattered when her parents, who did not want to have a "blue stocking" in their family denied her the opportunity to study in a girls' Gymnasium.12 Instead, she was sent to England and France to be educated as a sophisticated "lady", taking dance lessons in order to prepare for her big "debut" in her social circle. While fending off marriage suitors and mother's engagement arrangements, she encountered a demonstration of Emile Jacque-Dalcroze movement method for the first time in Amsterdam during her visit to her relative, a method for learning musical rhythm through gymnastic exercises. Wigman was extremely impressed with the way women were dancing in "natural" movements wearing loose dresses.
But it was when she saw the Austrian Wiesenthal sisters perform their new interpretation of "An der schönen blauen Donau" in Hannover that she discovered the world of dance. What fascinated her most in seeing the Wiesenthai sisters' dance was not the waltz per se, but their free interpretation of the dance in which the movements seemed to be an independent medium of expression. Wigman's dream was shattered again, however, when the sisters told her that it was too late for Wigman, at the age of twenty-two, to start dancing, that she could dance in a Nachtclub but never in a Tanzkonzert.13 Wigman was not interested in ballet as dance. She knew very weil that she was excluded from the world of ballet not only through the lack of her early dance training, but also her body type that did not reflect the litheness of a ballerina. She was not interested in performing "pretty" movements, but finding her own movement that could express her emotions: "Das Ballett war nichts für mich . Es war schön, aber nicht meine Sprache. Es war maniriert und hochtrabend, es hätte nie das sagen können, was ich zu sagen hatte, was meine persönliche Aussage war.”14 If Wigman had been born a century earlier, her dream of becoming a dancer would not have been possible at all. However, the first decade of twentieth century Germany found a surge of interest in dance in conjunction with bodily education. Opportunities for engaging oneself with "dance" , for example, through various gymnastic schools were not hard to find. Wigman found out that Jacques-Dalcroze's "Bildungsanstalt für rhythmische Gymnastik" had opened in Hellerau near Dresden . Enrollment was open to anybody of any age, and those with talent could finish the curriculum and apply for the Lehrdiplom. Against the wishes of her parents, Wigman did not hesitate to leave home and enrolt herself. Thus began her training at the age of twenty-four in the Gartenstadt of Hellerau, initiated by the "Werkstätten für Handwerkskunst" in Dresden based on the ideal of bringing art into everyday life. Hellerau was an experimental town, where alt the ideals of social reform were practiced. From the architecture buHt by Heinrich Tessenow based on his ideal of innovating the residential buildings-of middle- and lower-class workers to the Reformkleider of women that did not restrict their bodies anymore, Hellerau stood at the forefront of the social, cultural and aesthetic innovations of the time. Its goal was to provide a place "für eine erlesene Gemeinschaft von Menschen, die alle einem gleichen hohen Zweck in Schönheit leben."ls The construction of the buH dings began in 1909 and in two years there were about 1000 residents living in Hellerau. By 1914, the number had already doubled.
The directors of the "garden city", who had already seen Dalcroze' s method of rhythm pedagogy and were impressed by it, invited Dalcroze from Geneva to teach his rhythmic gymnastics. Dalcroze, who was equally impressed with Hellerau and its humane ideal of combining work and life based on the "naturharmonischer Grundsätzeim Arbeits- und Lebensalltag", settled there with bis forty-six students and started teaching in the fall of 1910.16 Wigman was one of the sixty-seven new students enrolled in its first year.
In this "art colony" of Hellerau, Wigman encountered a lifestyle that was completely different from her previous one, the cirde of small businesses and bourgeois families. Even outside her classroom in Hellerau, Wigman was amidst the liveliest aesthetic and cultural scene of the time. In the Biergarten and cafes, she listened to lectures by Oskar Kokoshka, went to concerts of such artists as Igor Strawinsky, Alban Berg, Anton Weber and Amold Schönberg. She met other students of art and artists who were part of the Brücke or the Neue Sezession movement. In museums, which she often visited, she was impressed with the paintings of the Expressionists with their intense colors and free compositions. At the school, Wigman becarne roommates with three other women, among whom was Ada Bruhn, the future wife of the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who often vi si ted Hellerau. Another roommate Ema Hoffmann was engaged to a neurosurgeon and psychiatrist Hans Prinzhom, with whom Wigman discussed about the therapeutic effect of aesthetic activities for psychological illnesses. Prinzhom later became Wigman's lover for the next decade.
Wigman was on the brink of achieving the dream for which she had left horne: she succeeded in becoming an independent woman, pursuing a career as a dance teacher, and was immersed in the most vibrant cultural and intellectual atmosphere of the time. However, Wigman was not satisfied with what she leamed from Dalcroze school. As more time went by, Wigman became disillusioned with the principles of rhythmic gymnastics and started to realize that it did not satisfy her desire for dance.
She wanted to discover the world of "movement" that can express her own emotions. Dalcroze developed his method of rhythmische Gymnastik as a way to improve music pedagogy, which seemed to be reduced to teaching mere techniques of playing musical instruments. His goal was to help students develop their own understanding of the musical rhythms so that they could rely on their own emotions to interpret the music. Different parts of the body would be associated with different musical notes so that the music could be interpreted through bodily movement. As Dalcroze himself called it, his method was a "Musikvisualisierung"l'; for each musical note, there was corresponding bodily movement. Therefore, when a whole symphony piece was to be interpreted through movements, it became a group movement, with sub-groups taking over various roles of an orchestra. The movement of the groups performing their respective notes would create an interesting "szenisch-rhythmisches Bild." Ultimately, Dalcroze's goal was to establish "rhythm" as the guiding principle of a healthy life, "den Rhythmus zur Höhe einer sozialen Institution erheben."18 Therefore, Dalcroze's "rhythmic gymnastic" was more than mere gymnastic exercise; it was a new philosophy of life, an effort to understand the relationship between an individual in his/her society that seemed to be dissolving.
This method of Körperbewegung was so popular that the branches of Dalcroze' s school were in hot demand, opening up everywhere until WWI, from St. Petersburg to London and even New Y ork. The popularity of Dalcroze' s method of "movement" was visible in other fields of art at the time as weIl, such as in theater, where dance inspired its avant-garde innovations in staging and performance. For example, Max Rheinhardt, the famous theater reformer of the time, was impressed with Dalcroze's production of "movement choirs" that he saw in the innovative theater hall of Hellerau in 1912, a production without any separation between the stage and the audience.19 It led to talks between Dalcroze and Reinhardt on cooperative works between the soon to be open Dalcroze school branch in Berlin with the Deutsche Theater. Wigman was considered as candidate for the directorship of this cooperation. During this time, she showed one of her solo experiments to her good friends, artist Emil Nolde and his wife Ada Nolde who told her about someone they knew in Munich who danced just like her, "free" and "expressive" without any accompaniment of music, and that she should go and see hirn. The name of this choreographer was Rudolf von Laban and that he was teaching new type of dance classes in Ascona, Switzerland , the counter-cultural community of artists, intellectuals and anarchists.
Dancing "without any musical accompaniment" was the innovation: Bodily movement alone could become an independent form of aft. Encouraged upon hearing that Suzanne Perrottet, who was working as the chief assistant of Dalcroze, was also leaving Hellerau, Wigman made her way to Ascona: "Und die [Perrottet] sagte, sie verläßt Dalcroze und geht zu einem Mann, der tolle Sachen macht, der ganz ohne Musik, seine Schüler ganz ohne Musik tanzen läßt. Das tat ich selber." 20 Wigman decided to go there for the summer, little knowing that this would determine the course of her life. Indeed, only after a year, Wigman was debuting as a dancer with her solos Lento and Witch Dance I, her debut choreographies without musical accompaniment. Dance as Lifestyle: Rudolf von Laban and the "Lebensreform" movement The innovation of movement that Wigman learned under Laban took pi ace in Monte Verita. In the atmosphere in which everything was possible and nothing was restricted, Wigman developed her very innovative choreographies. Although Monte Verita was founded as a new kind of sanatorium based on alternative "Heil kunst" of primitive tribes and oriental mysticism, it soon became an attraction for artists, intellectuals and anarchists of the time, a "deutsche Kulturprovinz" in the South 21, Monte Verita was part of the larger Lebensreform movement, a cultural rebellion based on the ideal of rescuing the maimed human body from the stale environment of modem bourgeois society with its fixed norms and sterile values. Founded by Ida Hofmann and the Belgian, Henri Oedenkoven, near Lago Maggiore in Switzerland , Monte Verita became a haven for artists, writers and intellectuals who wanted to pursue an alternative lifestyle. Among the figures who participated one way or another were such writers as Hermann Hesse, Else Lasker-Schüler and Marianne Werefkin, political anarchists and psychoanalysts, such as Erich Mühsam and Otto Gross, as weil as the Dadaists, Hugo Ball and Emmy Henning. Isadora Duncan stayed a couple of times as well. It was also here that Laban taught dance since 1913 as part of its "Schule der Kunst. " Lebensreform (based on the initial ideas of Jaques Rousseau) movement quickly became popular among youths, who called out for changes in diet, health and the release of the body from sociall constructed inhibitions. The status quo, representing the growing economy and politics, seemed to be restricted to the superficiality of modem society, in which individual identity and sense of community were dissolving. For example, Wandervogel, the group that set out on its inaugural hiking expedition in 1894, represented this ideal byrevolutionizing dress codes by wearing cotton socks, loose shirts and carrying backpacks with guitars.
Gusto Gräser, one of the founding members of the Monte Verita, the counter-cultural community for the Lebensreform movement, celebrates this new goal for the human body: One seeks and finds health, strength, beauty, versatility, and security. The anxious separation of the sexes has disappeared. Fresh air, a more self-confident and responsible spirit seems to have spread across the land. Our attitudes have changed: toward life, spirituality and the body, toward what is decent and indecent, sensual and abstract, toward religion and sex.22
The ideal of the body did not end with the achievement of its well-being through "fresh air" but even included a renewed sense of spirituality. "Natural" beauty became the new pseudo-religion. The solution for the rehabilitation of the modern body was gymnastics and exercises based on natural everyday movements. It was at Monta Verita, the birth place of the Lebensreform movement that Ausdruckstanz, the German modern dance, was also born. The human body became the only remaining authentie topos that seemed to hold the solution to the disintegrating individuality and authenticity of a mass society. In the colony, dance was adopted from the beginning as the ideal medium of communication for expressing the freedom of the body from the oppressive social norms and codified behaviors. Free movement practices based on improvisations were part of basic training with Laban, for whom regaining one's uninhibited expressiveness meant finding "die neuen Formen eines einfachen und harmonischen Lebens."23
The ideal of the "Bewegungskunst" that Laban taught in Monte Verita was very closely related with the function of the colony as a sanatorium. "Movement" was supposed to be the key to healing the mind and body of the modern people. This idea of dance as a healing activity was popular at the time, often discussed in various newspapers by journalists, dancers and gymnasts. For example, a journalist Otto HeuscheIe wrote in "Die Schönheit" in 1923 that one reacted to what he characterized as "Intellektualismus, einseitige Gehirn- und mechanistische Geistes und Werkkultur" with dance. Dance could solve this as a "befreiende Kraft" and "Erlöser zu neuem Menschentum.”24
Unlike Dalcroze's method however whose aim was also to heal the crippled senses of modern subjects through music, Laban's aim was to rediscover the "force" of movement residing in one's own body. In other words, Laban saw the inherent force of 'movement' within the individual himself, not in music with its rhythrn and speed. Laban developed a whole "Schwungskala" , ascale of "force" (not "movement") that would allow the individual to re-Iearn the inner rhythm. Once a dancer learned to "re-naturalize" his/her movements, he/she could dance with the "flow" of the "force."25
The goal of learning this "flow" termed "the Ether" in Steiner's Eurythmie, although Laban students often referred to this "flow" also as "Schwung”, however it was not only focused on developing dance techniques, but it was also aimed at the larger goal of rejuvenating the body and ultimately, society. Similar to Dalcroze' s method that claimed to function as a new "philosophy" of life, dance was treated semi-religiously as a new form of art that, paradoxically, could treat and heal even concrete sociological and cultural problems (health, hygiene, equal access to culture etc.). In fact, dance was noto merely represent a new way of 'moving', but also a whole new possibility of experiencing the world through a renewed sense of rhythm. As a result, a dancer was not just someone who was "performing" aseries of practiced, ritualized movements,but someone who embodied a new philosophy, almost a revolutionary, who, in the moment of his/her movements became the microcosm of "life" itself. Laban defines the meaning of a dancer and dance in the following: Ich aber fand, daß, das, was man geistige Einheitlichkeit, Menschlichkeit, wirklich allseitige Lebensbejahung oder ähnlich nennt, niemals durch den Denker oder den Träumer oder aber den Gewaltmenschen erreicht und dargestellt wurde, sondern einzig durch jene, die ihr Erleben und Handeln aus dem die ganze Welt erfüllenden Tanz der leiblich-seelisch-geistigen Erscheinungen schöpften. Ich sah auch, daß die Kunst des Tanzes der einzige reine Vollausdruck dieses Erlebens sein kann.(...) Tanz ist alle Kultur, alle Gesellschaftlichkeit. Tanz ist die Schwungkraft, die untastbare Vorstellungen zur religion reiht. Tanz ist alles Wissen, Schauen und Bauen, das den Forscher und Tatmenschen erfüllt. Doch das reinste Abbild des Tanzes der Tänze, des Weltgeschehens, ist der Reigen, den der Menschenkörper schwingt.26
In Laban' s charged rhetoric dance was not only elevated into a mystical form of art through which a new form of humanity could be produced, a production that was only to be surpassed by the "Creation" of God, but this "humanity" was engaged in a new form of activity - dancing together in a "Reigen". In the counter-cultural "community" of Monte Verita, dance was reevaluated as a method for constructing a utopian form of "community", one that "moved together" and one that communicated through the shared impetus of rhythmic "Schwungkraft." In other words, the ultimate goal of reawakening the maimed human body and its perception was to create a new "community" in which people communicated "freely" and "naturally." While for the patients in the sanatorium of Ascona, Laban's movement therapy was a medium for healing their illnesses, for the artists and intellectuals who were participating in constructing this colony, dance was the metaphor for a new way of living through which one could release repressed inhibitions. The world of dance in this colony was not about training dance skills and producing professional dancers. It was about constructing a different way of living. It found its most idealized form in the "naturalized" movements of modern dance through which modem subjects, alienated and crippled from mechanized urban life, could be rejuvenated again. Ultimately, the goal of this dance, which Laban called "asconesische Tanzform", was to create a new community whose life is based on aesthetic experience:
Die Leute müssen vor allem aus der Stadt heraus, sagte ich zu mir, und dann müssen wir ein ganz anderes Leben führen. Sie müssen neben der Kunst eine gesunde Arbeit betreiben, am besten Landwirtschaft, Gartenbau oder so etwas ähnlichens. Die künstlerische Arbeit muß in Form und Inhalt aus der Gemeinschaft herauswachsen, zu der ich sie zusammenführen will...27
It was this 'spirit' of dance that mattered. In fact, artists and intellectuals were not only inspired by the form of movement but also by the meaning of '-'life" that dance, a medium that was both concrete/physical and sublime/ephemeral seemed to produce.
Thus movement arts, can be a somewhat paradoxical category of art. On the one hand, it is an art of the body: whether it is putting the body on stage for the audience as in traditional court ballet, or the self-referential expression of the body as in modem dance, the human body is at the center of it. That was also embedded in modem dance in Germany that celebrated the "naturalness" of the human body. Emile Jacques-Dalcroze, for example, constructed his new principles of movement based on the free expressions of the body, expressions that stood against the "virtuos-technische, unharmonische und 'unnatürliche' Bewegungen.”28
This often went to the extreme, as in the case of Rudolf Bode, another leading innovator of gymnastics of the time, who criticized even Dalcroze's "rhythmic gymnastic" as "mechanical" and "rational-metrischen." He wrote, "Die 'Methode' Jaques-Dalcroze hat den prinzipiellen Fehler, daß sie in erster Linie eine mechanische Technik ist, deren Voraussetzung ein 'gegliedeter' Körper ist. Aller Rhythmus aber ist eine Funktion der Totalität, zum mindesten der Totalität des menschlichen Körpers.”29
"Technik" was 'unnatural' and thus, was an antipode to the human body, the "natural" entity in its holistic unity with nature. On the other hand, dance is an art of technique: a highly developed choreography of repetitive motion that requires skill and routine. Classic court ballet represents subservience of the body to the conventions of dance. "[...] Man mußte Strengste Disziplin halten; wir hatten die bestehenden Vorschriften zu beachten und mußten mit Kopf und Körper bis an die Grenze unserer Kraft jeden Tag sechzehn Stunden üben," wrote ballerina Anna Pawlowa, revealing the rigorous observation of discipline and exhaustive hours of training that lay behind her legendary performances 30.
Tutus and point shoes that most popularly symbolize ballet, reveal the emphasis of ballet on the legs. Nevertheless, it is not the sexuality of the ballerina that exudes from her legs but the immaculate repetition of standard ballet techniques. "Ich muß immer vollkommener werden," wrote Pawlowa thus, emphasizing ballet as interminable mastery of technique.31
Dance constitutes itself somewhere between the "holistic" and "natural" realm of the body and the artificial realm of technique. Indeed, dance cannot simply be categorized as one or the other between the two poles of "natural" body and technology. A successful dance performance is produced by a successful merger of the two, the moment when "the dancer and the dance cannot be distinguished."32
In this sense, movement arts are a form of art that is produced in the moment when the "natural" body and artificial technology come into conflict with each other. The Asconian ideal of "renaturalizing" the body contained many contradictions in its practices as weil. While it idealized the economic system of self-sustenance based on the "natural" lifestyle of primitive tribes, it did not forget the usefulness of central heating and modem utilities. And while it rejected modem medicine as an "unnatural" way of healing human body, its "natural" method was based on rationalized system of diet and exercise engineering. In a way it could not even resolve its own ambivalence between the "reform" ideal based on freedom of sex and equality of gender on the one hand, and the bourgeois morals of repressing the libidinal desires on the other. As Wigman remembers, even among the artists and intellectuals, three women were apparently consistently exc1uded as the "Hexen von Endor": Else Lasker-Schüler, the poetess, Marianne Werefkin, the painter, and Mary Wigman, the dancer.33
This kind of contradiction was symptomatic of Germany in the early twentieth century between the obsession with the "natural" body and fascination with artificial technology, between regressive Romanticism and progressive Futurism. However, the root of this cultural contradiction of the time was not so much a 'difference' in perspective but a shared interest in reevaluating the importance of the body and reawakening its senses. Some saw artificial technology, such as film, radio and gramophone, as the new media of cultivating human sens es progressively in a "modem" way, and others saw "natural" means, such as hiking and rhythmic gymnastics as the way to remedy the human senses that seemed lost in modemity. What they both shared was the focus on the "body" and exploring its changing meaning in modem society. Body culture and Lebensreform movement on the one side and futurists and avant-garde artists on the other side - were using similar rhetorie to present their ideas of progress. While the supporters of Psychotechnik were going so far as comparing human organs to technology, the Lebensreform movement decreed that the return to nature was about to sweep Berlin. While Bauhaus' functionalism aimed to build houses that would help people befriend their technological and mechanized environment, people were at the same time leaving their houses altogether to go out into nature for mountaineering, outdoor exercises and gymnastics. When Hugo Münsterberg praises the "photoplay" in bis book The Film. A Psychohological Study based on the "advance of modern laboratory psychology," his goal is to prove how "photoplay" is not mere deception or magic but a reflection of a explicable mechanism of human perception.34
Technological gadgets and human organs became interchangeable in their functions. Münsterberg , s ideal of "photoplay" is not far removed from the utilitarianism and functionalism current at the time that produced Bauhaus as weil as the fascination with Psychotechnik.35 Cultural debates of the time in Weimar Germany also reflected this contradiction between "naturalness" and "artificiality." Proponents of technology saw the hope for a utopia in its artificiality that could restructure reality and human lives with unprecedented speed. Walter Benjamin, for example, writes in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility" how mechanically reproduced art that otherwise lacks authenticity can also help people cope with reality. Film, with its unique shock effects creates another spatio-temporal dimension of reality that breaks away from the restriction of the human body, and thus, is a well-suited medium for training people in acquiring "heightened level of perception."
Before Wigman debuted as a "modem dancer" , before she was choreographing movements based solel yon expression, dance and expressive gestures were already an integral part of the intellectual and cultural discourses of the time that were engaged with the questions of the human body and its perception. On the one hand, there was a surge of popular dance culture, such as fox trot, shimmy, and Charleston, those dances from the so-called "black Ameriea" that seemed to reflect uninhibited expressiveness and astate of dispossession. On the other hand, there was a rise in ethnological and anthropological studies about savage cultures which showed the same kind of interest in the state of dispossession. Movement arts crossed over with other scientific and pseudo-scientific discourses of the time, such as hypnosis and occultism (in the case of R.Steiner’s Eurythmy for sure since after all he was the author of the book “Occult Science”), the discourses that focused on the state of dispossession and bewitchment. In other words, the gestures and expressions that were the object of fascination in these scientific and pseudo-scientific discourses of the time were at the same time also the working material of dance. While modem dance as high-art was budding in Germany , dance as popular entertainment was spreading so rapidly that it was likened to an "epidemie."36
The Gesellschaftstanz, "a dance with a partner for social enjoyment" such as waltz and polka that were popular during the first deeade were sueceeded in the twenties by faster and more dynamic dances that were mostly imported from the US, such as the Charleston, the Shimmy, boogie-woogie, Jitterbug, Rumba, Apache and the Boston.37
Bolstered by the official lifting ofthe "Tanzverbot" on New Year's Eve of 1918, an anti-dance law that was imposed during WWI out of respect for those fighting on the front, young people in the cities rushed to the dance clubs to move their bodies to the rhythms of these new dances and immerse themselves in the "Tanzrausch.”38
Or as the Berliner Tagesblatt reported, "Wie ein Rudel hungriger Wölfe stürzt sich das Volk auf die langentbehrte Lust. Noch nie ist in Berlin so viel, so rasend getanzt worden.,,39 In newspapers such as Berliner Zeitung, advertisements about dance events were flooding the pages producing a special advertisement seetion, which listed the evening's entertainment under the motto of "Täglich getanzt und gelehrt."40
Plus Anita Berber and Mata Hari were two of the dancers that were making their names through erotic and experimental nude dances, becoming the "tanzender Vamp" through their "expressionistischen Nacktänzen.”41With the wave of jazz culture from America , it was also aperiod of "schwarze Tanz" as represented by Josephine Baker who was named the "Schwarzen Venus": "Ihr Tanz, das ist Instinkt gegen die Zivilisation, ist Aufruhr der Sinne. Sie enthüllt uns jenes Unterbewusste, das unsere ganze Weltanschauung über den Haufen wirft" wrote one newspaper.”42
Thus dance fever was also regarded as a mere craze or dismissed as scandalous phenomenon, even as a "Kunstprostitution.”43
This representation of dance as something that's "bacchanal", "Dionysian", "ecstatic" and "trance-like" states was also visible in the field of painting.Henri Matisse, for example, who thematized "dance" in many of his paintings, emphasized the importance of "expressiveness" of his works: "Die ganze Anordnung meiner Bilder ist Ausdruck, welchen Raum die Körper einnehmen, der freie Raum, der sie umgibt, die Proportionen, alles hat daran seinen Anteil.”46 His painting, Der Tanz (1910) shows a "Reigen" that does not represent anything other than the motion of a circle. It is not clear whether the dance represents a cultic dance in Greek antiquity or the "modern dance" on Monte Verita, whether the dancers are outdoors or indoors, what time of the year and day it is. There is only the movement itself, and the "expression" of this movement created through the extremely simplified, intense color.
Also Emil Nolde's painting Tanz um das Goldene Kalb (1910) captures the artist' s fascination with ecstatic movement. Although the painting has biblical context, the focus of the painting is not on the act of cultic ritual that is being depicted but on the atmosphere created by the dancers who are depicted as immersed in their expressive, Dionysian movements. The dancers' bodies are not clearly outlined. For Nolde, dance was the guiding inspiration for his art and life: "An dem Tanz als Kunstäußerung oder auch als Bewegung, als Leben, hatte ich immer meine Freude.”47
Nolde was often a regular guest at Wigman's performances, famous for having another seat reserved for his painting materials. However, just as Wigman inspired Nolde and Kirchner for their expressionistic painting, their paintings impressed and inspired Wigman in retum 48. For example, Nolde' sprint of Tänzerin (1911), which he gave to Wigman as a present, became a cherished portrait for her.49
Together with the recognition of ethnology and psychoanalysis as new forms of knowledge around the turn of the century, lively discussions on anthropology developed as weIl. The variete and cabaret culture and their fascination with "exotic dance" sweIled at the same time as scientific discussions on primitive peoples and their cultures. Therefore, it was not only Josephine Baker, the "black dancer," but also oriental, Indian and Latin American movement arts, with their exotic trance and ecstatic movements, that fascinated Europeans. Wilhelm Wundt in Völker psychologie (1912) recognized ethnology as the field to study about the modern"Volksgemeinschaft" and pointed to dance as the portal to understanding human emotions, especially in their extreme states, such as ecstasy. Indeed it was through "ecstasy" that these ethnologists and historians developed an approach to understanding the modem mass phenomenon. P. Beck wrote in Die Ekstase. Ein Beitrag zur Psychologie und Völkerkunde (1929) about the importance of these "ransenden Tänze" of antiquity that developed as cult rituals. B. Schurtz wrote in Urgeschichte der Kultur how the rhythmic movements function as "unifying factor" of society.52 Wagner had already proclaimed the regeneration of human perception
through the "synaesthetic" and ritualistic experience of Gesamtkunstwerk through which the German Volk could reunite as one. Similarly, for Nietzsehe, dance was the model of communication in modem society, a communication that was based on a renewed sense ofthe body. Nietzsche differed from Wagner, however, in that he did not see the solution in the reconstruction of a mythical community from antiquity, but in the moment of tension when the unity between the mind and the body falls apart. Thus thefocus on the role of "ecstasy" in anthropology and ethnology overlapped with the concepts of "possession," "suggestion" and "hypnosis" in spiritualism and occultism, studies that tried to explain the invisible power of the spirit. But "hypnosis' was also subsumed into the entertainment culture, tuming the "Verbrechen" into a "Schauspiel des hypnotische Verbrechens."53
Numerous publications from the same period attest to the popularity of these occult phenomena. In 1926, a book called Der Mann mit dem 6e Sinn (Man with the 6e sense) was published, in which the author maintains the scientific legitimacy of occultism: "Jeder Skeptiker, und sei es der größte, jeder Wissenschaftler, der okkulte Phänomene verneint, muss vor diesem Werk halt machen. Es wird hier keine Hypothese, sondern der unumstössliche Beweis erbraucht, daß es ein Fortleben nach dem Tode gibt und Jenseitige sich uns Erdenmenschen kund tun können"; the foIlowing year a Dr. med. H. Oberdörffer publishes Gedankenmacht als Lebenskraft: Die Heilkraft des Geistes in which the doctor explains the role of “ mesmerism" as well as "hypnosis and suggestion" in the rejuvenation of health through "Gedankenkraft." In addition, a range of occult medical explorations was performed on such physical ability enhancement issues as improving human eyesight or the "königlichen Kunst" of "Atmen." A certain "Aurelius" published a book called Sonnenenergie als Nahrung in which he claims to reveal aIl the "secrets" of "Sonnenenergie." Other publications such as Biorhythmik als Naturgesetz that tries to disclose the "Rhythmus unseres Blutes" or Walter Guhlmann's Magische und Okkulte Parfüme (1926) claims to give an "Anleitung zum Praktischen Gebrauch der Kraefte der Parfüme" - which is explicitly borrowed from the myth of witchcraft as exemplified by such chapters entitled "Der magische Gebrauch der Parfüms" or "Hexensalben und die Erzeugung künstlicher Träume." All these publications are testimonies to the period during which Anthroposophy, "occultism" and, "spiritualism" in Germany , gained popularity simultaneously with the growing scientific studies and development in technology. It was aperiod in whieh "magie" became scientific. Previously unexplainable natural phenomena or paranormal human activities found their scientific equivalents - "Hellsehen" found its correlation in "Röntgenstrahlen," "Telepathie" in "Telegraphieren ohne Draht," and "Hexerei" in "Exteriorisation der Sensibilität."54
But on Monte Verita just as later R.Steiner’s hill in Dornach (where now the ‘Goetheanum’ stands) was a microcosm of such cultural phenomena that was in the air. As Wigman' s early biography shows, it was in Ascona where she immersed herself in the philosophy of Nietzsche, psychotherapy, free masonry, occultism, anarchism and ethnology. Laban was briefly part of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) occult organization and its mass scale group dances took place in Ascona that would last twelve hours long from sunrise to sunset.
It was also in this context that Rudolf Steiner came to Monte Verita to see Theodor Reuss and buy a Masonic patent for his own form of "Mizraim Dienst." (In his introductory lectures, one for women and another for men, Rudolf Steiner traced the value of his just bought Masonic patent back to Cagliostro). In this context it should be noted that Steiner also was not involved with so called ‘sex magic’, plus he also was never a Nazi sympathizer or a ‘direct’ (although one can say indeed “in-direct”) racist but this is not overt among his followers today. It was of course because Steiner was very much a child of his time, the problem comes under discussion because his followers see Steiner more or less as ‘infallible’ an someone who could “see the future.” In European Steiner also called Waldorfschools via “Seven culture –epochs” classes the insinuation is still (2007) that ‘dark skinned’ people are like little children versus (caucasian)“Middle Europeans” the current apotheoses of “human development”.
What is interesting in the case of Mary Wigman's therefore is also that there was a gap in her self-conception where she was to become the "priestess" of her new art through which she could explain deeper truths about "life," However, what the audience saw in her dances was powerful and fascinating presence of Wigman that had nothing to do with her metaphysical intentions. Therefore; the so-called "failed" performances in her earlier years, those that Wigman feit were misunderstood and scorned by the audience, were not quite "failures." Although the audience's reception might not have been satisfactory for Wigman's expectation, her dances nonetheless had noticeable effect on them. Even those who misunderstood and saw a gymnastics performance with "soul" or a distraught performance of a domestically abused woman on the stage, they were affected by the energy of Wigman's performance and the presence of her movements.55
In 1916, while working in the exile community of artists in Zurich during WWI, she wrote in her diary: Ich bin der Tanz! Und bin die Priesterin des Tanzes/ Meines Körpers Schwung/Sprincht zu EuchlVon der Bewegung aller Dinge/(. .. )/Der Schmerz aller strebenden Dinge/ist mein Schmerz.lDie Lust aller kreisenden Bewegung/ist meine Lust./Herr über den Raum bin ich, Die Priesterin der erhabenen Tänze.Ich bin die Seele des Tanzes. 56
The Dancer here also had to be sexless, or as writer Otto Flake remembered Wigman's dances as representing the "Idee" and "Willen" and not "Lyrismus" or "Weiblichkeit."58 For Wigman. her dances were not meant to be mere entertainment for pleasure, neither for the audience nor for herself. Dance was an act of deference for her, an act that was necessary for her own self consciousness as an artist of a new form of art. This is also why Wigman did not share the aesthetic ideal of the Dadaists with whom she came in close contact during WWI in Zurich . Wigman was in search of a new art; she wanted to solidify her 'religion', not destroy it. For example, when Wigman gave her first successful performance as a professional dancer in Dresden in 1919, various major newspapers of Dresden all agreed with Otto Flake's review of her dance as an embodiment of "Idee" and "Aufgabe." However, the unanimous reviews are not based on her dance 'themes' but impressive physical competence, such as "Gelenkigkeit", "akrobatische Kraft der Glieder", "Ausdrucks schärfe" and "außergewöhnliche Formen.”59
The contradiction in her dance between the desires to become metaphysical while demonstrating physical excellence at times also was an irritation for critics. For example on the evening, Wigman perfonned Die Sieben [Seven]Tänze des Lebens, her first long group dance, which she bad choreographed while she was recovering from her tuberculosis in 1918 60. She used costumes that were partly based on Goethe ' s theory of colors (like R. Steiner would to) and partly on esoteric color symbols, with each color corresponding to the theme of her seven dances. At the center of the story was a dancer who had to convince the king to be saved from her death sentence through her dances. It represented, once again, an underlying current in her dance oeuvres: overcoming human mortality and deficiencies through her new "religion" of dance.
Clearly, Wigman's dance demonstrated formal innovations: it was no longer about merely "beautiful" images, but the dynamic between the bodily movement and the space. However, it was Frankfurter Zeitung that pointed to the problematic repetition of "philosophical" theme in her dances. The review argued that Wigman's dances do not need to "tell" stories because the performance speaks for itself. Therefore, the philosophical message of the dance was a "wirres Zeug". Sie (Wigman) soll tanzen und nicht abgründig-tief zu erläutern versuchen Mary Wigman, Du brachtest diesmal noch nicht die Lösung. Bejahe einmal das Leben ganz, rudere heraus aus den Zusammenstellungen von fremdem Papier und Deinem Blut Und werde endlich über allem Leid freudig.62
This “zu erläutern versuchen” is of course much more present in Rudolf Steiner’s Eurythmie where each letter of the alphabet is represent by a movement visioned by Steiner ‘clairvoyance’(this includes 12 consonants that relate to the zodiac and 7 vowels that relate to “the” 7 planets) and thus cannot be changed by any of his students.
Thus we find also a contradiction in Wigman' s dance: she was the pioneer of bodily art, dance, with its expressiveness and uninhibited energy, but she also strove to be its priestess as well and tried "explaining" and "preaching" through spirituality of her dances. Thus while her audience saw dance as it is, movements on stage, Wigman tried to imbue it with stories and concepts.But more than any other solo performances, Wigman was partieularly fond of her Witch Dance as she reminisces in her book The Language 0f Dance, the only dance that never gave her stage fright. 63
A contemporary review shows how through her movements Wigman personified the fascinating and overwhelming presence of an alleged witch: She wants to capture us. We see through her. She cannot have us. But almost. If we don't watch out, she could have us, suddenly. That is, insanity could have us A shrilllaugh. And the despairing, wretched, infamous emptiness. 64
This description reveals the intensity of the viewer's imagination, a witch from popular myth that could exercise ‘black magic’, shows a combination of nervousness and the fear of losing control over one's own body and mind.
But, her Witch Dance was not a throwback to an archaic time, but an effort to actively engage with the role of "modern dance" as performance and representation at the time. As a result, dance cannot fit into most available definitions of modemism;which is supposed to be "autonomous", "self-referential", "ironie" and"individualistic", concepts that have nothing to do with regeneration of society, reconstruction of a new community and life that Wigman’s Ausdruckstanz strove to achieve.In conjunction with the development of Freikörperkultur of the time and the foundation of such organizations as the Verein für Körperkultur in 1901, dance in the form of bodily exercise constituted a main part of the larger counter-cultural movement of "Erneuerung des Menschen an Leib und Seele." (Gabriele Klein. FrauenKörperTanz , Berlin, 1992, 140).
Thus modern dance appealed to the lay people as a form of recreational exercise. The This participatory aspect of Ausdruckstanz crystallized in the development of group dances. For Laban "chorischer Tanz" was an expression of "gemeinschaftlichen Bewegungsimpulses." (Ferdinand.Tönnies, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundbegriffe der reinen Soziologie, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1979).
Parallel to the development of group dance in Ausdruckstanz, festival productions were al ready a major part of the theater reform at the beginning of the 20th century, in reaction against the bourgeois theater with its strict separation between the andience and the performers. For example, in Hellerau, where Wigman was training under Dalcroze, innovative use of theater space and staging of large-scale group choreographies were already in practice. The institute that was built by Heinrich Tessenow functioned both as a school and as a "Festspielhaus". In July 1912, Dalcroze, together with theater refonner Adolphe Appia and the painter Alexander von Salzmann, who worked on the stage lighting of the large hall, staged Gluck's opera "Orpheus and Eurydice". It was such an aesthetic innovation that it became an international event where many renown artists and intellectuals, such as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Sergei Diaghilew, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pawlowa, G. B. Shaw, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Max Reinhardt, gathered.The Festspielhaus, did not have anything that separated the stage from the audience; it was one large, rectangular room with the accommodation capacity of about 300 people. It did not have any separation between the podium, the stage and the audience seal There was no proscenium archor raised stage or an orchestra pit either. Also for the stage setting, they avoided decorative effect and used movable steps to create different kinds of settings and objects, such as the stairs to the underground for Orpheus. The walls and the ceiling were covered with white, transparent cloths, creating a unique lighting that was hannonious with the atmosphere of the music. As Salzmann commented: "instead of a lighted space, we have a light-producing space" (Yvonne Hardt, Politische Körper: Ausdruckstanz, Choreographien des Protests und die Arbeiterkulturbewegung in der Weimarer Republik, LIT Verlag, 2004).
By 1930, Wigman, who, in previous years, was vehemently arguing for the individualism of Ausdruckstanz, choreographed Totenmal, consisting of a "speaking" choir and a "movement" choir (a separation previously common to R.Steiner's Eurythmy, German: "Eurythmie"). This kind of Sprechchor was also popularly employed in the proletarian mass theater - both communist and socialist – in the Weimar Republic that allowed the participation of lay people and "represent a collective voice for the proletariat." (Timothy Kevin Donahue-Bombosch, Building the Nation: Fascist Mass Spectacle as Worker Culture. Dissertation, Stanford University, 1997).
According to Wigman, Tanzorchester was different from an Instrumentalorchester in music because each dancer could participate in producing the work with his-her own "Stimme." Originally, "speaking choirs" were adopted by the Socialists as an effective form of mass culture that could also function as an aesthetic medium of political expression for workers. Speaking choir was important not only for its use on theater stages but also for the possibility to physically experience the utopian ideal of Gemeinschaft that was the political basis for the workers' solidarity. In fact, speaking choir, together with other Festspiele, Arbeiterfeiern and Turnfeiern that were often organized by SPD, was one of the few forms of practices that was rooted in the workers' movement and developed into a legitimate genre of "performance." In this sense the above where not a ‘fascist’ aesthetic but its lack of clear message. The reviewer for the Völkischer Beobachter, an organ of the Nazi party, interpreted the production as a straightforward support for pacifism.(See also Peter Gay. Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider, New York, 2001).
By the end of the 1920’s the Weimar Republic was close to its breakdown. The German economy, which was already extremely shaky with the exponentially growing unemployment rate, came to a complete breakdown following the Wall Street stock market crash and global Great Depression. Politically, 1930 then was marked by demagogy and violence culminating in the September election where the Nazis won their first big victory. Formally, the aesthetic of group dance that Laban developed as part of modern dance was not specifically confined to worker' s movement or to the National Socialist' s body politics, but it responded to all of them.
Though Wigman might have been successful enough to be able to be commissioned for the next year's Olympic opening ceremony, it was also to be her last dance commissioned by the Nazis. The ambiguity of the meaning of "successful compromise" is equally represented in the case of Laban. He was commissioned to choreograph a "dedicatory act" entitled Vom Tauwind und der neuen Freude for the opening of the Dietrich Eckart-Theater on the night of the Olympic opening ceremony. A sketch of the choreography had been presented and approved by the Propaganda Ministry in 1935 as a "masterpiece" due to the inclusion of "German movement choirs and dance choruses from aIl the districts of the Reich". However, things suddenly changed in June 1936 after Goebbels attended its rehearsal, who wrote in his diary on 21 June, 1936, that the dance was "too intellectual" (Lilian Karina and Marion Kant, Marion. Hitler's Dancers. German Modern Dance and the Third Reich Trans. by Jonathan Steinberg, New York, 1996).
By June 1937, Goebbels gave a clear definition of "good" dance: "Dance must be cheerful and show beautiful female bodies. It has nothing to do with philosophy."
In February 1938, Laban left Germany and settled in England where he spent the rest of his life teaching dance. Wigman performed only solo dances in private until the WWII was over. But at least one student of Mary Wigman’s style Martha Graham; became famous in the USA, and initially also used group dances reminiscent of corps de ballet, which originally has the function of replacing the chorus in an opera, takes over the center piece of the performance. In fact, with the development of modem group dances, the movement dynamic within the group becomes the material of the dance performance itself.
Most successful under the Nazi’s became Leni Riefenstahl, who in "Filmtanz" an early precursor dance in film. Before Riefenstahl made her films under the Nazi regime, she was an actress in Arnold Fanck's mountain films, popular during the twenties and early thirties.
Throughout her career, Mary Wigman insisted that her choreographies differed from other popular forms of body culture, such as rhythmic gymnastics, which she considered to be mere 'dilettantism' expressionist-modernism was the only dance that qualified as true art. Because it had a social agenda; it would show mankind to a better future. It is interesting to compare Wigman's to another critic of in this case rhythmic gymnastics, Siegfried Kracauer, who, in "The Mass Ornament", criticizes it precisely for the opposite reason: for not being 'superficial' enough. The debate over the cultural value of dance and choreography more generally an be summarized by comparing the two opposing positions: whereas Wigman snubs rhythmic gymnastics and dismisses it for its lack of aesthetic value, Kracauer praises it-precisely for its overt entertainment value. It is interesting to consider that Kracauer would have seen the modern dancers of his time (who were all more or less part of the culture of rhythmic gymnastics) as being hopeless victims of modernity. The dancers thought of themselves as being at the forefront of the time, 'practicing' social criticism. Mary Wigman certainly did not intend it with any sense of irony when she talked about how dance, as 'life', was the aesthetic medium for the humanity of the future. In fact, as we have seen, Wigman's desire to secure her status as a "modemist" led her to constantly overload her dance with meanings until it became a pseudo-religion for Wigman. (See Terri J. Gordon, Fascism and the Female Form: Performance Art in the Third Reich Journal of the History of Sexuality - Volume 11, Number 1 and 2, January/April 2002, pp. 164-200).
For Kracauer then, it was the very 'seriousness' of the dancers that seemed to undermine their art. If only they could be 'light' about it and treat it for what it was rhythmic motion, social entertainment, health practice etc. - then what would have seemed like cultural 'crudeness' would have inversely functioned as their cultural criticism. However modem dance does not fit into the conventional understanding of "modemism" as a pure aesthetic category. Modem dance developed in response to the social ideal to develop a new lifestyle, a new form of life, in reaction to what was perceived to be a overly mechanized modem society. It developed as a response to concrete social problems, such as modem physical ailments, deficiencies in education system and problems of worker's health. Thus, it had a clear social agenda and 'content' from the beginning and its goal was to revive dynamic human relationships by teaching people how to "naturally" express themselves through their bodies. If this was indeed the case, then we would need to revise our categories of modemism. Instead of considering it as an 'inferior' and 'frivolous’offshoot of the traditional hierarchy of the arts, it should be placed at the center of it, as an attempt to change the very structure of society (idem Fascism and the Female Form).
After all, dance inspired and worked with every aesthetic innovation in modernity, from film and literature to painting and theater. Theater producers were working together with modem dancers, artists were painting dancers at work, writers were visiting dance performances and film directors were borrowing the discourse of dance to explain their new medium. Seen in this light, it does not do justice to see modemism as a monolithic category for one sphere of culture. In fact ‘modernism’should be understood more generally as an aesthetic innovation that aimed to improve society by achieving a new lifestyle. In the case of ‘modernity’ however as we will se next in the case of Mary Wigman, there also seems to be then something about art that moves doser to 'politics' and something about politics that relies on 'art'.
1 Müller, Hedwig. Mary Wigman. Leben und Werk der großen Tänzerin, hrsg. v. Akademie der Künste (Berlin:Quadriga Verlag, 1986) 49.
2 Müller 48.
3 Müller 77.
4 From the frontcover synopsis in Brandstetter, Gabriele. Tanz-Lektüren. Köperbilder und Raumfiguren der Avantgarde. (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag) 1995.
5 See for example Peter Gay's Weimar Culture (New York: Harper and Row, 1968) and John Willett's Art and Politics in the Weimar Period (New York: Pantheon, 1978) both of which do not mention Wigman. In Willett's The Theatre ofthe WeimarRepublic. (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1988) and Michael Patterson's The Revolution in German Theater, 1900-1933 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,1981) Wigman is mentioned within the context of theater reform and "epic theater".
6 Bürger, Peter. Theory ofthe Avant-garde (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974).
7 Manning, Susan. Ecstasy and Demon: feminism and nationalism in the dances of Mary Wigman (Berkeley: University of Califomia Press, 1993).
8 Manning, Ecstasy and Demon 10. She calls the approach "ideological critique" which she defines it as "a general term for approaches that understand art as a social production rather than as a set of transcendent values."
9 Manning 2.
10 Definitions from Huyssen, Andreas. "Mass Culture as Woman. Modemism's Other," After the Greate Divide. Modernism, Mass Culture, Post Modernism (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984) 53-54.
11 Manning 49-50.
12 Manning 50.
13 Sorell, Walter. Mary Wigman. Ein Vermächtnis (Wilhelmshaven: F. Noetzel, 1986) 23.
14 Sorell 23.
15 Müller 23.
16 Müller 24.
17 Müller 28.
18 Müller 24.
19 More extensive description of this production is provided in chapter two.
20 Müller 36.
21 Monte Verita: Berg der Wahrheit: locale Anthropologie als Beitrag zur Wiederentdeckung einer neuzeitlichen sakralen Topographie. (Milan (?): EIeeta Editrice, 1978 (?» 73.
22 Wolfgang Gräser, "Körpersinn. Gymnastik, Tanz, Sport" (Munieh: C.H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1927) 7-11, in The Weimar Republic Source Book, ed. Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, Edward Dimendberg (Berkeley: University of Califomia Press, 1994) 683.
23 Hedwig Müller and Patricia Stöcke mann. "..Jeder Mensch ist ein Tänzer"Ausdruckstanz in Deutschland zwischen 1900 und 1945 (Gießen: AnabasVerlag, 1993) 4.
24 Quoted in Hardt, Yvonne. Politische Körper. Ausdruckstanz, Choreographien des Protests und die Arbeiterkulturbewegungen der Weimarer Republik. (Münster, Lit Verlag, 2004) 33.
25 Hardt Politische Körper 40-41.
26 Müller Mary Wigman 41.
27 Quoted in Böhme, Böhme. Rudolf von Laban und die Entstehung des modernen Tanzdramas. (Berlin: Hentrich, 1996) 72.
28 Klein, Gabriele. FrauenKörperTanz. Eine Zivilisationsgeschichte des Tanzes. (Quadriga Verlag: BerIin, 1992) 149.
29 Klein 150.
30 Klein 125.
31 Klein 127.
32 W. B. Yeat quoted in Jonas, Gerald. Dancing. The Pleasure, Power and Art 01 Movement (New York: Abrams, 1998) 13.
33 SorelI, Walter. Mary Wigman. Ein Vermächtnis (Wilhelmshaven: FIorian Noetzel Verlag, 1986) 46. Wigman remembers how in the evenings, the "vegetarians" gathered together like "Tafelrunde Christi", discussing over such issues as, "Wie sollte die Idealgemeinschaft der vegetarisch lebenden "Edelmenschen" beschaffen sein? Haustiere oder keine? Die Ernährung auf Rohkost beschränkt oder nicht? Und sollte man den "geistigen Arbeitern" gelegentlich Reizmittel wie Kaffee, Tabak oder Alkohol zubilligen?" According to Wigman, the "holy" circle did not include women.
34 Münsterberg, Hugo. The Film. A Psychological Study. (New Y ork: Dover, 1970).
35 Baxmann, loge. Mythos: Gemeinschaft. Körper- und Tanzkulturen in der Moderne. (München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2000) 105.
36 Carol Diethe. "The Dance Theme in German Modernism" in German Life and Letters 44.4 (1991): 334.
37 Diethe 346.
38 Diethe 334.
39 Quoted in Klein, 167. The report is from a January 1st edition of Berliner Tageblatt.
40 Wolfgang Jansen, Glanzrevuen der zwanziger Jahre. (Berlin: Edition Hentrich, 1987).
41 Klein 172.
42 Quoted in Klein 174.
43 Ernst Stern quoted in Diethe, ''The Dance Theme in German Modernism", 343.
44 Klaus Mann, The Turning Point. Thirthy-Five Years in This Century. (New Y ork: L.B. Fischer, 1942) 86.
45 Klein 168, 172.
46 Aufbruch in die Moderne. Malerei, Literatur, Musik 1905-1920. (Leipzig: Ernst Klett Schulbuchverlag, 1998) 30.
47 Aufbruch in die Moderne 31.
48 Nolde quoted in Aufbruch in die Moderne, 31. He wrote, "Ihre (Mary Wigman) Freundschaft zu uns war gesteigert, wenn auf der Bühne sie tanzte und ich in Spannung mit meinen Farben sie malte (...) Es gaben die Tänzerinnen Anregungen zu meinen Bildern und diese wohl auch einiges den Tänzerinnen wieder."
49 Müller 31.
50 Sorell 47.
51 Baxmann 63-5.
52 Quoted in Baxmann 68-69.
53 Andriopolous, Stefan. Der Bessessene Körper: Hypnose, Körperschaften und die Erfindung des Kinos. (München: Fink Verlag, 2000). Andropolius' work gives a comprehensive examination of the overlap between literature, medicine and law within the "hypnosis" boom.
54 Stockhammer, Robert. Zaubertexte. Die Wiederkehr der Magie und die Literatur, 1880-1945. (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2000) 16.
55 Müller 89.
56 Müller 58.
57 Sorell 68.
58 Quoted in Sorell68.
59 Müller 72.
60 Müller 102.
61 Müller 102.
62 Müller 103.
63 Wigman, Mary. The Language 01 Dance, Trans. by Walter Sorell (Middelton: Wesleyan University Press, 1975) 42.
64 Manning 129.
For updates click homepage here
Top of page