Laban and Wigman represented the most dramatic and politicized antipodes regarding the conditions for establishing the value and modernity of Ausdruckstanz . But Wigman obviously understood that although dance performances may determine the value of dance, they hardly established a life in dance. Dance performances increasingly depended more on schools than on audiences, and by 1925 being a modern dancer pervasively entailed teaching dance. Before 1925 a rather large number of dancers pursued entirely artistic careers on the stage, but by the middle of the decade very few enjoyed such an exclusive focus of their energies. The economics of performance discouraged full-time dancing careers. The German "dance frenzy" actually signified a situation in which the supply of dancers quickly exceeded the demand for dance performance. As Laban realized, audiences for dance performance, as for opera, would expand only through a large-scale process of education and theoretical indoctrination in which masses of people learned to appreciate dance without feeling the desire to do it. However, the education of audiences occurred much more slowly than the education of dancers, not so much because of weak critical institutions within cultural media but because educational institutions, including dance schools, stressed participation in dance rather than serious analytic discourse on the meaning of it all. Dancers relied excessively on a mystical rhetoric to explain themselves—ecstatic appeals to good health, national revitalization, or cultured idealism—which, frankly, even quite mediocre performers could appropriate. When the "voice" of dance begins to sound everywhere the same, audiences become distrustful and apply ever greater pressure on dancers to supersede all thresholds of expectation—but
fewer and fewer can muster the imagination to meet these rising expectations. Thus, the desire to dance continues to grow, but the desire to watch dance remains static.
Both Laban and Wigman intuitively grasped that language constituted the mysterious core of a deeper understanding of dance, but they themselves lacked the language to unravel it. It was easier to recruit students, whose understanding of dance was intuitive rather than theoretical, than viewers, who depended on a complex aesthetic rationale to sustain their interest. Schools flourished everywhere. Berlin alone had 151 dance schools in 1929 (Freund 83–84), and by 1933 Germany had 5,122 professional dancers, over 30 percent of whom lived in Berlin (MS 33). But the number of dance performances scarcely matched the number of schools. To expand enrollments, dance schools formed closer alliances with gymnastics, but a practical result of this strategy was that by the late 1920s dancers began to look more and more alike: gymnastics had the effect of conventionalizing the image of dance, freedom, modernity, ecstasy. The strangest, most expressionistic, and most experimental period of German modern dance came between 1918 and 1925; the decade between 1925 and 1935 was hardly dull, but a greater sense of disappointment seemed to afflict it. By 1929 the market for schools had obviously reached the saturation point, and the following year, when another severe economic crisis began to grip the nation, modern dance culture launched a determined campaign to gain control of the subsidized opera ballet companies throughout the land, with the schools suddenly embracing ballet technique (HK 30–32). However, it is not clear whether other strategies would have yielded greater success, partly because the dominant objective of dance was not sharply in focus. Was it to produce serious works of art or to signify a new, redemptive mode of living? These objectives were incompatible, for one cannot produce serious art without taking risks that are often painful and unhealthy. Moreover, the dance world lacked the knowledge—the science, one might say—to identify the difference between the desire to dance and the desire to see dance.
The Loheland school in Fulda presented a curious example of the antiart, dance-as-life cult. Hedwig von Rohden and Louise Langgaard founded the school in 1912. In 1910 they were students in Berlin of the mysterious Hedwig Kallmeyer, herself a student of the Delsarte technique taught by the American Genevieve Stebbins. Rohden-Langgaard, as they were known, also incorporated Mensendieck ideas into their school, whose students were exclusively female. Loheland integrated gymnastic dance into a craft-centered, cultic lifestyle: daily performance of aesthetic bodily movement was part of a peculiar moral education that included gardening, physical labor, pottery, weaving, cooking, nudism, drawing, singing, agricultural activity, and household management. In the early 1920s,
Rohden-Langgaard began to introduce the anthroposophical ideas of Rudolf Steiner. Hans Brandenburg remarked that both faculty and students conveyed an "image of cloistered austerity and purity" (HB 135), and Fritz Giese observed a pronounced "anti-masculinist" attitude (FGK 115) (Figure 32). Gymnastik (3/5–6, 1928, 15–21) published a letter from a Loheland student, Ita Röst, who concluded, "Today I know I see the beginning of the path which earlier had led us to the construction of a high and powerful culture. 'Movement' is the first step on this path" (21).
But the study of bodily movement did not lead to an art of bodily performance. The Loheland milieu distrusted the cosmopolitan artificiality of theatre, distanced itself from all professionalism, and denied that serious dance could have anything to do with the expression of eroticism. Few of the Loheland students made dance a vocation (Niddy Impekoven was a major exception), and none of them assumed that dance was rich evidence of a unique personality. Right after the war, Loheland had a small ensemble of dancers, no more than four or five girls, which put on such things as the "silver cult play" Omnia ad majorem Dei gloriam (1920). But by 1924 the school refused to produce anything for the public, although lovely photographs of unnamed Loheland women, some nude, continued to appear in books and journals. Eva-Maria Deinhardt, Bertha Buschor, Emmi Heiner, and Edith Sutor attracted some individual attention in 1921. With Ariel and Legende , the sleek and supple Deinhardt moved as if her arms were feathers or branches in the breeze, her whole body a glowing "transparent ornament"; Sutor, in Farben and Urasima , preferred broad wavy movements, muscular turns, Amazonic glides, and undulations on bent knees; Buschor, in a shiny, satiny, dark pajamalike costume, did something called Strömungen using quick, convulsive movements; and Heiner "loved fast round curves" (HFT 106; HB 136). These women soon faded into oblivion, but Loheland continued to prosper as a pious, nature-worshipping community.
In 1928, Rohden-Langgaard published Gymnastik, Sport, Schauspiel , which outlined the Loheland principles of bodily movement. Five core modes of action governed the body as an expressive sign: running, leaping, encircling, ball-tossing, and spear-throwing. Liberating and ecstatic experience emerged out of variations on these modes. Deinhardt (Gymnastik , 3/5–6, 1928, 7–12), citing Novalis, asserted that "music sets everything in movement," but Loheland maintained a strict attitude toward the relation between dance and music: absolutely no percussion sounds and (contradicting Dalcroze) no emphatic submission of the body to the rhythm of the music—melody, not the beat, moved the body. Mozart therefore made the best dance music. Yet in spite of the reactionary atmosphere of this school, Rohden-Langgaard's book contained images of startling modernity. These were highly abstract diagrams of movement possibilities issuing from the five core actions. The authors used colored pencils to describe the trajecto-
ries of the movements in a manner that exceeded the level of abstraction in Hedwig Hagemann's diagrams; nor were these drawings at all cluttered, as were Laban's sketches. The text hardly explained the diagrams, but they nevertheless gave a powerful image of movement itself (not the body), with emotional values of movement encoded through the color of the pencil, degree of shading, and thickness or intensity of line. What dance "left behind," so to speak, was not a more vivid image of the body but a starkly wild (though human) geometric abstraction, a kind of strange, bold writing in space.