Two Other Early Dance Groups
At the end of World War I, Magda Bauer formed the Münchener Tanz-Drei. Besides Bauer, the group included Erika Skogen and Ellinor Tordis, with the occasional participation of Lucie Heyer and costumes by Hanns Haas. This group's concerts consisted mostly of solos by each member, and the only pieces in which all three appeared were round dances in an exuberant style. The repertoire featured primarily old dance forms (waltzes, rondos, contra dances) in a free and giddy mood, although Bauer devised a piece that told a "Chinese story" in a droll fashion. Apparently, however, her strongest piece was Gebet und Tempeltanz , which was actually the creation of
Edith von Schrenck, who was hardly a cheerful or happy dancer. In this piece, to music by Grieg, Bauer included seventeen of her students in a complex set of movement patterns on all sides of the dance space, signifying an archaic temple; movement with, toward, around, and against other dances produced a "flowing polyphony," a "great prayer machinery," indicating a "monolithic, compulsively moving ecstasy"; "bodies made music—it was a racial dance that one had hardly expected of this cool-looking German Blondine" (HB 135; KTP 4, 1920, 122). Bauer soon faded from the dance scene, but Heyer remained active as a teacher in Munich, where her methods coincided with Nacktkultur . Her interest in ensemble dancing drifted toward lay movement choirs, and at the 1930 Munich Dance Congress, which is the last I hear from her, she presented excerpts from a large, socialistic work called Die Elemente , scripted by Edith Grothe.
Another early dance group of Munich, the Münchener Tanzgruppe, actually began in Hamburg; its name had something to do with attracting dance talent from Munich to Hamburg. Supposedly formed by two men, Paul Theodor Et*bauer (1892–?) and Andreas Scheller, it lasted only a few years, from 1920 to 1924, but because of its unusual structure a large number of dancers participated in its innovative activities. The most significant personality was neither Scheller nor Et*bauer but Jutta von Collande, who participated with the group from beginning to end. Most of the dancers came from the school managed by the Falke sisters, but some obtained their education from Laban or unknown sources (Jockel 32–51). Dancers who worked sporadically with the Münchener Tanzgruppe included Elsbeth Baack, Marna Glaan, Grete Jung (1900–?), Frida Holst (1900–1979), Gertrud Zimmermann, Elsa Kahl (1902–?), Laura Oesterreich, Tilli Daul, Manya Haack, Brigitte Artner, Hildegard Troplowitz, and Sigurd Leeder (1902–1981). But some performances of the Münchener Tanzgruppe involved Claire Bauroff, Frances Metz, Marie Müllerbrunn, Ella Knales von Vinda, Beatrice Mariagraete, Roswitha Bössenroth, Gertrud Falke, Anita Nessen, and Edith von Schrenck, and in 1921, Jutta von Collande and Gertrud Zimmermann collaborated on a program with Sebastian Droste, who soon became the partner and husband of Anita Berber. Hans W. Fischer and Hans Brandenburg acted as advisers to the group, and H.H. Stuckenschmidt composed the music, in a decidedly modern vein.
With Münchener Tanzgruppe, the notion of "group" was somewhat complex. It referred to a loose association of dancers who appeared in different combinations on programs of different dimensions at different times. This apparently was Scheller's intention, in spite of the managerial difficulties of achieving this ambition (HB 228). Programs often consisted of solos, duets, and trios, and the Münchener Tanzgruppe even sponsored solo concerts by some of its members, such as Hildegard Troplowitz, who had given solo concerts in Hamburg since at least 1918. Yet the group clearly thrived under the
controlling leadership of Collande. Scheller and Et*bauer, who was active as an expressionist artist, designer, art commentator, and dance instructor, created the Münchener Tanzgruppe to produce large-scale ensemble pieces. In January 1921 they presented their first two group works, along with "masculine" ("in the best sense") solos by Ella Knales von Vinda and "Oriental sketches" by Et*bauer. Laura Oesterreich directed the Galante Pantomime (music: Winternitz), an exquisite rococo entertainment in which Collande performed the role of a cavalier to Gertrud Falke's baronness; Anita Nessen played the maid, Grete Jung appeared as Polchinelle, and Elsbeth Baack portrayed the baron. A contemporary reviewer felt that in successive performances of this piece, in different theatres, the performers moved toward a refinement that was excessive and unnecessary (Ehlers). Scheller's only choreographic effort, Faschingsschwank in Wien (music: Schumann), was a much larger work involving "fifteen or sixteen" dancers who created "whirlpools and streams" of a "collective will" against the "solo personality" of Jutta von Collande: "[S]he seeks the mass, becomes drawn and repulsed by it, and eventually seizes the leadership of it, so that all power finally comes together in a large, happy festival procession" (Hans Fischer, Hamburger , 255).
Scheller planned to produce Hans Fischer's "dance play" Die traurige Prinzess , with the Falke sisters, Collande, and music by Stückenschmidt, but the insane inflation destroyed all the financing for the project, and it was not until 1922 that another group dance reached performance. By that time, Scheller had departed from the group, and Collande was in control. Der himmlische Kreisel (1922) was part of an "astral dance show" conceived by Fischer in collaboration with Collande and Stuckenschmidt and involving girl dancers from the Loheland school as well as an orchestra. By Fischer's own account, the work was a fascinating piece of imaginative ensemble thinking, far in advance of modern dance group productions anywhere else at the time, and it still seems radical today. The thirty-five-minute work used no consistent musical accompaniment but employed gong tones and a montage of passages from Adam, Grétry, and Stückenschmidt. On wobbly legs, a "giant golden sphere" (Et*bauer) tottered and hopped about wildly to the snapping of a clapper while the pianist played tenderly. Suddenly four little girls zoomed in as a scatter of shooting stars, followed by a comet—Manya Haack, dressed in black with a long gold headband trailing behind her. She, too, danced wildly, to music by Adolph Adam, but in an "entirely mature" manner. Then a "violet moon creature" in a bearded mask appeared and made "grasshopper" leaps before Jutta von Collande performed, with "clockwork precision," a dance of the planets with two girls. Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt depicted the "immensity of Sirius" as a wildly rotating shimmy, with a nebula of Loheland girls forming an undulating orbit. Finally came the pantomime of the "abduction and liberation of the sun," which appropriated ideas from the Japanese Noh theatre. Two
"winter demons" snatched the frail, trembling orbit of the sun (Collande); then a sorcerer (Andre Luksch) summoned the demons, who wore doubleconed or horned masks, and engaged them in a bizarre dance in which they used their voices to strengthen the rhythm of their movements. A gate opened with the blare of a trumpet fanfare, and the sun emerged to dispel the sorcerer and his demons. With Gretry's music, the sun summoned all the other dancers into a great, final dance of bodies flowing in space (Hans Fischer, Hamburger , 263–266). This piece depicted collective movement as a cosmic principle, but it was a rare example of collectivity wherein different musics, different choreographic styles, and different theoretical perspectives interacted to produce a single work.
The Münchener Tanzgruppe never again attempted a work of this scale, although Scheller apparently had this sort of aesthetic in mind when he formed the group. Financial problems plagued the company, in spite of the consistent success of its concerts in Hamburg. Under Collande the group seldom, if ever, produced any dances requiring more than four dancers, as was the case even before Scheller left (KTP 8, 1920, 221–222). Collande's idea of "group dance" implied different combinations of dances featuring herself in relation to different combinations of dancers, so that any one dance—solo, duet, trio, or quartet—had a distinct context in an ever-shifting program accommodating the ambitions of "other" performers. She disclosed a peculiar fondness for the music of the French opera composer Andre Gretry (1741–1813), but Brandenburg observed that only she knew how to dance to it (229). Perhaps for this reason, as much as for economic ones, she was hesitant to work on a larger scale. But within the modest realm of duets, trios, and quartets, she was quite inventive. For example, in Primavera (1920), which she danced with Claire Bauroff and Maria Müllerbrunn, the dancers moved to the music of three separate harps until, finally, one figure dominated the other two (HB 230). Of another trio, set to the music of Leoncavallo, a reviewer (KTP 8, 1920, 221) remarked delightedly that Collande, Troplowitz, and Zimmermann transformed themselves, in response to sharp rhythmic differentiations, from gray, yellow, and red peacock-feathered puppets into beautiful human beings embodying inspiration (Collande), feeling (Troplowitz), and temperament (Zimmermann).
No one seems to know what happened to Jutta von Collande after 1924. It is a haunting enigma. She seems to have obtained power over many people, yet group works provoked anxiety in her, and in her small ensemble pieces she was able to thematize the problem of constructing a group that did not devalue the individuality of its members. In her dances she suggested that an emancipated idea of the group nevertheless depended on the controlling power of an individual within the group rather than on the synchronizing power of music. But in a larger sense, she treated the Münchener Tanzgruppe as a constellation of bodies orbiting around her, but
not in the same trajectory, to form a single, unified sphere of energy: the larger group was a magnate that attracted people because of its opportunities for performance individuality, but Collande was at the center because she knew how to build a sense of communal identity entirely out of combinations of twos and threes. Gretry's music was important because it compelled dancers to trust Collande rather than the music and to place the body rather than the music at the center of this constellation of disparate desires. Her sudden disappearance hardly indicates the failure of her strategy; on the contrary, it implies the failure of economic systems to conceive of power and groups in anything but aggregate terms.