Like Skoronel and Wigman, Jutta Klamt (1890–1970) associated modernity of expression with an "absolute" or "abstract" perception of dance, free of all pantomimic signification; like Feist, she equated ecstatic modernism
with a redemptive sense of purity. In 1925, Karl Grabe remarked: "Her dance comes from the depths of the most painful experiences and sinks into the depths, seeking one final expression, one final release of inner energy. A tragic seriousness pulses in her dances" (Stefan 93). Grabe compared her images of the human form to the great tragic heroines of Friedrich Hebbel and the paintings of Ferdinand Hodler. But despite her devotion to modernist aesthetics, hardly any other artist of modern dance was more enamored of Nazism or committed to the ideals of the Third Reich. She came to dance fairly late, and apparently the most painful experience of her life—the death of her mother, when Klamt was twenty—triggered in her an intense hunger to dance and to free the body from a terrible burden. She was completely self-taught, though she taught herself slowly; she did not give her debut concert, in Berlin, until January 1919. In 1920 a reviewer for the Berliner Börsen-Courier commented that "it is always like moonlight around her rich, silver blondness . . . a gravestone under bending cypress branches . . . Gretchen in prison . . . the often too pleasantly guided hands flutter palely away from the gray veil. . . . Everything elemental becomes soft, like in a dream . . . remains finally the timid smile of a sweet passivity." The writer recommended that she move more in the startling direction of her "nearly grotesque," black-wigged idol dance (KTP 4, 1920, 116–117).
But the grotesque did not suit her; if anything, her aesthetic became more somber. She opened a school in Berlin in 1920, and it became one of the most successful in Germany over the next two decades. In 1923 she collaborated with the Berlin Philharmonic in a huge, dark, tragic dancedrama, Der Aufschrei, in which she sought to purge her aesthetic of all pantomimic movement: "[T]he individual will of the leader does not command; the group breathes, sways, and lives as one in a closed totality. Effects are achieved only through the rhythm of forms and colors, sound and movement curves. . . . Line and color are the chief bearers of expression" (Stefan 93). Tänze der Nacht (1924) was an even darker and more lugubrious ensemble piece, in which dark-costumed dancers moved like shadows on a lunar stage that might as well have been lit by candles; it was as if Klamt sought to eclipse altogether the glowing blondness that dominated every perception of her body. In 1925 she married Joachim Vischer, who became her partner in the management of the school, and this circumstance seems to have infused her thinking with greater radiance, although she continued to pursue a stark, abstract, modernist notion of dance.
Her modernism was evident in the design by Cesar Domela, a De Stijl artist, of a 1928 brochure describing her school. The cover showed a black circle, on beige background, penetrated by two vertical lines, a black one from the top and a red one from the bottom; a third, black line touched the
circle from the right but did not penetrate it. The penetrating lines did not meet directly in the middle of the circle; rather the red line veered perpendicularly to the right to meet the unyielding black line. On each side of the circle appeared in red block letters the words "BERLIN" and "JUTTA KLAMT SCHULE" (Broos 91). The design created a bold sense of dance and dance study as a radically abstract conflict between elemental geometric forces, between line and curve, between relative powers seeking to penetrate the closed, inner, circular zone of connection. However, neither the curriculum for Klamt's school nor her aesthetic adopted the extreme purity of abstraction projected by Domela's design. For Klamt, abstraction entailed freeing the body from impersonation and narrative motives for movement: the body's expressive power became visible only when a story did not distract, interfere with perception. This attitude assumed that particular gestures, positions, or movements were inherently expressive of particular emotions or conditions, regardless of context (Freund 42–47). Ever since the death of her mother, Klamt had regarded dance as a way to free herself from an oppressive story, from the dominating account of someone else's life. Dance was freedom because it made the body into a symbol of those innately healthy emotions that narrative logic suppresses by compelling the body to read the self in the life of another person. Such thinking bestowed a predominately therapeutic value on dance.
In the early 1930s, Klamt and her husband became enthusiastic about National Socialism, and when Hitler assumed power they launched a body culture journal, Kontakt, which promoted a Nazi ideology of body consciousness by extolling the therapeutic significance of dance. In the first issue (January 1933, 33–40), Fritz Böhme repudiated ecstasy as the aim of modern dance. He claimed that an international, individualistic pursuit of ecstasy led to an excessive, constraining formalism that estranged dance from national and racial sources of identity, from a cultural bond between "blood and movement." The new task of modern dance was to develop a uniquely "German movement language" that elevated unifying social-communal identity over the futile search for a mythic and ecstatic individuality. Heide Woog echoed this point in the following issue (1/2 May 1933, 22–24): "The demand now resounds: away with all individuality—only then is it possible for us to grasp the urgent concept of mature life." Later (September 1933, 48–50) a director of a women's auxiliary of the Nazi Party in Thüringen proposed that "the dance of German woman must consciously free itself from sultry oriental mysticism, it must free itself from the libidinous ecstasy of religious hysteria ending in negro dances." Dance, she asserted, referred to the "rhythm of a noble life," the image of "a pure deep soul, the protector of everything good, the high moral power of a clear spirit, a strong will to struggle, which will trample the demons of life,"
and the "heart of the mother," whose "wings spread over all suffering" (C. Richter, 49).
In 1936, Klamt published Vom Erlebnis zum Gestalten, which attempted to explain the educational process or values that symbolically manifested the body's inner sources of energy as deindividualized, Volk -defined forms of bodily expression. She employed a mystical, aphoristic, therapeutic rhetoric of restoring strength and health to the female body—"a people gains its full strength through obedience to nature" (11)—but the breath-centered "German gymnastic" technique she promoted was a version of the contraction-and-release themes developed by Wigman and cultivated even in the United States by Martha Graham. Klamt spent most of the book describing the inner condition that motivated the dancer—it was always an image of strength and health modeled after an idealized racial identity given by "nature" and "the people." Her disdain for serious theory and intellectual challenge did not allow her to get beyond vacuous, inspirational platitudes, and she wound up reinforcing the comfortable belief that dance was for people with small brains; this conclusion probably did not worry her, for "[i]ntellectualism, which overwhelmed our concept of education, also began to transform the feminine racial ideal into an aberrant image" (17).
But in one sense, Klamt remained faithful to the image of modernist abstraction embodied by Domela's brochure design of 1928. She contended that two geometric forces dominated the body's relation to space: the line and the curve. The line symbolized will, desire, striving, release, whereas the curve, the circle, symbolized bond, fulfillment, completion, finality, unity (91–94). All dance entailed struggling combinations of lines and curves. But Klamt warned that strong dances could not emerge from a purely formal, rationalized perspective; one must always stay "obedient to a higher will" signified by an idealized racial identity. The photos in the book provided images of this identity, yet a curious tension marked them. Those pictures taken outdoors showed smiling women dancing alone or in duets or trios on grassy hills before a vast expanse of sky, across which moved masses of radiant white clouds. The camera viewed the bodies from a low angle to emphasize the sky rather than the earth. But pictures taken indoors conveyed an altogether darker mood, with women in dark garments performing in subdued light. Klamt apparently favored ensemble dances in which trios or even larger masses of bodies moved, in friezelike fashion, in columns and circles, traversing the performance space in different configurations of implosion and radiation, rupture and reformation, canon and countercanon. Here the camera tended to view the bodies from a point higher than eye level. The effect is of a mysterious cultic milieu in which the most differentiating feature of a dancer is her blondness . The somewhat somber frontispiece portrait of Klamt herself with her eyes closed, as if in a
trance, dramatizes this mysterious blondness even more powerfully than the indoor images of dancers.
Yet her dances of the 1930s disclosed more a religious than a fascist aura, as in Ex profundis (1930), Sieghaft (1933), Tanz der Andacht (1934), Religiöse Tänze (1934), Tanz der Stille (1935), and Gemeinsames Ziel (1935). In the latter piece women wore dark, satiny, abstract tunics or gowns and moved as if belonging to a strange, modern cult rather than to an undisguisedly fascist community (Figure 59). In the outdoors pictures, of course, the dancers project a generic, heroic image of health glorified by the Nazis. But these images were so generic that one had to read Klamt's text to situate them unambiguously within Nazi ideology. Klamt does not seem to have used specifically Nazi insignia or iconography in her dances; her distaste for narrative-pantomimic dancing prevented her from placing bodily expressivity within the context of a "story" about people who represent Nazi ideals and the struggle to validate them. Curiously, then, Nazism was an extension of her modern, personal struggle to escape entrapment within a story she did not and could not make herself.
During the Third Reich, Klamt and her school prospered from favors and privileges granted by the Nazi hierarchy, but even though the cultural landscape changed substantially after the war, Klamt continued to teach in Berlin, at the Free University, until 1968, when she retired to Switzerland to form another school, which still operates. She proved that modernist abstraction and Nazi ideology could coexist, as long as both modernism and Naziism remained subordinate to her larger therapeutic ambition. But the embrace of Nazism had much less auspicious consequences for Manda van Kreibig (1901–1990), whose aesthetic drifted toward the bizarre-grotesque rather than the tragic. After beginning dance lessons with Isadora Duncan at the age of five, she studied ballet under Heinrich Kröller in Munich and movement under Bode, but her early dances were grotesque travesties of ballet technique. In 1921 Elegante Welt (10/21, 12 October, 32) reported on a solo concert in Berlin in which she appeared in fantastic clown and ballet costumes designed by Munich artist Fritz Schaefler. She performed, with "mathematical exactness," an American Indian dance, a jazz dance, a dance in a "luxury nightclub," a comic dance of contrasts between balletic grace and a grotesque parody of gracefulness, and a dance concerning a "fury over a lost coin," which used music by Beethoven. Kreibig was ballet mistress at Darmstadt (1925–1928), Nuremberg (1928–1929), and Braunschweig (1929–1930) and participated in the dance experiments of the Bauhaus (1927–1929), from which emerged her most notable ensemble piece, Farbentanze (1929; music: Kuntzsch). In this work, six dancers applied ideas about the movement of colors and geometric forms Kreibig had gained from her collaboration with Schlemmer in Dessau. The resulting suite of dances combined ballet positions with extremely abstract visual designs that
presented the dancing body as a genderless, robotic expression of formal absolutism. In 1929 she suffered a severe stage accident that ended her career as a dancer. She joined the Nazi Party in 1931, but despite the strong influence of party officials she was unable to secure a serious position. Poverty-stricken, she retreated to San Remo, Italy, where she lived with relatives in complete obscurity and dependency until her death (DS 164–167, 174–176, 323; Mueller, "3. Deutscher Tanzerkongress," 21).
Another dancer who embraced Nazism was Heide Woog, whose abstractionism developed more in relation to sound than to visual or geometric forces. In 1923–1924 she led a dance group in Duisberg, which, according to a review in Hellweg (4/4, 23 January 1924, 71), produced images of "healthy femininity" leading to "nothing serious." Woog went off on her own and created a two-hour dance concert consisting of a single work, Der lebende Tempel (1924, music: Toch). In this piece she danced to speech, music, and an assortment of noises (devised by Karl Gothes), producing an odd tension between pantomimic drama and counteractive, antinarrative abstraction in which "a restlessly pulsing play of forms triumphs over theory and dogma" (Hellweg, 4/8, 20 February 1924, 143). This uncertainty about whether to pursue narrative or abstraction apparently fed a further ambivalence toward the ecstatic objective for dance. A reviewer for Die Schallkiste (3, 11 April 1928, 10) declared that the demonic and the ecstatic were the "power source of every dance" in contemporary culture, but Woog displayed this realization only "in moments" where a "free play of the body" struggled against constraints whose deepest cause was to be found perhaps in conflicts with theorems, but perhaps also in psychic regions. The boyish bravado which so happily fit her image of an Ephebe overturned her efforts to project the image of an innocent girl, "leading to a stiffness" that was "no longer restraint" but "dance in chains." Woog's uncertainty about the relation between narrative and abstraction, between ecstasy and stability, may therefore have derived from deeper ambiguities regarding her sexual identity.
She had a school in Mühlheim, where, like Klamt, she placed great emphasis on breathing as the basis for releasing "inner" and "healthy" sources of energy (Woog). Unlike Klamt, though, Woog enjoyed inserting explicitly Nazi symbols and iconography into her dances. Deutsche Mythe (1934), performed at the Duisburg Municipal Theatre, was a monumental, three-part "festival play" on the theme of "leadership and heroism" for speech and movement choirs, with music by Bernhard Zelter and text by Richard Euringer. The piece showed the aimless plodding of leaderless, suffering masses of humanity, "sunk in darkness," until the appearance, in a mysterious spotlight, of "The One," who moved with "somnambulistic certainty" and used his hypnotic aura to draw ever greater numbers of alienated, isolated individuals into a single, ecstatic, glorious community. Thus
unified by the hypnotic leader, the community in the third part of the drama performed spectacular round dances, marches, acrobatic stunts, battle dances, unfurling swastika flags, and surging choral images of human masses forged into the might of SA, Hitlerjugend, Wehrmacht, and "people's storm" units (MS 142–143). Weihe (1936), introduced at the International Dance Competition in Berlin, presented another glorification of Nazi unity, though with less concession to narrative order. It is difficult to say that Woog favored narrative at the expense of abstraction, for even Deutsche Mythe moved from narrated, pantomimic movement to an almost complete abstraction of humanity into formal designs modeled on and around the dominating symbols of Nazism, such as the swastika, the searchlight, the Hitler salute, and the stormtrooper pose and strut.