Other Theatre Choreographers
Lizzie Maudrik (1898–1955), ballet director at the Berlin Municipal Opera (1926–1934) and then the German State Opera (1934–1945), studied ballet under Michel Fokine (1880–1942) in Paris before becoming one of Laban's adepts. At the Municipal Opera she encouraged her large ensemble to adopt techniques of expressionist dance, and she guided a ballet corps composed of many dancers with modern dance backgrounds, including Julia Marcus, Jens Keith, Ruth Abramowitsch, George Groke, and Alice Uhlen. But in a 1929 article she firmly declared that an opera house dance corps must always remain subordinate to theatrical objectives and that the opera house was no place for the cultivation of "abstract" or "absolute" dance (MS 43). Thus, her ambition was to apply expressionist dance techniques to the performance of standard works from the ballet repertoire, as in her immensely successful 1930 version of Delibes' Coppelia (1870), in which Julia Marcus danced the role of the mayor and Alice Uhlen that of the doll Coppelia. Later, at the State Opera, Maudrik devised ballets with national-historical themes, such as the rococo Die Barbarina (1935) and Bauerischer Tänze (1935), which continued to incorporate expressionist attitudes toward bodily movement. But, as with Kröller, much more evidence of her work needs to surface before a satisfactory understanding of her significance is possible.
The same is true of two other Laban-educated ballet directors: Olga Brandt-Knack (1885–1978) in Hamburg (1926–1932) and Ruth Loeser in Düsseldorf (1929–1933). Virtually all of Brandt-Knack's choreography was for mainstream opera production, but she put on concerts consisting of dances from seven or eight operas. These concerts, definitely in a modernist vein, had the effect of establishing her opera dances as independent entities, a view not pursued by Maudrik, who always saw dance in relation to a total, theatrical-narrative context. In Düsseldorf, Loeser presided over a corps of eight to thirteen dancers (including one male) presenting old or classical forms of dance in a sardonically modern style. For example, Suite I
und II (1930), with music by Stravinsky, consisted of several old dance forms: gavotte, Neapolitan, flamenco, balalaika, march, waltz, polka, gallop. But the dancers wore cocktail dresses, with some of the women impersonating men in tuxedos. Scenery was virtually absent from the bare stage, so perception focused entirely on the tension between old dance steps and modern bodily inflections or distortions. No conventional narrative logic linked one dance to the next; rather, an abstract emotional logic governed the piece, making it closer to a theoretical-critical essay than to a story. However, evidence of Loeser's achievements is even more recessed than that of other theatre choreographers. She, like Brandt-Knack, lost her position because of her left-wing affiliations, not because she repudiated narrative in dance or incorporated modern dance techniques.
Maudrik, who prospered during the Third Reich, remained devoted to the authority of narrative but consistently maintained in print that ballet had no serious significance independent of modern dance techniques, even though the Nazis aggressively promoted the necessity of establishing a "German" idea of ballet at the expense of modern dance. Nazi cultural policy favored ballet because ballet was already so rigorously institutionalized in the theatre: it was easier to administer, to regulate, and to standardize than modern dance. Once ballet had come to dominate dance culture, the government exerted complete control over the destinies of dancers.
Despite the lack of any serious understanding of dance by members of the Nazi hierarchy, dance in the Third Reich managed to achieve some distinction, for it was during this time that Ilse Meudtner, Oda Schottmüller, Marianne Vogelsang, Dore Hoyer, Afrika Doering, Lola Rogge, Maja Lex, Alexander von Swaine, and Helge Peters-Pawlinin established their artistic identities. Of course, these personalities worked independently of the subsidized theatres. One of the most impressive ballet talents of the 1930s, Aurel von Milloss (b. 1906), studied ballet in Budapest and Italy before attending the Laban school run by Hertha Feist in Berlin. In 1928 his relation to Feist ended sadly (for her) when he accepted an invitation from Max Terpis to dance at the Berlin State Opera. Though he gave his first solo concert at the Sturm Gallery in Berlin in 1928, it was not until 1932 in Breslau that he presented his first choreographed ballet, H.M.S. Royal Oak , with jazz music by Schulhof. Then his star rose. He became ballet master in Hagen, Duisburg, Augsburg, and then (1934–1935) Düsseldorf, accepting assignments in Budapest and Italy during this period. He was immensely prolific, probably staging more ballets, theatre dances, opera dances, and operetta dances in more theatres than any other figure of the 1930s and 1940s. He favored the modernist music of such composers as Stravinsky, Bartók, Kodály, Roussel, Honegger, Milhaud, Strauss, and Prokofiev, and he enjoyed working on scenic designs with such modernist painters as De Chirico, Prampolini, Casorati, Severini, and Cassandre. In 1936, Milloss
accepted appointment as ballet master in Budapest and stayed until 1938, when he moved to Rome, which became his home for the remainder of his long and prodigious career (Taui). His art lacked an innovative dimension, but he brought a sumptuous elegance to his productions, and through grand production values he restored vitality to the depleted classical ballet scene. Yet the heralded ballet culture of the Third Reich apparently offered inadequate scope for his ambitions.