Dance As Image
Dance was as much a self-contained image as a performance reality or a construct of metaphysical idealism. A vast dance iconography flourished throughout Europe in the years 1910 to 1935 in painting, the graphic arts, sculpture, and photography. Indeed, the great majority of people during the era encountered dance far more through pictures of it or of dancers than through dance performance itself, and images of dance assumed considerable importance in awakening or intensifying the desire to dance in many women. (The few men who became dancers seemed motivated entirely by experiences with dance performance, although many men—as well as women—who did not become dancers collected pictures of dance and dancers.) Dance iconography deserves a book of its own, but some reflection on the aesthetics of selected dance imagery may prove valuable here in illustrating the perception of dance as an ecstatic phenomenon.
From the artistic perspective, dance was an appealing subject because it encouraged the display of superior skill in dramatically depicting dynamic-kinetic tensions within the human body, even if the image was a portrait. But from the dance perspective, the image was crucial in shaping the identity of dance itself. Dance could not rely on performance or on serious criticism or even on the mystical language of metaphysical idealism to expand its authority within the cultural sphere, for in more ways than one, as we have seen, it was difficult to "see" dance clearly and without misperception. Dance culture appropriated dance imagery in its struggle to overturn lingering nineteenth-century perceptions of dance as either a rigidly deterministic regulation of the body (ballet) or a morally dubious pleasure in the body associated with marginalized and even stigmatized classes of women. But in achieving this aim, the dance iconography also introduced ambiguities that made dance more mysterious than anyone intended. It was not enough for the dancer to have the right body or sufficient talent; the dancer
must like being in a picture and must constantly think of the image as a decisive power in his or her destiny.
As early as 1910, such contrasting dancers as Grete Wiesenthal and Adorée Villany understood this principle and its application above all through photography. Not every dancer showed the willingness, the eagerness, of Grit Hegesa or Anita Berber to appear in paintings, drawings, photographs, and movies, but the pact that dance made with the image implied an unprecedented measure of respect for narcissism, for the pleasures (rather than the old anxieties) of being looked at "always." Dancers and dance schools produced postcards, many of which received national distribution, and bold, innovative posters were also necessary to construct a modern image of dance. (I have not yet discovered a German dancer who could match American Ruth St. Denis in the extravagantly luxurious pictorial beauty of her printed programs between 1918 and 1921.) Dancers expected to sign photographs and postcards of themselves for spectators and even for other dancers (witness the huge album of pictures collected by Yetty Thom from the time she was a Wigman student in 1927 until well into the 1940s). Posters from 1910 to about 1924 tended to feature a distinctive, often expressionistically drawn image of the dancer's body, but after 1924 posters relied more on distinctive, often constructivist typographical effects in a collage relation to a small photograph of the body (if a body even appeared in the image). This change probably occurred because after 1924 group concerts became more pervasive than solo concerts, and great uncertainty prevailed about the images groups should project (Figure 69). In the early 1930s, the Orami cigarette company in Dresden began attaching small photos of dancers to cigarette packs in the manner of trading cards. The success of this ploy was such that this company and others published elegant albums of complete photo series in Das Orami-Album (1933), Der künstlerische Tanz (1933), and Tanzbühnen der Welt (1934).
Unlike photography, the painting and drawing of dance did not always entail the conscious collaboration of dancers. In general, expressionist artists tended to represent dance (ubiquitously designated by female bodies) as a primeval or archaic impulse emanating from nature, from paradise, from intense colors and emotions concealed behind merely empirical images of natural phenomena; Emil Nolde and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner were perhaps the most powerful creators of this perspective on dance. However, artists of the so-called New Objectivity, which emerged around 1924, tended to represent dance "realistically," as a symptom of the urgent rhythms defining modern urban life and a sign, often, of the dark, lurid,
even morbid forces guiding the urbanization of the body; Otto Dix and Karl Hubbuch were but two of many powerful creators of this perspective.
But the distinction between expressionism and New Objectivity was not altogether as solid as many supposed, nor was the difference between the two in their perception of dance. For example, in "Salome," his lascivious series of color drawings done in 1930, Leo Putz (1869–1940) used expressionist devices to show how the primeval archetypal image of the dancer embedded a feminine sadistic desire to tempt, taunt, tease, and torment both the male and female spectator (Poetter 44–47). In Berlin, the Hungarian painter Hugo Scheiber (1873–1950) employed aggressive expressionist effects in numerous pictures of dancers to show dance as the strongest manifestation of ecstatic energies latent in the city rather than in nature, as in his turbulent 1927 image of a woman dancing in the most peculiar circumstance of wearing glasses (Figure 70) (Schmidt). By contrast, Fritz Uphoff, educated in the utopian milieu of the Worpswede colony, used the extremely precise techniques of realist New Objectivity in painting his idealized 1930 image of the dancer Erika Vogt (one of many portraits he did of her) (Figure 71). Here the platinum-haired, bronze-skinned dancer seems to move delicately, as if under a remote spell, toward an unexpected ecstasy, despite the black wall or void that presses in on her: "from the invisible background radiates a hidden light like a quiet hope" (Küster, Kunstwerkstatt, 158). In his fascinating 1918 portrait of the Bremen dancer Marna Glahn (aka Glaan), the Communist Heinrich Vogeler (1872–1942), another Worpswede artist, shows the head and shoulders of the dancer rising out of a waterfall and bushes, with nude female bodies flowing out of her head and dancing in the sea above her. However, the expression on her face does "not mirror happiness as present, but as a shimmer of hope," as a "sign of unfulfilled dreams" (Hoffmeister 14). Thus, the rising body of the dancer appears between the empty idyll of nature and the nude utopia of which women dream.
In Vienna in 1919, Professor Franz Cizek (1865–1946) at the Academy of Applied Arts began teaching "kineticism," which fused expressionist, cubist, futurist, and constructivist aesthetics to represent the movement of objects and the dynamic properties of forms and spaces. The image of the dancing body was for Cizek the key to achieving this synthesis (or "simultanism") of aesthetic styles. Dance had long attracted him; in 1912, he had even turned down an offer to teach at Dalcroze's new school in Hellerau. Soon he became friends with the writer and arts publicist L. W. Rochowanski, who himself performed expressionist dances in Vienna, Prague, and Krakow with his wife, Katja Kandinsky, during the war years (Markhof 49). Rochowanski published a book, Der Formwille der Zeit in der angewandten Künste (1922), that featured numerous illustrations of works exhibited by Cizek's students in Vienna. It was an exciting collection of paintings, draw-
ings, sculptures, and designs that showed the ecstatic movement of abstract forms, colors, lines, and human figures through space, "the turning and surrounding of the body" (23). Buildings, mountains, storms, and typography undulated, swirled, and plunged like dancing bodies; nude dancing bodies "radiated" waves of rhythmic patterns in pencil, paint, wood, clay.
These works came from thirty-five students, most of whom were women, including Trude Fischl, Franziska Kantor, Irmgard Lang, Herta Müller-Schulda, Gertrude Neuwirth, Johann Scheibner, Heinz Reichenfelser. Though many of these students subsequently pursued quite obscure lives, their achievements here suggested the great potential of the dancing body, as a "kinetic form," to awaken an ecstatic artistic imagination in a wide range of personalities. One of Cizek's students, Harry Täuber, designed sets and lighting for Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste when they visited Vienna in 1922 (Berber). Another very gifted student, Erika Giovanna Klien (1900–1957), designed a wild cubo-expressionist-constructivist poster-kiosk to announce "Anita Berber dances" (1924); with her "simultaneous structures," "Klien developed entire dramas in an image" (Markhof 21). Her enthusiasm for dance remained strong; she did numerous drawings of dancers, an exhilarating dance frieze (1924), designs for a "kinetic marionette theatre" (1924), even kinetic designs for bank notes. After Elisabeth Duncan visited the Cizek classes in 1923, Klien decided to study under her, then accepted (1926) an offer to teach at the new Duncan school in Klessheim. The American modernist art collector Katherine Dreier arranged to have some of Klien's works displayed in 1926 at the International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York. When in 1929 she migrated to the United States, where she taught art at exclusive private schools for girls in New York and Chicago, Klien maintained her connection to the Duncan school in New York and devised dance dramas for her own students, although she faced continual resistance from school administrators. Even though her art evolved toward geometric dynamism, she never abandoned her perception of the kinetic dancing body as the commanding sign of, as she put it, a propulsive tension "between abstraction and eroticism" (Markhof 22).
In Berlin, Luise Grimm (1900–?) displayed an altogether different expressionism in her representation of dance. She had taken lessons in Ausdruckstanz , but a stark Christian mysticism pervaded her art. Tanzszene (1923), a woodcut, depicted bodies of dancers as naked forms of light in a black void; a female dancer leaps toward the pinnacle of a pyramid of light that has the effect of hurling the male dancers away from it: "the thin, delicate bodies look like marionette figures" (Ruthenberg 51) (Figure 72). In 1924, Grimm saw Mary Wigman's group dance in Berlin, and she did several woodcuts, drawings, and ink sketches of the group. One image was especially fascinating (Figure 73). Here four ghostly figures stand in a
strange swirl of plantlike shadows. The faces of the standing figures are of varying size; it appears as if they are not on the same plane, even though they stand next to each other. One of the faces resembles Wigman, another Georgi. Before the standing figures moves a faceless woman, but Grimm signifies her movement through the swirl of her dress—her arms, torso, and head remain rigid. She seems to dance for the standing figures, but the eyes of these women are closed, with the Wigman and Georgi faces bearing faintly Oriental expressions. In this image, dance appears as the creation of alien beings from an eerie world of shadows, the mysterious ritual of foreign creatures who can move blindly, without eyes, and can see beautiful movement without opening their eyes (53–61).
However, no German artists of the dance, not even Schlemmer and his adepts at the Bauhaus, represented dance with the extreme level of abstraction achieved by several of the De Stijl artists in Holland between 1916 and 1928, beginning with Theo Van Doesburg's (1883–1931) still vaguely figural paintings Dance I (1916) and Dance II (1916), and then the much more abstract stained-glass windows of these works (1917). With Rhythm of a Russian Dance (1918) Doesburg had virtually eliminated the body altogether from the image and reduced the movement of the dance to conjunctions of differently colored vertical and horizontal lines. Elegant costume designs by Piet Zwart from 1920, though much more figural, nevertheless indicated the authority of costume to impose rectilinear order on the curvilinear languidity of the dancing body. But perhaps the most radical De Stijl image of dance was the Mechanical Dancing Figure (1920–1923) of Vilmos Huszar (1884–1960). The artist constructed a male robotic body entirely out of wooden blocks and intended the figure to dance in a completely automated theatre using, according to Huszar, "electro-mechanical or coloristic-cinematographic means." However, the debut performance of the "plastic drama" in 1923 actually resembled a kind of shadow play (Troy 649–650). Dance, as the De Stijl artists defined it, referred to jazz or popular dances and to traditional ethnic dances of Indonesia, not to modern dance. Jazz and Balinese dances came from "primitive" peoples and therefore did not suffer from the pathological pretensions of European art, as Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) remarked in 1926: "All modern dances look dull next to [Josephine Baker's] powerful, sustained concentration of speed" (645).
Dance for De Stijl artists motivated an art "conceived with reference to a primitive means of expression that the artist sought to transpose into abstract, mechanistic terms" (644). The tenth anniversary issue of De Stijl (VII) in 1927 contained an article by Valentin Parnac describing a performance of his dance Epopèe at the Meyerhold Theatre in Moscow in 1925. In this work, Parnac sought to eliminate all curved lines from choreography and to develop "the tendency towards denaturalization [of the body] . . . based on the contrast of horizontal and vertical movement"
(Jaffé 188–189). By this time, however, Van Doesburg had moved toward what he called "elementarism," the signification of abstract kinetic power through diagonal lines rather than through the "pure" vertical-horizontal conjunctions demanded by Mondrian, who subsequently left De Stijl over this issue. In 1928, Van Doesburg made stunning application of his diagonal aesthetic in the radically sleek design of the Cafe Aubette cinema-dance theatre in Strasbourg, whereas Mondrian moved toward the purified rectilinearity of "Broadway Boogie Woogie" (1942). But another Dutch artist with only a tentative connection to De Stijl, Willem Van Leusden (1886–1974), did a series of drawings of dancers in 1926–1927 that severely abstracted the body (rather than the movement) of the dancer to a complex of triangles and circles, triangles and spheres, or triangles and cones (Adelaar 102). Yet one should remember that the Dutch fascination with "primitive" dance did not necessarily lead to a repudiation of expressionism, for the artists affiliated with the modernist arts journal Wendingen pursued a much more mystical image of form and the body, which Jaap Kool, among others, articulated in articles on Balinese dance, the Ballets Russes, Grit Hegesa, and Gertrud Leistikow.
In 1933 Helene von Taussig published a book of twenty-four charcoal drawings of Harald Kreutzberg dancing. These minimalist motions studies attempted to establish bodily movement rather than physiognomy as the salient feature of Kreutzberg's dance persona (although the dancer's bald head assumes a very assertive presence in all the drawings). In plate 9 the artist assigned a vaguely feminine identity to the dancer by making his hips wide and curvaceous; in plate 24 his body seems peculiarly Negroid. The main fascination of the drawings lies in Taussig's effort to show how movement individuates the body—or, at least, how a peculiar physiognomy produces peculiar forms of movement. This approach differentiated Taussig's images from Kandinsky's purely geometric images of Palucca. Taussig strove to create, in a few broad strokes, a complex image of intense muscular nudity, emotional turbulence, and rapturous action. Kreutzberg leaps, runs, twists, his arms spread, thrusting, or propelling; he exists in a white void, as if every movement were the negation of an inescapable emptiness. The artist designated movement by using lines of two thicknesses, fat and thin, with each thickness given a variety of weights, determined by the degree of pressure exerted on the charcoal as it moved across the paper. She further complicated the images by setting strokes describing bodily features in different directions, so that it appears as if powerful dance movement occurs when the body is somehow divided by contradictory energies. A heavy thin line may contradict a light fat line, but the thin line may designate only the bald head, whereas the fat line may construct the torso and leg, thus conveying the sense that most of the body is less clearly definable than the head. Movement challenges the definability of the body. The desirability of the
male body for the female artist depends on this display of contradictory energies released through dance. But this desire is perhaps visible only through a reductivist pleasure in abstraction.
In Germany, however, the dancing body appeared perhaps too volatile, too pervasive, and too saturated with erotic connotations to lead the visual imagination toward the extreme, ascetic abstractionism of De Stijl. The German dance culture compelled perception to focus on the body itself, not on the abstract forms that "transcended" the body and therefore constituted a "pure" vision. For De Stijl, dance was a "problem" of imperfect bodily form, which the artist solved by striving toward a rectilinear utopia of "absolute equilibrium." The convoluted instability of expressionism was a more appropriate aesthetic for disclosing the emotional disturbances, the distortions of desire, and the sheer perceptual violence provoked by the body and its impulse to dance. The expressionist image of dance achieved its rawest intensity in the work of the Flemish artist Frans Masereel (1889–1970), whose "novels in woodcuts" remained popular in Germany after the publication of Die Idee (1920). His almost lewd woodcut of Jazz (1931) shows three looming, demonic black musicians in tuxedos urging a nude white woman to dance with orgasmic ecstasy (Figure 74). Here the crude, dark force of the "primitive" is what drives the female body to uncontrolled freedom and vulnerability, but the message achieves conviction through the bold, expressionist juxtaposition of burning whiteness and surging blackness. Yet despite its racism, this image of dance never elicited the controversy associated with The Breakdown (1926), by the English artist John Bulloch Souter (1890–1971) (Figure 75). In this painting, Souter applied the realist techniques of New Objectivity to the image of a nude white woman dancing to the saxophone of a single tuxedoed black man. Unlike the woman in Masereel's picture, Souter's incandescent woman dances not wildly but slowly, as if in a trance, yet ecstatically. The musician gazes not at the woman but out toward the spectator, and the implication is that jazz and dance together allow man and woman to cross racial barriers and form a new and mysteriously intimate (or trusting) sort of couple, each immersed in separate aspirations. The space common to them both is defined by the broken monumental statue upon which the musician sits. The collapsed classical order represented by the heroic statue has been replaced by a new order of symmetry: the music of black maleness achieves cool equilibrium with the dance of white femaleness. This beautiful painting from England, with its cool, rational rejection of primitivism and cautious curiosity about a new mode of romanticism to replace the fallen classical ideal of power, entailed an erotic image of dance that neither expressionism nor New Objectivity in Germany, no matter how "rawly" or intensely they saw dance, presented with such nakedness or disturbing detachment.
In the field of sculpture, the Berliner Georg Kolbe (1877–1947) predominated in the representation of dance. A proponent of nudism and gymnastic culture, he depicted nearly all of his dancers in nude poses beginning around 1912. His style was a sort of heroic, athletic expressionism emphasizing the supple, rounded rhythms of the muscles, the pliant mass of the dancing body. Dance movement suffused the body with curvatures of exquisite smoothness and obedience to internal rhythms. Kolbe's unambiguously healthy image of dance appealed to a large public and private audience, yet he was clearly a modernist in his search for an unusual, dramatic curve to the body's thrust toward freedom. One of his nude dancers stood before the Mies van der Rohe pavilion at the international modern art exposition at Barcelona in 1929. In both his sculpture and his graphic work, Kolbe tended to see dance rather than the dancer, so his image of the kinetic body made few concessions to the expressive realities of particular bodies. But the Nazis also found his image of the dancing body congenial to their cultural program. His 1925 statue of the beautiful Edith von Schrenck displayed the same heroic idealism as his more generic works, even though the aesthetic of this tragic dancer, loaded with the image of bondage and cramped flesh, completely contradicted his hygienic, emancipated view of dance.
Another Berliner, Oswald Herzog (1881–?), cultivated a much more abstract curvilinearity in his representation of dance. In 1914 he produced Ecstasy , a sculpture of a dancing maenad in which the nude figure of the dancer, attached to the base only by the toes of one foot, seemed to shoot into space with shocking exuberance. In subsequent sculptures of the war years, Herzog intensified his abstraction of the dancing body's curvatures so that stone moved with an organic freedom and bodies looked like strange, strong plants, shaped by the rhythms of wind, water, and molecular plasticity. In Plastik—Sinfonie des Lebens (1921), he asserted that "rhythmic dynamism is the law of world order" and that "dynamism is the source of all bodiliness [Körperlichkeit]" (12); moreover, "the abstraction of eroticism comes through the fusion of forms" (7). This attitude led to an image of the dancing body—seen, for example, in Geniessen (1920)—as "absolute" in its curvilinearity as the De Stijl artists were in their rectilinearity (cf., Kuhn, Der Cicerone , 8/9, April 1921, 245–252). Yet another Berlin sculptor, Rudolf Belling (1886–1972), achieved more powerful expression of organic curvilinearity, but dance was not his preferred subject. In 1923, however, he married a dancer, Toni Freeden, who apparently specialized in experimental, mechanical ballets. Belling's 1925 polished steel sculpture of her head was remarkable in bestowing a dancelike flow of metallic movement through the masklike, robotic face, the domed skull, and the wave of her hair. A
curious photograph shows the dancer cradling this image of herself with possessive affection (Nerdinger 194–195; 204–205) (Figure 76).
In Vienna, Lotte Pritzel created decorative wax dolls of incredible rococo refinement. These became popular during the First World War and remained so throughout Europe and America in the Weimar era. The figures were always thin, lithe, undulating with movement, and luxuriously costumed and ornamented, with haunting, ethereal, worldly facial expressions that somewhat contradicted the innocence usually associated with dolls. She constructed numerous dance dolls, a few of which were even "supposed to be accompanied by music and song, and dance entirely in circular movement" (Arts and Decoration , 24 December 1925, 45). Most peculiar, though, was the effort of four such contrasting dancers as Anita Berber, Niddy Impekoven, Grit Hegesa, and Herta Hornbach (a grotesque "fashion" dancer in Berlin) to include "Pritzel-doll" dances on their programs in 1919.
The market for decorative figurines of dancers expanded enormously in the 1920s with the evolution of carving, foundry, and glazing technologies that permitted the manufacture of extremely refined representations of the human body. A large number of artists in Germany, France, and Austria specialized in the production of these objects. The great majority of the figures had bodies formed out of ivory and bronze, which the artist cold-painted, tinted, or gilded and then set on an onyx or marble base. But some pieces featured bodies of painted porcelain or tinted glass. Female dancers predominated overwhelmingly. Many bodies were nude, but the majority wore glamorously exotic costumes or sleekly elegant contemporary fashions. The figures idealized (and sometimes satirized) dance as a luxurious, exquisite expression of the body's seductive plasticity, vitality, and vulnerability. They represented bodily movement with a breathtaking realism and refinement that was exuberantly modern yet the very antithesis of the abstraction associated with expressionism and other "isms." As Arwas has remarked, "they seemed about to come alive" in an "unnervingly" fanciful way (6). The variety of movements, poses, costumes and color effects depicted was astonishing and indicated a constant, even "addictive," appetite for discovering ever more decorative rhythms for the body.
In Paris, the Rumanian Dimitri Chiparus (1888–1950) was perhaps the most prolific producer of figurines; his dancers wore glamorously ornamental costumes of an oriental or antique type. But in Berlin, Ferdinand Preiss (1882–1943) was perhaps the greatest of all the figurine makers. During the 1920s his firm enjoyed a large global market, with England being an especially strong importer of the highly distinctive Preiss-Kassler product. "Preiss figures are the epitome of grace and elegance, the faces pretty but with character, the costumes colorful but restrained" (Arwas 244). Before the war Preiss tended to put his figures in the garb of classical antiquity, but
after 1920, when he intensified the realism of the representation, he dressed them in suavely tasteful contemporary fashions and cultivated a maddeningly exquisite athletic eroticism in which the sleek bodies looked both wholesome and impossibly refined (Arwas 161–207; Catley 256–283). He apparently relied for his models not on dancers themselves but on pictures from books, magazines, and newspapers. In Munich, however, dancer Lo Hesse modeled for Walter Schnackenberg and Constantine Holzer-Defanti (Arwas 110–111; 213–215). Much more perversely erotic dance figurines came from Dorothea Charol (1895–?) in Berlin and Bruno Zach in Vienna. Zach cultivated a glossy image of the proud, haughty, high-heeled dominatrix or Amazon in shiny black latex or with a riding crop. In these curious works one observes in the dance pose the perfect, sadomasochistic image of the modern, emancipated female as a new species of aristocrat, the born ruler of strange, dark desires (223–231; Catley 303–307).
Even though no country in the world was as active as Weimar Germany in providing opportunities to observe modern dance, this art form, which, more than any other activity, calls attention to the expressive power of the body, produced almost no architecture designed specifically for it. Thus, dance culture constantly found itself having to accommodate, invade, or appropriate spaces intended for other modes of performance. Many dancers devised innovative studios, and these often had considerable pedagogical value for dancers themselves, but they seldom drew serious audiences for dance. Unlike cinema and sports, for example, dance was unable to move architectural imagination in a new direction, and though this situation indicated a measure of failure on the part of architecture to explore new relations between bodies and buildings, the consequences for dance were even more disappointing. Dancers rarely got out of the habit of seeing dance in a proscenium frame, with nearly all movement seen in relation to a frontal projection of the body. However, one performance space in particular attracted the interest of several personalities in the Viennese modern dance movement: the Raumbühne, constructed inside the Vienna Concert Hall in 1924. Its designer, Friedrich Kiesler (1890–1965), earlier had composed manifestos advocating "electromechanical" and "optophonetic" theatres and had close ties with the Bauhaus people, the futurist F. T. Marinetti, the De Stijl group in Holland, and the Russian constructivists. The Raumbühne was a giant spiral stage of iron and wood crowned by a large staging area accessible only by a pair of ladders, but action could occur anywhere on the spiral ramps. The audience surrounded the performance space but did not move, as Kiesler had proposed in his 1922 scheme for a "railway theatre." For Kiesler, the spiral was the dominant sign of a modern
spirit because of its power to convey a sense of movement. The weakness of the proscenium stage, he contended, was that it encouraged audiences to see drama as image rather than as movement. His spiral stage was therefore a "naked" performance space insofar as it dispensed with scenic and pictorial elements in favor of complex opportunities for movement and relations between bodies. The Viennese press displayed a lack of confidence in the Raumbühne to accommodate plays (Frischauer's Im Dunkel , Goll's Methusalem ) written with the proscenium in mind, but Kiesler hoped the spiral stage would inspire a new kind of drama that was not so dependent on enervating talk. Such was not the case; early in 1925, Kiesler accepted an offer to work on an exhibition in Paris, and in 1926 he pursued an invitation to work on an exhibit in New York, where he spent the rest of his life.
Without its inventor to supervise its fortunes, the Raumbühne quickly became a conventional (proscenium) performance space and then disappeared. However, the Viennese press did appreciate several dance performances given in the Raumbühne in October 1924. Toni Birkmeyer and his partner, Tilly Losch, produced a somewhat puzzled response, perhaps because they both seemed so deeply attached to the world of ballet whereas the space was so utterly alien to ballet culture. Losch swung up the steps to the upper platform, but Birkmeyer never moved beyond the middle level of the ramp, and this choice signified an "unreachable" distance between male and female bodies that otherwise moved to the same rhythm. Gisa Geert attracted a larger measure of critical approval when she performed a series of solo dances in the Raumbühne. She emphasized a notion of diagonal movement that pressured the body to move in a line up and down the ramps but nevertheless limited its freedom because the ramps were too narrow to permit movement trajectories outside of those forming the spirals. In other words, the Raumbühne seemed no different from the proscenium stage in its ability to signify the freedom of the body from environmental constraints. Group dances would appear to reinforce this point. But when Gertrud Bodenwieser's all-female dance group, which leased a studio in the Vienna Concert Hall, gave a performance in the space in late October 1924, the critics were apparently charmed. The "grotesque" piece, Film ohne Leinwand , took advantage of the space's peculiar features by incorporating acrobatic and gymnastic movements. Such movements enhanced the dynamic interaction of bodies and space precisely because they accommodated, rather than submitted to, the interruptions in movement flow and concentration established by the ramps, spirals, ladders, and elevations. Bodenwieser's group performed in the space two months later for Karlheinz Martin's production of Wedekind's Franziska (1912), but by then the Raumbühne had been largely dismantled to fit into the proscenium frame of the Raimund Theatre (Lesák, esp. 111–163).
The Raumbühne is an excellent example of how a modern performance space amplifies anxiety toward a modern performing body that resists being framed, not only by a proscenium but also by a literary, text-driven imagination contained by the same frame. The Raumbühne dance concerts generated considerable public interest, but the idea of modern spaces for modern performances threatened to subvert an intricate institutional apparatus, governed above all by the authority of texts and authors, for controlling the body, performance, and sexual difference. The greatest resistance to modernist performance spaces came not from audiences but from within the institutions of theatre culture itself. Kiesler became involved in a noisy public dispute with Dr. Jakob Moreno-Levy (1892–1974), a psychiatrist, over the origin of the spiral theatre concept. In 1926 both men left for New York, and neither revived the idea of a spiral stage (Moreno-Levy's scheme was a "therapeutic" space for performers only). Ironically, after designing the De Stijl modernist Film Guild movie theatre in Manhattan (1928), department store show windows (1929), and the experimental Space House (1933) (Stern 258, 354), Kiesler spent much the rest of his career trying to make modernist opera scenery fit into proscenium stages.
A quite different, but no less modern, approach to architecture for dance performance was the Himmelssaal (Heaven's Hall) of the Atlantis House in Bremen (1930) (Figure 77). This fascinating building was the work of a very complex personality, Bernhard Hoetger (1874–1949). Though his family background was decidedly humble, Hoetger achieved astonishing mastery and success in a wide range of arts. Beginning as a sculptor, he branched out into graphics, painting, furniture design, ceramics, publishing, and architecture. In 1914, supposedly under the spell of the primitive expressionist paintings of Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907) Hoetger moved from Darmstadt, where he was a professor of art, to Worpswede. After designing his own house there, he received invitations to design cafes, hotels, gardens, and monuments in the Bremen-Worpswede area, and for these he applied an increasingly idiosyncratic, dramatic expressionist style that fused modernist and pre-Christian Nordic aesthetics. Hoetger was remarkably eclectic, absorbing influences from Paris, Italy, Egypt, black Africa, expressionism, art deco, and ancient Teutonia. Modern dance appealed to him, and one of his early sculptures, done in Paris, is an exhilarating figurine of the American dancer Loie Fuller (1901). In 1917 he became friends with Sent M'ahesa, who performed works in an Egyptian style, and he produced at least two dramatic sculptures of her, an Egyptian-expressionist head (1917) and a Nordic-expressionist nude (1922).
In 1918 Hoetger made the acquaintance of the Bremen trading tycoon Ludwig Roselius, and the two of them devised plans for renovating an alley in downtown Bremen, the Böttcherstrasse. Hoetger's first building was the Paula Modersohn-Becker house (1927), a fantastic, expressionist brick
castle that honored the work and life of this artist, who, like Hoetger, actually discovered her artistic identity in Paris. The second building in the Böttcherstrasse project was the Atlantis House (1929–1931), the purpose of which, according to Roselius, was to remind Germans of their origins in an archaic Nordic culture inhabiting the great plain between the North Sea and the Baltic. In the Atlantis House, architecture strove to link modernism with the recovery of a primordial racial identity, but the result was a strange brick building that combined expressionist monumentality, art deco ornamental effects, and pre-Christian symbolism (above the entrance to the building was a huge crucifix, but the body on the cross was not Jesus but a rather demonic Odin). As Thiemann (29) has observed, moving through the building was like moving through the compartments of a great ship. A stunning, futuristic spiral stair tower, studded with starlike light holes and encased in a glass mosaic cylinder, connected the three floors. The Himmelssaal was on the second floor, between the first floor reading room and the third floor museum.
Figure 77 depicts this room, designed exclusively for dance performances. In spite of its small size and the absence of fixed seating for spectators, the space nevertheless conveyed a monumental atmosphere through its bold contrast between curving lines, smooth surfaces, and cryptic symbolism: cross, glass-imprinted arrows, spears, and discs (one of which, not visible in this picture, was suspended like a gong at the other end of the room). The glass walls of the arcing dome permitted sunlight to pervade the performance space, but the room contained no provision for the use of theatrical lights (or scenery) other than the rows of fixed lamps on each side of the hall; on the left side (not seen), the lamps glowed within glass globes, which further contained intricate wire netting to filter the light. The Himmelssaal projected the aura of a cult temple suffused with mystical light: "a space of meditation, of devotion to something invisible, yet in light. Hoetger is here the adept of abstraction. It makes the cult space ideology-free, but grounded in brotherliness" (Thiemann 29; see also Golücke 94–99; Küster, Kunstwerkstalt , 58–83). The swirling linearity and planar emptiness of the room made it an ideal space for modern dance performance. The space invited people to dance within it, to move with unexpected freedom. The three women in the 1930 photograph (probably from Estonian Helmi Nurk's company) seem to "belong" to the space to a degree that is unusual in modern dance photography. By far the majority of modern dancers preferred to have their pictures taken in photography studios, in nature, or in a space without context, as in Figure 1, rather than in the spaces in which they actually performed their dances, because they felt that modern movements did not really belong on proscenium stages designed for bodily movements that were not modern. Figure
77 shows a remarkable unity of modern bodily movement and modern architecture, and this unity requires no more (or less) in the way of scenic context.
But to say that the Himmelssaal was "ideology-free" is somewhat misleading. Critics favorable to the International Style condemned the building for its reactionary mysticism and its eagerness to associate modernism with the politics of cultural fragmentation, with the localization of identity, with provincialism. The Nazis were even less appreciative, despite Hoetger's initial enthusiasm for their program and his scarcely concealed anti-Semitism. In 1935, Hitler himself declared the Böttcherstrasse complex so repulsive that he thought it should be torn down, and Roselius, whose global business interests were important to the Nazis, had to make passionate appeals to the city council to prevent the annihilation of the "temples." In 1937, Hitler agreed to let the buildings stand as examples of "Bolshevist" artistic corruption as long as Roselius affixed placards explaining why such architecture was decadent and anti-German. By 1938, Hoetger was on the list of "degenerate artists," and his life became even more difficult and reclusive. (Today the Böttcherstrasse buildings are a major, delightful tourist attraction.) Hoetger's eclecticism, his openness to so many "foreign" (and feminine?) influences—luridly satirized in Paul Masdack's biographical novel, Der schwarze Magier (1924)—undermined his capacity to develop a distinctly Nordic mode of expression that was recognizable to the Nazis. The Himmelssaal was a powerfully and seductively unique space for dance performance; no one from the dance world itself showed the capacity to envision, let alone realize, a dance space even remotely as satisfying. Perhaps, then, an eclectic (rather than "pure") imagination, a Hoetgerian will to absorb ever more categories of artistic expression, is necessary to create the context best suited to allowing bodies to move with a uniquely modern freedom.
For various technical, economic, and aesthetic reasons, dance did not appear often in films. Rita Sacchetto, Jenny Hasselquist, and Grete Wiesenthal had performed in movies before 1920, and in 1919 Mary Wigman made a mountain film, now lost, in Switzerland. Anita Berber made a heap of films but not many in which she danced, although she and Droste supposedly made in Vienna of film of their "dances of vice, horror, and ecstasy." Eight-year old Maryla Gremo performed her curious expressionist dances in the Murnau productions of Satanas (1919) and Sehsucht (1919), and Murnau directed further films that featured characters who were dancers but played by actors (Conrad Veidt, Sasha Gura). For the Berlin premiere
of Nosferatu (1922), Elisabeth Grube devised a live dance prologue, Die Serenade , with original music by Hans Erdmann (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau , 215–216, 221). In 1920, Laban prepared a fairy-tale dance film for production by the Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft (UFA) studio in Berlin, but this project soon seemed too risky for studio executives of the inflation era and had to be abandoned. He later (1928) planned a film to explicate his system for notating dance, but this project also failed to reach the screen. UFA eventually produced Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit (1925), which included documentary footage of several prominent dancers. But the paucity of dance imagery on the cinema screen (rather than before it) is nevertheless disappointing, especially because what little documentary footage remains of Wigman, Laban, Impekoven, Jo Mihály, Gert, and Kreutzberg, is tantatalizingly mysterious. Documentary fragments of Hellerau students in 1913 undulating outdoors through colonnade shadows and bands of luscious sunlight are among the most hypnotic and luminous images of the moving body I have ever seen.
In Der sichtbare Mensch (1924), the Hungarian expatriate screenwriter Béla Balazs (1884–1949) grasped that film possessed the unique capacity to reveal the "melody of physiognomy" in a "scientific" manner, through close-ups (or "microphysiognomy" of the body) and "rhythmic" editing of multiple views or angles of the body. Moreover, because "the physiognomy of men [sic] is more intense when they are silent," all-dance films in the silent era of pantomimic acting would seem as feasible in the studio environment as Laban had imagined in 1920 (Balazs 61–65, 80–81, 207). Film speeds, however, were not high enough to allow for the filming of dances in their concert environments; more often, dances on film required a daylight environment, which actually gave the bodily movements a beautiful luminosity. Hans Pasche, in Die Schallkiste (3/9, September 1928, 10), urged dancers to use the new synchronized sound technology to produce dances directly for the screen, as demonstrated by a short dance film featuring Dorothea Albu of the Berlin State Opera ballet. But neither the dance nor film worlds explored this possibility. Thus, despite the prodigious dance talent in Germany, dance in film never appeared as anything more than an interlude in a larger, nondanced narrative context.
Most dancers seemed to grasp that dance on the screen was not the same as dance on the stage and that dance in film achieved expressive power only when the camera did not merely watch the dance but "danced" as well, became an integral component of the movement. Fritz Böhme thought film could achieve dancelike properties when it moved toward dynamic abstractionism, as in the montage editing or "reflecting color music" of "absolute" films or animations by Walter Ruttmann, Hans Richter, or Oskar Fischinger ("Materialen," 25). Of course, in such films, dance was no longer the work of the body. One dancer who well understood how to use film technology on behalf of bodily movement was Leni Riefenstahl (b. 1902), whose Triumph of the Will (1935) and Olympia (1938) remain among the most seductive cinematic representations of physical beauty and strength in film history. She herself starred in the immensely successful The Blue Light (1931), with a scenario by Balazs about a mountain girl shunned by villagers who believe her skill at climbing the rugged cliffs to reach the remote crystal cave of the "blue light" awakens fatal desires in men. Riefenstahl did not dance in this silent film, but she moved through treacherous, sublime nature with a poise, rhythm, and physical precision unique to a dancer. No other director of the era treated the camera as if it were the partner of the body, entailing a fluid tension between the desire of the camera to get closer to the body, and the desire of the body to get closer to the camera.
One of the most prominent examples of this tendency to regard dance, sports, and gymnastics as a unified and unifying ideology of body culture was Wilhelm Prager's 1925 film, Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit , written by a physician, Nicholas Kaufmann, in consultation with several professorial advisers. Because the federal government owned a controlling interest in UFA, which produced the film, one does not hesitate to suggest that the film represented official state advocacy of the "modern body culture" it showed. After its initial run in theatres, Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit appeared in classrooms and club halls everywhere in Germany. However, because it contained several scenes depicting women performing nude gymnastics, it had difficulty reaching audiences abroad, particularly in England and the United States, both of which banned theatrical exhibitions of the film. The film for the most part contained documentary footage celebrating various sports, athletic prowess, exercise techniques, modern dance forms, and outdoor pleasures. These were interspersed with fanciful reenactments of Greco-Roman sport and beauty culture (performed by students and teachers of the Deutsche Hochschule für Leibesübungen). Among the numberous athletes depicted were Else Döbler (swimming), Nedo Nadi (fencing),
Rocky Knight (boxing), Rinjiro Degouchi (jiu-jitsu), Helen Wills (tennis), and Babe Ruth (baseball). Dancers included Mary Wigman, Rudolf Laban, Tamara Karsavina, Jenny Hasselquist, and Niddy Impekoven, and politicians associated with sport culture included Prime Minister Lloyd George of England, Benito Mussolini, and the Crown Prince of Norway. The film also contained didactic sequences, some involving animated diagrams, describing correct posture, the unhealthy effects of corsets, ergonomic factors, and so forth.
The message of the film was obvious: a revitalized national German identity depended on heightened, modern body consciousness in the spectator, a consciousness one could achieve by choosing to pursue one or more of the activities depicted. Nude women from the Hedwig Hagemann girl's school in Hamburg demonstrate, by a placid, sparkling lake, some of the Mensendieck movement techniques as more gentle, less competitive alternatives to the other activities, but the appearance of nude women here and in the Greco-Roman scenes dominates perception of the film as a whole. One wants to see more of this activity or wants to see the nude women doing more; more than enough documentation establishes the other choices. But on the whole the film presents dance, sport, and gymnastics as equally attractive "paths to strength and beauty" without acknowledging the differing aims (and gender politics) motivating the choice to pursue one mode of body culture over another. The viewer must discern these differences according to the image of the body projected by each of the modes. Yet by lumping dance, sport, and gymnastics together, the film makes an integrated idea of body culture into a national sign of individual and societal freedom.
Modern dance culture emphatically preferred photography as the medium for transmitting the new image of dance. The emancipatory authority of modern dance achieved its most convincing representation when aligned with the expanding expressive capacity of photographic technology, which also had a stake in modernism insofar as its own ambition to attain the status of art was concerned. Moreover, although photography supposedly "documented" the "reality" of dance by "scientific" means not associated with painting, dancers had discovered by 1910 that this technology actually was much more efficient in idealizing dance than in documenting it realistically. Nevertheless, the material reality of the body achieved optimum representation through a medium thought of, rightly or wrongly, as the most technologically advanced way to construct the most material image of the world. Of course, dancers (though not always dance) appreciated the attention paid to them by gifted artists. In Vienna, Max Pollak (1886–1970), pos-
sibly "the first etcher to turn his attention to the dance as a subject," did numerous refined mezzotint portraits of Joachim von Seewitz, Ellen Tels, Mila Cirul, Ronny Johansson, Tatjana Barbakoff, Maria Ley, Anne Osborn, and Russian dancers within the Tels circle (Max Pollak , 37; also, The Studio , 86/369, 15 December 1923, 343–345). Felix Harta (1884–1967) was another Viennese whose expressionistic portraits of theatrical personalities included many dancers. But although the fine arts could bestow a distinctive cultural status on dance, photography allowed the dancer greater control over the image.
Before the war, photography of dance took place largely in the photographic studio rather than the dance studio, and studios specifically for dance imagery operated in several German cities as well as in Vienna. Rudolph Dürhkoop (1848–1918), in Hamburg and Nuremburg, photographed Laura Oesterreich and the Falke sisters. In Munich, Hanns Holdt (1880–1972) photographed Edith von Schrenck, Niddy Impekoven, Jutta von Collande, Mary Wigman, Gertrud Leistikow, the Sacharoffs, and Sent M'ahesa, and Hugo Erfurt (1874–1948) photographed the Wiesenthal sisters and Clotilde von Derp in Dresden. Other photographers of dancers cited in Brandenburg, Suhr, and Nikolaus included Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski (Munich), Stephanie Held-Ludwig (Munich), Elisabeth Morsbach (Munich), Ani Riess (Berlin), Franz Löwy (Vienna), and others in Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, and Mannheim. After the war, with technology that did not require such long exposure times and with the inspiring success of gymnastic and Nacktkultur photo imagery, photographers moved from their studios to the native sites of dance. A number of new photographers found dance a congenial subject for experimentation, including Hans Robertson, Steffi Brandt, and Suse Byk in Berlin, Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897–1966) in Essen, Gertrud Hesse in Duisburg, Anny Breer in Hamburg, and, in Vienna, Josef Trcka (1893–1940) and Rudolf Koppitz (1884–1936). The Merkelbach studio in Amsterdam did numerous images of German dancers (Georgi, Impekoven) in addition to its Dutch clientele. Gerhard Riebicke (1878–1957), in Berlin, was perhaps the most prominent photographer of athletes and Nacktkultur after 1923, partly because of his skill in finding dramatic images for athletic action (Figure 78). Umbo (aka Otto Umbehr, 1902–1980) studied (1921–1923) at the Bauhaus in Weimar before working as a magazine photographer in Berlin, where he developed an interest in the improvisations of rehearsal photography.
But highly contrived studio photography of dance and dancers by no means disappeared, with Vienna remaining the site of the most artificial constructions of the dance image. There the Studio D'Ora—operated (1907–1925) by Madame D'Ora (aka Dora Kalmus, 1881–1963) and Arthur Benda (1885–1969), who rose to international prominence through society and high fashion photography—placed the bodies of
dancers (Berber, Tels, Impekoven, Bodenwieser) in highly recessed interior spaces, completely sealed off from the world visible through the viewfinder (Figure 26), although Madame D'Ora's aesthetic moved radically out of the studio after 1945 (Faber, Madame D'Ora, 188–190). Her students Edith Barakowics and Edith Glogau perpetuated her studio style, publishing dramatically contrived dance photographs in Schertel's erotic journals. The artificiality of the photo studio allowed for a more overt linking of dance with erotic desires that are "visible" only when protected from the glare of the world beyond the viewfinder, as was evident in Koppitz's homoerotic 1926 study of two nude female Russian dancers (Figure 79). The nude photographs of Claire Bauroff and Mila Cirul taken by another Viennese, Trude Fleischmann (1895–1990), presented the dancers' bodies as moistly luminous organisms isolated in darkness and unwilling to gaze at the spectator (Schreiber 118–122). In the 1930s yet another Viennese studio, Manasse, run by Olga (1896–1969) and Adorjan Wlassics (1893–1946), created possibly the most contrived dance images of all using trick photography and processing techniques to produce amusingly erotic collage-fantasies (Faber, Montrierte ).
Before 1920, dance photography emphasized the dancer rather than the dance and was a genre of portrait rather than action photography, although as early as 1908 Roland Jobst, in Vienna, had produced quite lyrical outdoor action pictures of Grete Wiesenthal, and Laban had achieved some remarkable action images at Ascona in 1914 (Faber, Tanzfoto, 30–31; Wolfensberger 109–115). Pre-1920 photography focused on the glamour and attractiveness of the dancer and dramatized the personality through calculated "dance" poses before scenographic backdrops. But the need for ensemble pictures after 1920 compelled photographers to look more carefully at movement as the source of interest in the dance image (Barche and Jeschke). Hugo Erfurt began taking pictures of leaping dancers around 1920 and discovered that, by cropping out the floor in the image, he could create the impression of the dancer suspended high in space, an effect soon repeated ubiquitously. In his photographs of Wigman from 1914 to 1922, he captured her turbulent movement by occluding her face, and he seemed to favor the airborne movement.
But his pictures of her were never as dramatic or expressive as the many Wigman images taken in 1926 by another Dresden photographer, Charlotte Rudolph (?–1971), probably the most well-known of all dance photographers of the era. Rudolph stressed the darkness and heaviness of Wigman's art, its innovative attachment to the earth, and she saw Wigman's face in the dance, glowing hieratically through the darkness. Rudolph understood how dance introduced dynamism into photography: she varied the distance between the camera and the dancer, and she defined the photographer's task as selecting those movements of a dance that revealed the
dimensions of its expressive power and of the dancer's personality, an attitude she described in a 1929 article for Schrifttanz (VP 79–81). In 1926, Rudolph published photographs to accompany a small collection of bizarre prose poems, Träume und Maske, by a Dessau women, Hilde Doepp. These showed Doepp in trancelike pantomimic poses, but the camera moved close to her so that it saw only the upper portion of her body. This desire to move in on the movement and reveal dance above the legs achieved even stronger representation in Suse Byk's photographs of Valeska Gert, which appeared in Fred Hildenbrandt's 1928 book on the dancer.
Around 1930 in Vienna, Arthur Benda of the D'Ora Studio, in response to homoerotic dances of the Bodenwieser group in which pairs of dancers coiled around each other on the floor, began taking high-angle shots of the bodies, giving a view of the dance not seen by the spectator in the concert hall. Yet the device of photographing dance from unusual angles remained extremely rare in the dance photography of the era, although Degas, in painting, had extensively explored such views of dance in the 1870s. This device occasionally appeared in photographs of movement choirs, and Lola Rogge apparently saw its expressive potential in the mid-1930s (Figure 61). Rudolph sometimes placed dancers before white backgrounds (instead of the dark, curtained walls which ostensibly foregrounded the body) to intensify the sense of the dancer's expanding the space around the body. Her most famous photos, perhaps, were of Palucca's leaps against white backdrops, upon which the dancer projected her soaring shadow (Figure 49). The leap, however, was common to Palucca's aesthetic, not to Ausdruckstanz in general, and as an image of freedom it appealed more to photographers than to people preoccupied with modern dance. In Berlin, from 1928, Lotte Jacobi (1896–?) used the white background for an even more spacious effect. She cultivated the friendship of her subjects and preferred relaxed, informal photos that showed the dancer rehearsing or improvising in a studio while incidental afternoon shadows crept up the walls; she did not attempt to freeze the body with absolute precision, allowing the movement to blur the image slightly and to reveal the dance's capacity to circumvent the precisional authority of technology (Jacobi 7–12).
A fascinating experiment occurred in Prague when Viteszlav Nezval and Karel Teige published ABECEDA (1926), which consisted of 25 poems, each four lines long and each assigned to a letter of the Czech alphabet. On one page appeared the letter and the poem, and on the facing page appeared an image of the dancer Milca Mayerova (1901–1977) "performing" the letter (Primus 154–162). Mayerova even performed these poses live at various Prague poetry readings (Nezval 147). Strangely enough, this little book was the first attempt to construct a dance photographically, as a sequence of images possessing a self-contained rhythm—the "alphabet dance," a material conjunction of letter, word, body, movement, and photo image. Before
this time only Adorée Villany had shown a serious interest in sequential photography of dance (1908–1910), though Baron De Meyer did create a photoreconstruction of Nijinsky's Afternoon of the Faun in 1912. But despite examples from gymnastic photography, sequential imaging to produce a photographic dance never developed in Germany, or elsewhere for that matter, presumably because dancers lacked interest in such literary notions of the dance text.
In 1932, Marta Vietz (aka Astfalck-Vietz, 1901–1994) compiled a photo album called Der schwarze Tänzer, which became a gift for her father. The album contained sixteen photographs of a black male dancer, nude or nearly nude, performing different movements that, seen in sequence, added up to a dance. One of the photographs depicted the dancer in a startlingly rapacious embrace of a white woman. After an apprenticeship period as a lab assistant and nude model in a photo studio, Vietz became active in Berlin as a photographer, mostly from 1926 to 1932 (Frecot). Because she had considered becoming a dancer herself, she began with self-portraits, adopting dance poses for the camera. She experimented with veils, scrims, low-angle (foot) lighting, backlight silhouetting, shadows, off-center positioning, and nudity, all of which suffused the images with a curiously improvised narcissistic eroticism. The pictures quickly found publication in Ernst Schertel's erotic magazines, although Vietz apparently did not know who published them. Dancers such as Daisy Spies, Sabine Ress, May Carlstedt, Lene Ludwig, and Henri, the former partner of Anita Berber, posed for Vietz (Peter). She did not just photograph dancers or dances; she created dance in the photo studio; through an erotically tinged process of playing around with the body, pose, lighting, props, and camera, she produced images of dance as an experiment in self-seduction (Figure 80).
At the Bauhaus (1927–1929), Albert Braun, T. Lux Feininger (b. 1910), and Erich Consemueller (1902–1957) used multiple exposures, overexposures, multiple shadows, dynamic lighting effects, and occasional odd angles to construct the image of dance experimentation (Figures 36–38). By 1930, however, the Hungarian Gyula Pap (1899–1984), a Bauhaus student from 1920 to 1925, had forsaken such formalist abstraction for an eerie, mystic, totemic image of the body in his shots of masked dances performed on the roof of the Itten school in Berlin (Haus 479–482). In Dresden the painter Edmund Kesting (1892–1970) began, after much experimentation with assemblages and collages, to make photos of Wigman students (Marianne Vogelsang, Dore Hoyer) in 1929 using techniques of superimposition. Here the dancing body appeared in conflict with itself or its image, as if photo technology exposed an invisible shadow within the body (cf., Klaus 56–67). This technique, which Kesting used into the 1940s, encouraged him to move closer with the camera to the dancer, so that the signification of dance often came through the tensions between hands,
arms, and face. He produced numerous superimposition images of the tragic dancer Dore Hoyer (1912–1967), whose violently dramatic (and suicidal) aesthetic, which evolved in the 1930s through solos based on incredibly detailed written scenarios and pictographs, made her the most significant artist of expressionist dance in the 1940s and 1950s (Figure 81) (Peter, Dore Hoyer ). With Kesting, photography did not expose dance so much as dance exposed the act of seeing it as a technological drama, although his superimposition technique never reached the dazzling complexity of Maurice Tabard in Paris.
In 1937 the Dresden expressionist Hans Grundig (1901–1958) painted a portrait of Hoyer before a desolate country road at twilight. It was possibly the most melancholy portrait of a dancer created during the Third Reich, for it showed what no photograph did: a luminously sensitive young person utterly alone and unable to move freely in a huge, empty space of gathering darkness. By this time Siegfried Enkelmann (1905–1978), who had inherited the large Robertson studio in Berlin in 1933, dominated dance photography. He specialized in highly dramatic compositions and relied on intricate lighting designs to produce an effect of pictorial grandeur, which, although unique to the photographic medium, tended to drain the image of the dancelike spontaneity that was visible even in the photography of the prewar period (Siegfried Enkelmann ).
One of the greatest of all dance photographers was the Czech expressionist Frantisek Drtikol (1883–1961), whose photographs of the 1920s frequently appeared in German art, erotic, and photography journals. Drtikol's images inspired my own interest in the history of Ausdruckstanz , so some comment on his way of seeing the dancing body seems relevant. Drtikol began his career in Prague under the spell of Czech symbolism, and his early photographs (portraits, landscapes) show the influence of a decorative, mystical painterly style. Dance and female nudity obsessed him. In 1912 he did a series of twelve photographs depicting Olga Gzovska performing her Salome , a "meloplastic" dance drama, in which she "eliminated all the burden of jewelry and ostentatious splendor of royalty, dressing only in flying veils of butterfly colors, tightly bound around her body, a gold tiara in her hair, and long earrings of ancient origin. All attention centered on her face, arms, and legs" (Siblik, TNZ , 16). But Gzovska's pantomimic dance, which shifted from the nudity of her female servant to her own nudity and which was performed against a background that shifted from light to dark, had a transformative effect on Drtikol's photography. The "original connection between dance and religious action and ceremony" made the body appear too complex for painterly techniques and moved him toward a more emphatically photographic style, for here "dance nakedly guides us from the beauty, depths, and abysses of the human soul to unnatural desires and pleasures" (Kroutvar 6) (Figure 82).
Drtikol had no interest in photographing dance outside the studio, and the outdoor rhythmic gymnastics program of the Sokol organization influenced his work only in a curiously indirect way. In 1914 he began photographing Ervina Küpferova, a dancer at the National Theatre and director of a Dalcroze school. With her he explored the same biblical image of the dancer that he had explored with Gzovska; he used different costumes and poses, yet Gzovska's smoldering spirit still seems present. After service in the war, Drtikol reestablished himself as the leading portrait photographer in the new Czech Republic. In 1919 he married Küpferova, and for the next several years of their unstable marriage she was the dominant model in his dramatic nude, harlequin, and biblical images of dance, which included further reprises of the Salome theme. But it was only after Küpferova left him in 1926 to pursue her career in Russia that Drtikol moved toward an ecstatic vision of the dancing body. In hundreds of oil print and bromide images constituting a single, gigantic series, he evolved a mystical photo iconography of the modern body in an ambiguous relation to its freedom and movement. He put nude female bodies in tension with abstract geometrical shapes: ramps, hoops, spheres, blocks, waves, pillars, arcs, arches, disks, intersecting or colliding planes, crevices, poles, ropes, and curving floors (Figure 83). Stunning contrasts between light and shadow prevailed not only between the body and its environment but within the body, so that often only a portion of the dancing body was visible—the rest remained in shadow. As the "barbaric dancer" of Van Ostaijen's poem remarked: "My body is to itself a light and a darkness." Some images looked at only a part of the dancer's body, such as the legs or the left arm and torso; others decentered the body in the image to show the degree to which the body adapted to abstract geometrical forms, light, and shadow.
Drtikol did not use dancers as models, yet the women moved like dancers insofar as their movements projected no functional value, existing entirely to signify an inner condition of freedom and power. Nevertheless, no matter how freely the body seemed to move in the image, it always remained hemmed in and defined, not by nature but by abstract geometrical forces, by a "dangerous proximity to death" (Kroutvar 5). The proud, athletic bodies and movements of these shadow-veiled female figures linked the image of the modern Salome to Dalcrozian gymnastics in a manner that was largely invisible to the multitudinous disciples of the doctrine. Yet large numbers of these images circulated throughout Germany as postcards. Drtikol continued in this vein until 1931. But in 1930 his photography became more abstract; he dispensed with the live model altogether and began using extremely stylized paper sculptures of the female body, which danced through a much more cosmically nebulous space toward an ecstatic light (Figure 84). The dancer's body seemed almost insectoid, with arms like antennae, outstretched toward ecstasy. Ecstatic movement not only
revealed the "dark" desires of the body, it transformed the body into an alien being dancing alone in a new world of technologically defined abstraction. But by 1935, Drtikol felt he had pushed the "photo-puristic" image of the dancing body to the limit of abstraction. He therefore abandoned the practice of photography and devoted the rest of his life to teaching and theosophical mysticism (Birgus; Farova; Klaricova).