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).