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Schools of Bodily Expressivity
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Schools of Bodily Expressivity

Dance and Dances

As the most complex and distinctive manifestation of German modernist body culture, Ausdruckstanz deeply stirred the imagination because it unfolded within a dynamic system of signifying practices whose emancipatory potential appeared limitless. But this system did not establish its credibility chiefly through a canon of discrete works that can be read as closely as literary pieces, artworks, plays, or films. Perhaps the emancipatory appeal of dance depended on its reluctance to leave behind concrete evidence of its forms. In any case, one cannot construct much of a history of Ausdruckstanz by analyzing particular dances of particular "authors," because the documentation simply does not exist to produce any sustained analysis. But this absence of documentation does not mean that German dance culture failed to produce a substantial body of works worth documenting. Many dancers resisted documenting their pieces in any detailed form, such as notation or film, because they feared that others, in an intensely competitive market, would steal their ideas or that audiences' desire to see the dance in a live performance would evaporate. Yet the most obvious reason for the lack of documentation was great uncertainty about how to document a dance. Movements of the body produce such complex impact on perception that they challenge the power of language to describe them accurately, especially in relation to their meaning, which bestows value on signifying practices. Even today, the great majority of writing about movies, which are much more similar than dances to conventional texts, focuses on issues of narrative and character and completely subordinates to these issues the analysis of performance elements whose value often does not depend on narrative context: acting, set design, lighting, costume design, cinematography, musical score, and editing. Signifying practices migrate


across performances and therefore across narrative contexts; one sees performance by detaching signifying practices from narrative contexts and placing them within a larger context, within a range of choices open to performers to signify a specific narrative situation.

German commentators on dance during the Weimar era seemed to view the art from this perspective. They wrote prodigiously on dance but rarely described specific dances in detail. They repeatedly announced that dance was the greatest expression of individuality, of the repressed or dormant "inner being," of national identity, yet they did not regard dance culture as foremost a repertoire of specific dances or even dance forms. The major dance chroniclers of the era—Hans Brandenburg, Fritz Böhme, Hans W. Fischer, Werner Suhr, Fritz Giese—did not describe dances so much as they described personalities associated with habits of signification used in dances. As the chief manifestation of the profound metaphysical significance the Germans sought to ascribe to the modern body, dance could not be reduced to dances or to highly concrete forms. To preserve the metaphorical, symbolic, and political integrity of dance, it was necessary to construct a discourse that shifted perception away from material incarnations to the embodiment of a stirring—indeed, ecstatic—spirit that transcended the limits of materialism and sensory perception in even quite modernist sensibilities.

Before the advent of the Third Reich, no country was more active in the development of modern dance than Germany, but even then German dance culture self-consciously regarded itself more in relation to an expanding potential than to the solid establishment of practices that one could eventually call traditions. The motive for the metaphysical perspective seems reinforced when one examines recent attempts in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States to reconstruct, on paper or in performance, dances by Mary Wigman, Harald Kreutzberg, Gertrud Leistikow, or the Bauhaus. These reconstructions always seem a little disappointing, even when a huge amount of money and time is expended on them, as in the Joffrey Ballet's 1988 effort to reconstruct Nijinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913). As long as reconstruction primarily entails the recovery of movement, music, sets, and costumes, it will always tend to disclose the inadequacy of past performances, for the appeal of past performances depends less on those elements than on the bodies and personalities of dancers, as well as on historically unique factors that are not easily recovered. For example, if one compares Marja Braaksma's 1990 reconstruction of Mary Wigman's Hexentanz (1926) with Wigman's own version of it in a 1930 film clip, one sees two entirely different dancers performing the same movements to the same music in practically the same costumes to produce two quite different images of witches, with Wigman appearing far more spooky and Braaksma far more voluptuous. We cannot reconstruct the vast majority of dances pro-


duced between 1910 and 1935, but we can recover the system that enabled German dance culture to achieve such immense productivity and to make dance central to a modern perception of the body.

Rudolf Laban

No figure of the German dance culture enjoyed a greater reputation for treating dance as an abstract system than Rudolf Laban (1879–1958), and no figure left more abundant documentation of his ambitions. In the 1920s no one wrote more on dance, no one had more students, no one had more schools devoted to his teachings, and no one seemed to have such a huge slate of enterprises devoted to dance than Laban. His life teemed with so much activity and he left behind such a vast archive of documentation in several countries that no one, least of all himself, has yet been able to construct a coherent, comprehensive biography. His memoirs, Ein Leben für den Tanz (1935), gave a remarkably reticent and unengaging account of a life that was apparently too complicated for the author to examine with sufficient patience. Laban fabricated a powerful mystique, and his disciples have perpetuated an aura of mystery surrounding him with a rhetoric that is sometimes even murkier than his own. But once one penetrates the cloud of reverence enshrouding him, one sees that Laban began far more projects than he could possibly complete and that productivity does not necessarily equal concrete achievement. Like Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, Laban was neither a great artist nor a great theorist; he was a great teacher who possessed a powerful gift for motivating people to exceed their own expectations of themselves and to pursue ideals that are not easily understood.

Laban came from the Hungarian nobility, and after studying art in Paris he decided to pursue a career in dance, against the wishes of his family. He received ballet training in Paris, performed with different companies in North Africa, Germany, and Vienna from 1906 to 1910, then started his own school in Munich. When war broke out, he migrated to Zurich and then to Ascona, where he established an experimental school that integrated dance into a larger, countercultural lifestyle that included nudism, sexual adventurism, and nature worship. A great deal of legend surrounds the Ascona period, perhaps the least adequately documented phase of Laban's life. It was during this period that he perfected his strategy of insuring the legacy of his pedagogic ideas by cultivating powerful erotic-physical relations with his female students. He formed a kind of harem of devoted women, demonstrating that Ausdruckstanz involved the construction of a mysterious personality with an almost hypnotic control over the dynamic, liberated body. From then on, Laban's relations with women were so complicated that one must conclude he had a rare gift of making them feel


utterly unique without allowing himself to feel possessed by them (although he does seem to have needed, in the erotic sense, numerous women to sustain his sense of purpose).

After the war he returned to Germany, where he established institutes in Nuremburg, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Hamburg, and Würzburg. By 1926 he had schools dedicated to his teachings in all these cities, plus Leipzig, Basel, Munich, Salzburg, Tübingen, Berlin, Budapest, Vienna, and Nordhausen. All were run by women except the schools in Jena (Martin Gleisner) and Hamburg (Albrecht Knust). In 1928, at the Essen Dance Congress, he introduced his method for notating dances, subsequently known as Labanotation, which has since become the most widely used system of dance notation. The same year he helped launch the journal Schrifttanz (1928–1932), published by Universal Edition of Vienna, with Alfred Schlee as editor and Laban's perspective as an editorial principle. Between 1930 and 1934 he directed the ballet of the Berlin State Opera, and in 1936 he coordinated the dance productions for the Berlin Olympics. Because of the Nazis' "hostility toward dance as an art and cultural language," Laban decided that the Third Reich lacked sufficient opportunities for him, and in 1938 he migrated to England, where he spent the rest of his life, much of which he devoted to the study of bodily movement in industrial production, asserting that the most aesthetic movements were also the most efficient.

During the 1920s, Laban produced numerous public dance performances, including Die Geblendeten, Himmel und Erde, Tannhäuser Bacchanal (Mannheim, 1921), Der schwingende Tempel, Lichtwende, Prometheus, Gaukelei, Komödie (Hamburg, 1923), Agamemnons Tod, Dämmernde Rhythmen (Hamburg, 1924), Narrenspiegel and Die gebrochene Linie (Berlin, 1927). His most ambitious choreographic project was the enormous three-hour ballet Don Juan , produced in Berlin in 1926. But in spite of his obsession with documenting dance accurately through his notation system, information about his dance productions is astonishingly meager, and none was intensely successful either commercially or critically. In an article for the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (9 February 1925), Fritz Böhme, commenting on Laban's experiments with "musicless" dances, remarked that Laban's sense of bodily movement was "more choreographic than musical," by which he meant that Laban devised movements without paying much attention to musical motivation—without, in effect, listening to rhythms or harmonies in dialogue with bodies. But Laban's idea of dance was too complex to achieve its strongest or most lucid expression through dances. He saw dance as a mode of action that transcended the borders of institutions and conventional distinctions between nature and civilization.

In 1922 in Hamburg, he began his most serious experiments with the notion of "movement choirs." In these exercises, conducted both indoors


and outdoors, large groups combined and recombined in numerous variations to dramatize the power of dance to accommodate difference within the struggle for communal unity. Although the movement choirs appeared in theatrical productions such as Faust II (1922), their expressive value was much more evident in improvised or appropriated contexts (Figure 27). Throughout the 1920s, the exercises for movement choirs attained an ever greater complexity and intricacy that was specific to the moment and too difficult to duplicate or rehearse for the purposes of theatrical dance performance. However, the movement choirs were merely one element in a grandiose ambition to liberate the value of dance from its dependence on dances. Laban's true medium was not the theatre but the school, and his most congenial form was not the dance nor even choreographic activity but the lesson, the lecture, the demonstration, the act of instructing. Laban hoped to release dance from its institutionalized confinement within the theatre and the business of touring, which he hated, as is evident from his correspondence in the Leipzig Tanzarchiv regarding the ill-fated tour of Poland in February 1928. His plan was to construct a large network of schools throughout Europe as an alternative production and performance system operating independently of conventional, tradition-bound theatre culture.

To achieve this objective, Laban had to detach a cosmic notion of dance from its material manifestation in performances; he had to establish a powerful, alluring value for dance more through writing about dance than through performance. But a potent aura of mysticism pervaded his writings on dance. He rarely, if ever, analyzed actual dances or bodies but constantly introduced hypothetical models and examples of movements. This antiempirical attitude almost suffocated his most theoretical and popular book, Die Welt des Tänzers (1920), which was more a meandering collection of notes than a cogently argued theory of bodily expressivity. He did not analyze dances or dancers, nor did he refer to any other thinkers on dance; rather, he presented a vast constellation of categories of analysis. The world of the dancer consisted of this seemingly endless labyrinth of categories: "Dance as Gesture" (13), "Tonality as Gesture" (14), "Thought as Gesture" (15), "Harmony of Gestures" (20), "Body Sense and Sense of Tension" (25), "Symmetry and Asymmmetry of Gestures" (32), "Becoming Conscious—a Symbolic Action" (34), "Appearance of Duality" (38). "Appearance of Triality" (38), "Desiring, Feeling, Knowing" (40), "Movement, Stupefaction, Instruction" (44), "Dance of Inorganic Nature" (59), "The Self as Source of Recognition" (66), "Language of the Hand" (94), "Activity and Passivity of the Spectator" (169), "Periodicity" (233), and so on. Laban introduced several hundred theoretical categories, none of which he defined for more than a few paragraphs before moving on to the


next category. His writing style was majestically aphoristic and even a little oracular:

Like the ecstasies of terror and hate, the ecstasies of joy and love will indicate the same contradictory signs. Whispering and calling, high and deep tones interact. With broken voice, turbulent motives, in which stammering and poetic soaring become reconciled, the movements of surrender and the gestures of the pressing toward the thing in itself [An-sich-Pressen] are performed (179).

The solo dance is a duet between dancer and environment or dancer and inner world. In the first case subjectively real, in the second case subjectively ideal. More concrete is the group or mixed movement in which rhythms of fleeing and following or inclination and repudiation enter simultaneously and with greater potency. . . . The battle dance, the fertility dance, and the temple dance are the most pervasive kinds of art dance (208).

Rites are symblic actions. Their educational value and their aim is the inner vision and outer expressive capacity in the sense of a demanding and testing of plastic experience. The context of ritual is the festival. . . . Every ritual arises out of dance, tonality, and word. Definite movements, gestures, steps are bound to audible rhythms, imagined and spoken words (54).

Laban's writing hardly ever became more precise or analytical than in these passages from Die Welt des Tänzers , yet his language stirred a great many people. By introducing such a multitude of theoretical categories, none of which he actually applied to any concrete manifestation of dance, Laban implied that dance itself defined the limits of analytical rationality by usurping and dissolving all stable distinctions between forms. For Laban, dance was a transcendent, cosmic force that imbued everything with erotic rhythm and tension: "[I]ndeed, in all life, in all being is dance: dance of the constellations, dance of natural forces, dance of human actions and feelings, dance of cultures, dance of the arts" (156). One could even observe the power of dance in stones, for "the crystallization process is excitement and movement" (59). The uncaptioned photographs in the book, most of which showed himself and his lover, Dussia Bereska, were merely decorative illustrations with no direct relation to anything in the text. They depicted the two dancers in uncontextualized studio poses, with Bereska consistently wearing bizarre, rather mythical costumes. The photos created the impression that dance inhabited its own strange world, an immense, bewildering system of phenomenal relations detached even from the language that tried to explain it.

In Gymnastik und Tanz (1926), Laban's rhetoric was less awe-inspiring but also less overtly theoretical. Here he did not associate dance so much with a transcendent, cosmic rhythmic principle; instead, he presented it as the superior sign of a modern expression of communal unity and social transformation—dance appeared as a historically unique force of liberation


within European civilization. Whereas gymnastics focused on purely quantitative evaluations of bodily strength and health, dance made the body a field of expressivity possessing emotional qualities that eluded quantitative measurement. As in Die Welt des Tänzers , Laban's analysis of the body paid no attention to typologies or physiognomic categories, even between the sexes: he presented both the body and its movements as hypothetical constructs, reinforcing the perception of dance as a unifying phenomenon capable of accommodating manifold differences. He examined numerous parts of the body, from head to toe, in relation to their movement potential, although even here he was not altogether precise about what movement signified as opposed to what the body part in itself signified. Dualism permeated Laban's thinking about dance. Every movement entailed a countermovement; thus, breathing was the complement of the pause, symmetry the complement of asymmetry. Bending unfolded against arching, the swing against the turn, the flight against the fall, the spiral against the lateral profile, stamping against tiptoeing, stretching against coiling, advancing against retreating, the ring against the line, the left hand against the right, the head against the torso. The tension between symmetrical and asymmetrical movements led to further complexities: both arms could move symmetrically while the legs moved asymmetrically; the heads and legs of six bodies could move symmetrically while their legs moved asymmetrically, pulling them in different directions; all bodies could adopt a swinging motion, but some bodies might arch while others spiraled; the left leg could tiptoe while the right stamped, the outstretched arms trembled symmetrically, the head tick-tocked, and the torso arched, then bent, then swung. The major effect of this recursive dualism was to release dance from popular identification with steps , with formulaic phrases, with a focus on lower-body activity. Laban showed that any part of the body could dance and that all were essential to a modern idea of dance. The expressivity of modern dance depended on tensions between body parts and movements, between symmetrical and asymmetrical significations. This concept of bodily "harmony" was alien to ballet, in which the ideal body moved ideally because it was free of contradictory tensions.

However, Laban's discussion of rhythm and temporality was, as usual, exasperatingly vague. He said nothing insightful about the relation between bodily rhythm and musical rhythm; having so little understanding of the power of music to control emotional responses to movement, he tried to present bodily movement as an autonomous expressive field whose meanings remained stable regardless of the total sensory context. Nor did he think it worthwhile to explain the impact of costume, masks, lighting, or scenography on perception of bodily movement. The main point was to free the expressive body from overcontextualization and excessive institutionalization so that it could inhabit or appropriate completely new contexts. The


abundant photo illustrations helped support this task considerably, for they showed many male and female dancers, some perfectly nude, from Laban schools throughout Germany, performing indoors and outdoors, in forests and in stadiums, as if all belonged to a pulsating, universally triumphant community or social movement.

Laban was so uncertain of the appropriate context for modern dance that he became obsessively preoccupied with the relation between movement and spatiality. Theoretically, at least, he regarded space as being as dynamic as movement. In a little dialogue published in Die Tat (14/9, December 1922), Laban had a dance lover ask, "But how should one present the form and content of the dance artwork?" to which a dancer replies, "An empty space organized through manifold gestures of solo dancers and great and small dance groups. . . . A world bound and structured by the discharge of those powers which reveal themselves only through human gestures and of which word and sound know only silence" (679). In an article for Die Schönheit (22/2, 1926), he announced that dance required its own distinct performance spaces and that the configuration most favorable to dance was the amphitheatre. In this setting spectators could watch the dance from all sides and from different perspectives, as "every dance composition builds itself as much through depth as through breadth." Dance performance should occur before great tapestries or curtains, not behind them, because "dance is not an art of illusion" but "such a strong stylization of natural movement that an illusionary stage environment only has a corrupting effect." In northern lands, open-air theatre was not feasible year-round, so he suggested the construction of cupolas over the amphitheatre in the belief that great cathedrals offered the best models for the new "dance temples." He also insisted that lighting should illuminate the "plasticity of movement" and not distract through "complicated color-effects." Every dance temple should have different-sized performance spaces for monumentally or intimately scaled occasions.

In another article for Die Tat (19/8, November 1928), he reiterated that "dance can serve the opera, the theatre, the festival, the celebration, and many other situations," but "today the dancework still has no venue in which it can be effectively presented to the spectator. Perhaps in the circus. In any case, not on the proscenium stage. . . . Dance theatre is first of all: a space; secondly: a suitably modelled ensemble which can technically and spiritually realize the composition of the dance poet; more remotely: the audience with a cultivated sense of form and movement." (591). That Laban regarded space (not music) as the dominant source of energy for dance became evident from his thousands of drawings of moving bodies and then of movement alone in its most abstract images. The Leipzig Tanzarchiv contains several hundred of these drawings, but they are so cryptic that it is probably impossible to figure out what they mean. It is clear, how-


ever, that he sought to represent movement as an abstract, geometrical force struggling with or against space, emptiness, as he emphasized in a lecture at Berlin University on 16 April 1928, when he finally concluded that movement is "not natural, but abstract."

Laban created drawings on all kinds of paper, in different colored inks and crayons, as if color or shading revealed the emotional quality of the movements, but in the vast majority of the sketches he put some sort of geometric frame—a circle, a square, a triangle, a hexagon, a star, intersecting trapezoids, "the crystal"—around the often fantastically arabesque movement, often giving the impression that the frame controlled or determined the limits of the movements (Figure 28). From these drawings emerged Laban's curious notion of the ikoseheder , a transparent cubospherical contraption that supposedly would reveal different zones of energy associated with different parts of the body and different movements, depending on the direction of the movement within a section of the ikoseheder . He made photographs of dancers moving in the ikoseheder , and he explained his space-body theory in almost pedantic (though not lucid) detail in Choreographie (1926), but the impression nevertheless remained that he had imagined a cage that contained the moving body rather than a serious map for exploring dynamic relations between body and space.

Moreover, in spite of his demand for a dance performance space that allowed audiences to see the body from different perspectives, all of his images of movement viewed the dancing body from the front in a proscenium frame. All of the dance photographs of himself and of his students were taken from the front at eye level. Unlike Isenfels, the Bauhaus photographers, Schertel, Villany, Drtikol, or Rolf Herrlich, Laban never saw photography as a way to portray dance from an unusual angle or distorted distance. His visual sense was actually much stronger in the use of bizarre or fantastic costumes than in the exploitation of space, a fact that is especially clear from photographs of his simultaneously abstract and medieval "dance tragedy" Gaukelei (1923). In his choreography, Laban tended to press bodies close to each other in complicated rhythms, so that the spectator perceived a dense mass of activity without shifting focus or turning the head. He did not see movement as an extension of space, nor did he see space as an opening for movement, as indicated by his remark in an unpublished paper on "Das chorische Kunstwerk" that large public spaces give no joy when occupied by only one or two dancers (MS 88).

Although Laban avoided any sort of empirical discourse on dance and certainly on dances, he nevertheless was responsible for introducing the most successful method of recording dances, Labanotation, which he unveiled at the Essen Dance Congress of 1928. No notation system was so comprehensive in its capacity to accommodate the numerous variables of dance performance: part(s) of the body that moved; direction, weight,


duration, force, rhythm, and tempo of the movement; rhythm of the music; relations between two or more moving bodies; number of movements; multiple rhythms within a movement or body; spatial relations. Laban devised a complex code system for marking each performance variable, with the result that a sheet of Labanotation looks as abstract as a sheet of a score for large orchestra, except that Labanotation is actually more difficult to read.

A law of 19 June 1901 declared that dance works enjoyed copyright protection as long as they existed in a written form, as a text. In theory, Labanotation would thus protect choreographers from pervasive plagiarization; it would also offer choreographers the capacity to create dances on paper the way composers write music, and it would ensure that dances did not die with their makers but survived as historical artifacts. As it turned out, however, Labanotation fell far short of achieving any of these objectives. Labanotation was an expensive, time-consuming process that attracted very few students and that even fewer dancers could afford to subsidize, and it was not until Laban had long established himself in England that serious training in the method finally began. In Germany he lectured vigorously on the subject with slide shows, and around 1929 he even contemplated making a Schrifttanz (written dance) film of his method, but he never applied Labanotation to any of his own dances. The main task, he decided, was to construct a comprehensive set of symbols for recording all possible movements of the human body. Albrecht Knust (1896–1978) coordinated this unexpectedly gigantic project, which he completed only in the 1970s, when the entire 200-volume Kinetographie Laban was deposited in only ten dance libraries around the world. Despite its arcaneness and typically Labanesque obscurities, Labanotation was significant for two reasons: 1) it revealed that the overwhelming majority of dances confined themselves to a tiny range of the total movement possibilities of the human body, that choreographic imagination was incredibly blind to a huge, unexploited expressive potential; and 2) it showed that the dancing body produced such complex disturbances of perception that empirical analysis of dance was much more difficult than almost everyone realized. It was not at all easy to describe accurately bodily movements, let alone their meanings. Labanotation was like an immense dictionary; it provided the letters and words to describe discrete movements, but it was powerless to explain the meaning of the movements it described, nor could it relate variations in movement sequences to semantic variations. By 1930 the meaning of dance seemed in desperate need of a more lucid, persuasive articulation than Laban had supplied.

It was in 1930, as economic conditions for dance culture deteriorated rapidly, that Laban became ballet master for the Berlin State Opera. He hoped an official position might consolidate his influence within government circles responsible for subsidies of the arts. Although he had many


well-trained and gifted dancers at his disposal, his productions achieved only modest success, partly because of ballet politics and partly because his choreography seemed indifferent to musical value. His great love was the movement choir, performed by passionate amateurs. For the 150th anniversary of the Mannheim National Theatre in 1929, he staged, in the municipal stadium, a huge piece for movement choirs and speech choirs consisting of 500 men and women; the same year, in Vienna, he produced an even larger spectacle, with 10,000 performers. But the Nazis distrusted his complex, highly contrapuntal sense of rhythm and his close association with a left socialist motive for the movement choir, as exemplified in the work of his former student, Martin Gleisner. The 1930s were a glorious period in the history of mass movement spectacles, with fascists even more than the Soviets displaying considerable imagination in this form; but after 1933 the movement choir as Laban envisioned it blossomed most congenially outside of Germany, in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Czechoslovakia, especially among the Catholic-socialist organizations.

Laban obviously possessed titanic ambition. If his achievements seem less than one expects of titans, it is probably because he could never resolve a great conflict within himself between theory and practice. He saw that creating a higher value for dance depended on treating it as a huge, abstract system that functioned independently of dances and even bodies, just as language operates independently of speakers and texts. Indeed, he spoke of dance as a language and choreography as writing in movement (Tanzschrift ); Labanotation (Schrifttanz ) was a monumental effort to find a way to write down movement. Yet he associated language not with lucid systematic communication but with mystical crypticity. His rhetoric inspired plans rather than executed them. But by building an abstract system out of cryptic language and esoteric symbolism, he also demonstrated the completely contradictory power of dance to produce the unique, mysterious personality that appealed equally to his many students. Perhaps he best summarized his ambiguous conception of dance as an enigmatic language in a lecture on the subject given with Ruth Loezer at the Volksbühne in Berlin on 8 February 1925, when he claimed that dance was a form of runic inscription: "If we want to understand dance, we must learn to understand the law of the rune. . . . The whole history of dance is simultaneously the history of the encirclement of dance as writing [Tanzschrift]" ("Tanzsprache" program).

Mary Wigman

Laban's most famous student was Mary Wigman (1886–1973), who became the greatest dance artist Germany has yet produced. Much has been written about her, and I feel no need to cover the enormous terrain already traveled


in Hedwig Mueller's excellent biography of Wigman and Susan Manning's wonderfully detailed reconstructions of her dances in the 1920s.

Wigman matured rather slowly as a dance artist. After receiving unsatisfying instruction under Dalcroze at Hellerau, she studied with Laban in Munich, then in Zurich and Ascona, where she became friendly with the dada circle around Hans Arp, Raoul Hausmann, and Hugo Ball (Melzer 103–104). But dadaistic nihilism was not compatible with her disposition toward heroic gestures. She produced her first program of dances in 1914 at the Laban school in Zurich, and she contributed dances to various Laban programs until November 1917, when she presented, again at the Laban school in Zurich, a solo program of Ekstatische Tänze . By this time she felt she had nothing more to learn from Laban, but her next move was not clear. She retreated into monastic solitude in the mountains; with writer Felix Moeschlin, she made an alpine fantasy movie, Der Tanz um die Tänzerin (1919), which has disappeared (Dumont 53–54); and she put together solo dance programs in Davos and Zurich. The acclaim these received inspired her to test what she believed was a more demanding audience in Germany. The break with Laban had major repercussions, for over time the two came to represent opposing tendencies in German modern dance. By the mid-1920s, Laban perceived her as the dominant threat to his own ideology and worked subtly to discredit her, largely by omitting her achievements from his prolific pronouncements on dance and by building within German dance culture powerful political blocs that opposed her. The tensions were still evident at the dance congresses in Magdeburg (1927), which Wigman refused to attend when Laban managed to prevent her and her students from performing, in Essen (1928), and in Munich (1930).

A successful tour of north German cities in 1919 brought Wigman back to Dresden, where audiences displayed the most gratifying enthusiasm. With another Laban student, the Swiss Berthe Trümpy, she founded a school in that city, acquiring as students young women stirred by her bold dance performances. During the 1920s her performing ensemble expanded from four to eighteen dancers; she produced nearly one hundred solo and group dances, and her school prospered so much that by 1927 she had 360 students enrolled at Dresden and more than 1,200 enrolled at "Wigman schools" operated by former students in Berlin, Frankfurt, Chemnitz, Riesa, Hamburg, Leipzig, Erfurt, Magdeburg, Munich, and Freiburg. In 1931, Hanya Holm went to New York to establish a Wigman school there.

Once she had left Laban and completed her first tour in 1919, Wigman enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. By 1924 no German dancer was as widely known outside of Germany as she, even though she had yet to make any of the great solo tours of central, eastern, and northern Europe that would later confirm her as the most important artist of modern dance on the continent. In 1921 Hans Brandenburg announced, "She is now herself a phe-


nomenon, and in her style perhaps the greatest the art of dance offers." She did not merely dance—rather, "with magic-demonic objectivity," she made the "absolutes" of dance, "space and movement, visible in themselves . . . for [in her] the dance impulse has become cosmic, movement an eternal hieroglyph and rune, the self an encircling center" (HB 202). The same year, Ernst Blass commented rapturously that Wigman was "a wilderness, barbaric and fecund"; her "path leads into the nordic-prehistoric, into wild intertwinings with dragon heads, horses' skulls. . . . Something nocturnal, black remains the most significant element of her consciousness. In her leaps and wild hurlings, she is often formless and consuming, inaccessibly remote" (34). In 1922 Werner Suhr, comparing her to Thomas Mann and Hans Pfitzner as representative of a "classic" German artist, explained that "Mary Wigman surrenders in the wildest frenzy to entirely explosive, overflowing movements, her arms fall with power through space, her hands are clenched, her feet stride and glide to the inner pulse, her body trembles—a swirling, unquenchable line!—in a singular, delirious forwards-upwards-push, uninhibited and untamed, for this apparent lawlessness of her dance reveals a higher law of the soul—her dance is a dionysiac festival, sensual-spiritual joy, ecstasies of body and brain" (WS 102). Nor was this sort of rhetoric confined to German commentators. In 1924 the Spanish weekly picture magazine La Esfera (11/538, 26 April, 11–12) described Wigman and her students in Dresden from a more classical-Mediterranean perspective: "The last drama of Wigman's performance . . . possessed something of the sacred drama of the Passion and of the Suppliants, as well as the Eumenides . . . the divine simplicity of Aeschylus . . . a terrific impression of the chorus of Furies."

By 1929 Wigman had reached a creative impasse with her performance group, so she disbanded it, returned to a cycle of solo dances entitled Schwingende Landschaft , and collaborated with Albert Talhoff on the largest and possibly most controversial production of her entire career, the huge multimedia spectacle Totenmal , which premiered at the Munich Dance Congress of 1930. Then she embarked on the first of two grandly acclaimed solo tours of the United States (1930–1931 and 1931–1932). However, a third (1933) U.S. tour, this one with an ensemble, was not so successful. She resumed creating new choreography for groups with Frauentänze (1934) and Tanzgesänge (1935) and participated in the organization of the mass Olympic dances of 1936, but otherwise all of her choreography until after World War II consisted of solos for herself. Her last public performance, of Abschied und Dank , took place in 1942.

In 1930, Wigman sought a respected outsider who could serve on the board of directors for her school and reinforce its credibility with potential funders. Hanya Holm introduced Wigman to her boyfriend, Hanns Benkert, an executive engineer with the Siemens electric manufacturing


corporation. Not only did Benkert serve on the board, he and Wigman became lovers for over a decade. As a high-level industrial planner, he exerted serious influence among the Nazi elite. Benkert could protect Wigman from Nazi distrust of her, but he could not overcome Goebbels' emphatic distaste for her aesthetic, and by 1942 she found herself alone, without a company, without a school, and without her home in Dresden. After the war she attempted to revive her school in Leipzig, but she sensed that West Berlin offered a more congenial atmosphere for her art, and there she remained from 1949 until her death, teaching, choreographing opera performances (including The Rite of Spring in 1957), and gradually becoming more remembered than anticipated.

Unlike Laban, Wigman believed that a superior value for dance depended on the ability of dance performances to move audiences, not on a theoretical perspective that transcended dancers and dances. She had no interest in establishing an alternative system for institutionalizing body culture, and pedagogical objectives for her always remained subordinate to the task of discovering and perfecting her own artistic expression. She did not question the spatial contexts designated for dance before World War I, even in such a complicated production as Totenmal; indeed, all her dances fit well on the most conventional municipal stages. They also toured comfortably because Wigman did not favor elaborate scenographic effects, although her powerful dramatic sense entailed a very imaginative use of costumes. But she and Laban did have some beliefs in common. Like her former teacher, Wigman linked a superior value for dance to a heightened condition of abstraction established through movement, not body type, music, or narrative convention. She shared with Laban an inclination toward mystical signification, but she did not veil her feelings, as he did, in foggy crypticity. Wigman was great because she brought to dance an unprecedented magnitude of tragic feeling. For her, modern dance had to go well beyond the naive expressions of joy, innocence, and decorative idealism the public had come to expect since the heyday of Isadora Duncan: she tied conditions of ecstatic liberation to conditions of heroic sacrifice. The dance art of Anita Berber explored dark and violent regions of feeling, but Berber lacked the capacity or concentration to cultivate a tragic aesthetic, for her sense of dramatic conflict never extended beyond the image of innocence lost or desecrated in an inescapably sordid world. Wigman could appropriate the domain of the tragic because her morality was ambiguous. She saw the body as the site of great, conflicting urges, neither good nor bad but equally redemptive and equally strong: the experience of ecstasy entailed the sacrifice of conventional notions of life, communal unity, and bodily harmony. For her, dance was not a release from death but an exposure of it. As Hedwig Mueller has observed in relation to Ekstatische Tänze (1917), movement toward freedom implied for Wigman a tragic "transformation of the physi-


cal into the metaphysical," a heroic condition that achieved its most dramatic signification through the power of bodily movement to represent the immanence of death, "the unity of desire and destruction" (Mary Wigman 186). Movement made us see what was otherwise hidden: namely, that life is in death rather than opposed to it.

To amplify the tragic expressivity of bodily movement, Wigman linked movement to more concrete significations of feeling than either Dalcroze or Laban had. She moved the center of kinetic energy from the legs, thighs, and hips to the torso, which had the effect of dramatizing a struggle with gravity rather than an ethereal escape from it. Indeed, she often brought the body close to the dancing surface: one could dance while kneeling, sitting, crawling, reclining, or squatting. Arms and hands, she believed, should dance as much as the legs and feet. Much of the "Seraphisches Lied" section of Schwingende Landschaft has the dancer lying on her side with only her right arm and hand (and fingers) moving arabesquely (see also Bach, plate 9). A favorite device of hers was to have one arm reaching, imploring, or summoning while the other arm clung to the body, caressed it, or moved in a contrary direction to indicate energies withheld at the very moment they are released. A similar effect might occur when the dancer crossed her arms over her breasts while advancing toward the spectator but spread out her arms while turning her back to the audience; or both arms might beckon or implore but the hands remain inwardly cupped. She would make much of rotating the hands from palms straight down to palms straight up—or palms pressed against the air and the audience before her. No one better understood the dramatic potential of exposing the palm or the back of the hand or concealing the hand altogether in the armpit, behind the back, or under the other hand. The hand shifted from being clawlike to featherlike; it swept out from the body, then clenched into a fist; it hovered, then soared or plunged. Sometimes arms and hands burrowed into the belly or breasts, as if digging out a recalcitrant strength. Wigman also made unusually expressive use of the head, especially the eyes. She frequently danced with her eyes closed or half-closed, then opened them suddenly, briefly, in a deep stare generally cast to her right or left (rather than forward) and away from the direction in which she moved, as if the moving body were drawn to what it could not see rather than to what it did. Wigman (1929): "The dancer's glance is a visionary gazing. . . . The eye is the focal point of the dance event" ("Der Tänzer," 12–13). She liked having the head at an odd tilt, with the chin up, not vertically perpendicular to the ground, as in ballet.

She did not neglect the feet and legs. She loved slow arcing, gliding steps, which she might integrate with slow march steps on tiptoes while the rest of the body remained statuesquely poised. Nearly always barefoot, the dancer very often signified both caution and boldness by having one foot solidly


planted on the sole and the other on tiptoe, moving in this fashion by shifting the solid foot to the tiptoe position with each step. Wigman was fond of having the dancer advance toward the spectator in small steps, on tiptoe usually, with each step directly in front of the previous and with the body dipping on the step. She liked to bend and coil the body and seems to have appreciated curvature as much as angularity, but she avoided the balletic tendency to straighten out or elongate the body. Her dancers shifted abruptly from small, stalking steps to lunging strides and glides. Wigman also made dramatic use of sways, teeters, and tremblings, especially in relation to rhythms of inhalation and exhalation. Although she tended to favor slow, groping, or sometimes languid tempos, the dancer constantly surprised the spectator by shifting rhythms within movements, so that even the steadiest configuration of movement contained within it unexpected discharges of energy. Wigman was a master of stillness and the pause. In the first part of Hexentanz II (1926), for example, the dancer crouches on the floor, head sunk between her knees, in stillness; suddenly an arm shoots straight up, then down; the head rears up and stares, immobile; then the whole body rocks from side to side before the head sinks again between the knees—pause!—then one foot stamps, then the other; then in a great, cyclonic whirl, the dancer spins around stamping and stops. Movement was unstable, unpredictable, as if the body coiled within it circulating springs of "convulsion," as some commentators put it. Death manifested itself partly through degrees of stillness, languor, gravitational pull, inclination to the ground.

Wigman believed that dance must free itself from music to establish its unique expressive power. Her first full-length concert of dances, in 1914, contained no musical accompaniment at all, and she produced several other unaccompanied dance cycles, including Ekstatische Tänze and Die Feier (1921). Thereafter she integrated silent dances into larger structures involving accompaniments. Like many other dancers of the era, Wigman preferred an orchestra of percussion instruments—drums, gongs, and cymbals, usually handled by a single player—and all the sound composed specifically for her dances until 1939 was written for percussion instruments by Klaus Pringsheim, Willi Goetze, and Hanns Hasting, the last two being her resident music directors from, respectively, 1923 to 1929 and 1929 to 1939. By employing percussive sound, Wigman stripped music of its power to destroy or weaken visual perception of movement and at the same time showed the authority of movement to provoke emphatic auditory response to it, for the percussion followed the dancer rather than the other way around. She did produce some dances to conventional romantic music (Bizet, Granados, Dvorak, Saint-Säens, and especially Liszt), but modernist developments in music apparently had little impact on her perception of either the body or movement.


In costumes, she persistently displayed a taste for archaism and exoticism. She swathed herself in flowing capes, mantels, and shawls; she delighted in bizarre hats and headpieces, austere hoods and cowls. She mostly performed in long dresses of shiny gold or a strong monotonic color, but she seldom appeared in black (the "Schicksalslied" section of Tanzgesänge [1935] and Niobe [1942] are interesting exceptions), and she seemed much more hesitant to bare her legs than her arms, although her legs were quite as beautiful. She liked occasionally to appear in silky, luxuriously patterned Oriental gowns for grotesque-macabre pieces (Hexentanz II ) or more melancholy works (Szenen aus einem Tanzdrama [1924], Tanz der Brunhild [1942]). In Tanzmärchen (1925) she experimented with a bizarre intermingling of clownlike, or zanni , costumes: extravagantly exaggerated skirts, gold wigs, and romantic dresses. Eerie masks appeared on dancers in Totentanz (1926), Hexentanz II , and Totenmal , for these were instances, she explained, when the "formal transformation of the dancer demands of the dancer an effacement of the personal in favor of the typical and the intensification of the typical to the superpersonal" (HM 131). In Totenmal , Wigman was the only figure to appear without a mask; all the other dancers, large male and female speech-movement choirs, wore, as in Totentanz , masks bearing practically the same ominous expression. All the costumes for her dances strongly evoked a medieval or biblical atmosphere, and she never employed costumes that clearly situated the dance within the present. Yet images of her dances always seem modern, for it was the movement, the positioning of bodies, that placed the image within the context of modernism. With the body veiled in archaic costumes, its movement became more visible but also more abstract; and, of course, abstraction was the most pervasive sign of modernity (Figures 29–31).

Wigman introduced further abstraction into the structure of her dances. She did not produce a program of discrete dances designed to show the diversity of her technique and expressiveness; she produced cycles of dances that explored in depth a particular emotional state, metaphor, or allegorical vision. Thus, Ekstatische Tänze was a cycle of six dances: "The Nun," "The Madonna," "Idolatry," "Sacrifice," "The Dervish," and "Temple Dance." Die sieben Tänze des Lebens contained dances of "Longing," "Love," "Desire," "Sorrow," "The Demon," "Death," and "Life," whereas Szenen aus einem Tanzdrama entailed "Summoning," "Wandering," "Circle," "Triangle," "Chaos," "Change," "Vision," "Encounter," and "Greeting." Opfer (1931) comprised "Swordsong," "Sun Dance," "Death Call," "Earth Dance," and "Lamentation." In Die sieben Tänze des Lebens , she impersonated a single character who moved expressionistically through different phases of life, but in other cycles she incarnated a powerful feminine spirit that resisted confinement within the notion of "character." One may say that these incarnations were simply different, archetypal aspects of her personality—but


the perception remains that she built narrative unity out of formal abstractions of emotions rather than out of psychologically motivated logic. Her narrative sense was more musical than literary; emotions generated distinct movements and actions, regardless of their context in a particular character or body. Dance cycles therefore became structured around dramatic contrasts between light and dark dances, between quick and slow, grotesque and monumental, cool and warm, lyrical and geometric, and various combinations therein. By exposing abstract relations between mood and movement and by freeing the body from the conventions of characterization, Wigman helped push dance into the realm of montage sequencing of action, which defined much of modernist film and literature of the 1920s. She was by no means alone among dancers in pursuing this strategy.

In her group dances, she applied on a larger scale the devices with which she had expanded the expressivity of the dancing body. Her perception of group and community was more complex than Laban's, for although she liked to press bodies together in polyrhythmic, tangled clumps, as he did, she was much more imaginative in developing dynamic spaces between bodies. She allowed the group to cover a larger portion of the performing space, and she displayed a strong sense of the group's spreading out, encircling, and converging on the solo dancer (inevitably Wigman herself): she saw communal movement as a dynamic force that explodes and implodes around the magnetic ambitions of a leader. As Manning has repeatedly observed, Wigman revealed considerable ambivalence about the relation between group and leader. Dancers often disclosed greater individuality or expressivity within the group than when they briefly stepped outside of it for a solo, a suggestion of tension between individual and community. Yet the leader rarely came out of the group, was always identifiable within it, and was never seriously challenged or confused with anyone else for the role. In Frauentänze (1934) and Tanzgesänge (1935), Wigman made elegant, monumental use of abstract geometric group symmetry, with spacious, cinemascopic choir movements built around uniform gestures of prayer, invocation, imploration, and offering. But in some of her group dances, perhaps especially Im Zeichen des Dunklen (1927), the dancers seemed unaware of each other, were wrapped up within themselves, moving to different rhythms, gazing in different directions or even keeping their eyes closed, yet they remained within a group insofar as they followed the leader.

Although Harald Kreutzberg and Max Terpis studied briefly under Wigman (and she had several other male students), all of her performing groups contained only female dancers. Only after the war, when she began working with opera companies, did she really start thinking about the male dancer, most notably in The Rite of Spring (1957). Apparently she experienced some sort of intense anxiety toward the male body; in any case, she felt no inclination to explore the expressivity peculiar to it. In Tanzmärchen ,


women impersonated explicitly male figures, and in Totenmal , which memorialized soldiers killed in the war, the members of the male choir were all zombielike figures of the dead, and the only male dancer, masked, was Death.

As a teacher, Wigman exerted tremendous influence in the classroom. But she was not much of a theorist, and her authority outside of the classroom depended on her success in dance performance. Her great appeal for students lay in her promise to maximize the individuality of the student through dance: "The longing for self-expression so characteristic of our age is driving today's girls to seek satisfaction through dancing" (MWB 104). However, this attitude had significant limitations. Her first, and possibly best, ensemble broke up in 1924 because Berthe Trümpy, Yvonne Georgi, and Gret Palucca had developed such strong personalities that they had to leave in quite separate directions to fulfill their ambitions. Moreover, the improvisational "technique" Wigman used to accommodate diversity of personalities was difficult to transfer outside of the cultic atmosphere in the Dresden studio, with its gold and red walls and with Wigman, swathed in luxurious gowns, veiled in cigarette smoke, gazing with hawklike intensity and presiding on a throne in the corner as a mysterious priestess. Trümpy's effort to establish a Wigmanesque pedagogy in Berlin encouraged Rudolf Lämmel to compare the discipline and accomplishments of her faculty and students unfavorably with those of the Estas school in Cologne.

Occasionally Wigman published brief articles in dance journals. In these pieces her language remained consistently metaphorical and polemical rather than analytical. Her views on dance composition (1925) and dance curriculum (Deutsche Tanzkunst [1935]) were even cloudier than Laban's at their most cryptic: "Whether the dancer moves as a soloist in his own creations, or plays his instrument in the orchestra of moving bodies, he always is, above all, servant to a work of art. This is the only and eternal law under which the dancer lives his entire life" (MWB 129). Yet language, both written and spoken, was very important to her in creating her dances and her cult. She wrote out scenarios for her dances and incorporated into the manuscripts sketches, marginal comments, and cryptic movement notations, sometimes employing different colored inks and pencils. She was fond of drawing pictures that included words in the imagery; for example, a sketch she did of New York City in 1931 consisted entirely, in collage fashion, of words from signs she saw in the streets of the city (HM 173–175). She kept extensive diaries and was definitely at her best when she wrote autobiographically, when she connected attitudes toward dance to specific events in her life. Apparently she "saw" the dances and dance cult she created through a process of inscription. The image of language gave her the image of movement (KT). In rehearsal and in the classroom, she was not content to watch and comment nor even to interpret the performance by


her commentary; she liked to talk to the dancers while they danced, telling them, in highly metaphorical language, not what movements to make but what feelings they should release, what effects they should produce. The urge to speak compelled her to enter the dance, but she would shout out isolated words and phrases rather than complex or even complete sentences (film documentation in Snyder). But even though her own language to explain the meaning or theory of dance remained enshrouded "in the sign of darkness," so to speak, never reaching much beyond stern and somber exhortation, she differed strongly from her teacher, Laban, in supposing that the real "language of dance" was not an elaborate system operating independently of dancers or dances but a physicalization, a supreme materialization or extension of language as the controlling phenomenon constructing difference, identity, personality. But the key to her system was not her attitude toward language; it was the idea that the student does not ultimately succeed until she confidently differs from her teacher.


Laban and Wigman represented the most dramatic and politicized antipodes regarding the conditions for establishing the value and modernity of Ausdruckstanz . But Wigman obviously understood that although dance performances may determine the value of dance, they hardly established a life in dance. Dance performances increasingly depended more on schools than on audiences, and by 1925 being a modern dancer pervasively entailed teaching dance. Before 1925 a rather large number of dancers pursued entirely artistic careers on the stage, but by the middle of the decade very few enjoyed such an exclusive focus of their energies. The economics of performance discouraged full-time dancing careers. The German "dance frenzy" actually signified a situation in which the supply of dancers quickly exceeded the demand for dance performance. As Laban realized, audiences for dance performance, as for opera, would expand only through a large-scale process of education and theoretical indoctrination in which masses of people learned to appreciate dance without feeling the desire to do it. However, the education of audiences occurred much more slowly than the education of dancers, not so much because of weak critical institutions within cultural media but because educational institutions, including dance schools, stressed participation in dance rather than serious analytic discourse on the meaning of it all. Dancers relied excessively on a mystical rhetoric to explain themselves—ecstatic appeals to good health, national revitalization, or cultured idealism—which, frankly, even quite mediocre performers could appropriate. When the "voice" of dance begins to sound everywhere the same, audiences become distrustful and apply ever greater pressure on dancers to supersede all thresholds of expectation—but


fewer and fewer can muster the imagination to meet these rising expectations. Thus, the desire to dance continues to grow, but the desire to watch dance remains static.

Both Laban and Wigman intuitively grasped that language constituted the mysterious core of a deeper understanding of dance, but they themselves lacked the language to unravel it. It was easier to recruit students, whose understanding of dance was intuitive rather than theoretical, than viewers, who depended on a complex aesthetic rationale to sustain their interest. Schools flourished everywhere. Berlin alone had 151 dance schools in 1929 (Freund 83–84), and by 1933 Germany had 5,122 professional dancers, over 30 percent of whom lived in Berlin (MS 33). But the number of dance performances scarcely matched the number of schools. To expand enrollments, dance schools formed closer alliances with gymnastics, but a practical result of this strategy was that by the late 1920s dancers began to look more and more alike: gymnastics had the effect of conventionalizing the image of dance, freedom, modernity, ecstasy. The strangest, most expressionistic, and most experimental period of German modern dance came between 1918 and 1925; the decade between 1925 and 1935 was hardly dull, but a greater sense of disappointment seemed to afflict it. By 1929 the market for schools had obviously reached the saturation point, and the following year, when another severe economic crisis began to grip the nation, modern dance culture launched a determined campaign to gain control of the subsidized opera ballet companies throughout the land, with the schools suddenly embracing ballet technique (HK 30–32). However, it is not clear whether other strategies would have yielded greater success, partly because the dominant objective of dance was not sharply in focus. Was it to produce serious works of art or to signify a new, redemptive mode of living? These objectives were incompatible, for one cannot produce serious art without taking risks that are often painful and unhealthy. Moreover, the dance world lacked the knowledge—the science, one might say—to identify the difference between the desire to dance and the desire to see dance.

The Loheland school in Fulda presented a curious example of the antiart, dance-as-life cult. Hedwig von Rohden and Louise Langgaard founded the school in 1912. In 1910 they were students in Berlin of the mysterious Hedwig Kallmeyer, herself a student of the Delsarte technique taught by the American Genevieve Stebbins. Rohden-Langgaard, as they were known, also incorporated Mensendieck ideas into their school, whose students were exclusively female. Loheland integrated gymnastic dance into a craft-centered, cultic lifestyle: daily performance of aesthetic bodily movement was part of a peculiar moral education that included gardening, physical labor, pottery, weaving, cooking, nudism, drawing, singing, agricultural activity, and household management. In the early 1920s,


Rohden-Langgaard began to introduce the anthroposophical ideas of Rudolf Steiner. Hans Brandenburg remarked that both faculty and students conveyed an "image of cloistered austerity and purity" (HB 135), and Fritz Giese observed a pronounced "anti-masculinist" attitude (FGK 115) (Figure 32). Gymnastik (3/5–6, 1928, 15–21) published a letter from a Loheland student, Ita Röst, who concluded, "Today I know I see the beginning of the path which earlier had led us to the construction of a high and powerful culture. 'Movement' is the first step on this path" (21).

But the study of bodily movement did not lead to an art of bodily performance. The Loheland milieu distrusted the cosmopolitan artificiality of theatre, distanced itself from all professionalism, and denied that serious dance could have anything to do with the expression of eroticism. Few of the Loheland students made dance a vocation (Niddy Impekoven was a major exception), and none of them assumed that dance was rich evidence of a unique personality. Right after the war, Loheland had a small ensemble of dancers, no more than four or five girls, which put on such things as the "silver cult play" Omnia ad majorem Dei gloriam (1920). But by 1924 the school refused to produce anything for the public, although lovely photographs of unnamed Loheland women, some nude, continued to appear in books and journals. Eva-Maria Deinhardt, Bertha Buschor, Emmi Heiner, and Edith Sutor attracted some individual attention in 1921. With Ariel and Legende , the sleek and supple Deinhardt moved as if her arms were feathers or branches in the breeze, her whole body a glowing "transparent ornament"; Sutor, in Farben and Urasima , preferred broad wavy movements, muscular turns, Amazonic glides, and undulations on bent knees; Buschor, in a shiny, satiny, dark pajamalike costume, did something called Strömungen using quick, convulsive movements; and Heiner "loved fast round curves" (HFT 106; HB 136). These women soon faded into oblivion, but Loheland continued to prosper as a pious, nature-worshipping community.

In 1928, Rohden-Langgaard published Gymnastik, Sport, Schauspiel , which outlined the Loheland principles of bodily movement. Five core modes of action governed the body as an expressive sign: running, leaping, encircling, ball-tossing, and spear-throwing. Liberating and ecstatic experience emerged out of variations on these modes. Deinhardt (Gymnastik , 3/5–6, 1928, 7–12), citing Novalis, asserted that "music sets everything in movement," but Loheland maintained a strict attitude toward the relation between dance and music: absolutely no percussion sounds and (contradicting Dalcroze) no emphatic submission of the body to the rhythm of the music—melody, not the beat, moved the body. Mozart therefore made the best dance music. Yet in spite of the reactionary atmosphere of this school, Rohden-Langgaard's book contained images of startling modernity. These were highly abstract diagrams of movement possibilities issuing from the five core actions. The authors used colored pencils to describe the trajecto-


ries of the movements in a manner that exceeded the level of abstraction in Hedwig Hagemann's diagrams; nor were these drawings at all cluttered, as were Laban's sketches. The text hardly explained the diagrams, but they nevertheless gave a powerful image of movement itself (not the body), with emotional values of movement encoded through the color of the pencil, degree of shading, and thickness or intensity of line. What dance "left behind," so to speak, was not a more vivid image of the body but a starkly wild (though human) geometric abstraction, a kind of strange, bold writing in space.


Although the influence of Dalcrozian rhythmic gymnastics waned considerably during the war, disciples of the Swiss educator did not disappear entirely. In 1915 the building complex at Hellerau came under the management of Christine Baer-Frissell, Ernest Ferand, and Valeria Kratina, advocates of the Dalcrozian approach. But Mensendieck ideas also entered the curriculum insofar as the school assumed a significant difference between male and female anatomies, which motivated the need for a completely feminine gymnastics. All students at the school were female. The atmosphere was free of the mysticism that pervaded so many other schools, which was not surprising, considering how carefully Dalcroze had planted his method in Gallic rationalism. Hellerau sought to free the female body without exhausting or depleting it. The school therefore condemned gymnastic acrobatics, dance virtuosity, and a focus on the perfection of movement: the female body possessed a different strength than did the male, and one measured it not by feats of acrobatic prowess but by an ability to move truthfully, confidently, and with adroit intelligence. To achieve this objective, Hellerau teachers had to modify Dalcroze's system to accommodate greater improvisation and greater independence between bodily and musical rhythms. Nevertheless, improvisation at Hellerau was a far stricter matter than with Laban or Wigman.

In 1990, Ilse Losch, a former student, published several examples of Hellerau "improvisations" (31–50), and these show the extent to which music controlled movement and movement unfolded according to an ideal of precision (though not one of "fatiguing" complexity). With the upbeat of a quiet piece of music in 4/4 time, the right leg rises a little, bending slightly at the knee. On the first beat of the bar, the left leg bends somewhat while the right foot, with gentle, intensifying pressure, touches the floor on tiptoe, then sinks onto the full sole, with the right knee bending lightly. On the second beat the left leg stretches to the knee while the right leg curls upward. On the third beat the right leg performs the gesture as in the first beat but more heavily, with the knee bending lightly. On the final beat the


left leg copies what the right leg initiated on the upbeat while the right leg stretches easily to the knee. The second measure of the music repeats these movements on the left leg, but the dancer never moves from the initial standing position (35). Each measure—indeed, each beat—introduces a new variation. Other exercises mobilize the arms, hands, and other parts of the body, shift rhythms (such as 3/4 to 5/8 to 2/4), and incorporate group interactions between bodies, but Dalcroze's obsession with synchronizing movement with the beat remains firmly in place.

Movement in this context was precise without being fatiguing, complex without being oppressively intimidating (for the performer). What made dance fatiguing was not increasingly complex synchronization of movement with the musical rhythm but movement that unfolded against the beat, the body in dialogue with the music rather than in harmony with it. As mentioned previously, this failure to acknowledge tensions between bodily and musical rhythms was a great weakness of the Dalcrozian system and hampered it from producing dances that went beyond the expression of a bright, sunny joy. The system did not establish any serious emotional connection between music and movement and made it all too easy for a mechanical sterility to dominate the exploration of bodily expressivity. But the detailed pedagogy, the exactness of the lesson plans, and the precisely measurable accomplishments offered by the exercises were quite appealing to some students, especially those planning to become teachers. In 1934, Hellerau-Laxenburg even gave courses in Paris at Studio Corposano under the guidance of a Finn, Maian Pontan, who had directed courses in Vienna, Berlin (at Diem's school), and Stockholm (AI 16–17). In 1925 the Hellerau school accepted the invitation of the city of Vienna to relocate to Laxenburg Castle, which was its home until 1938, when the Nazis annexed Austria. Between 1921 and 1924 the outstanding Czech choreographer Jarmilla Kröschlova, who had studied under Dalcroze in Geneva, taught at Hellerau before returning to Prague, where her career blossomed. The connection to Prague eventually proved significant for the fate of the Dalcroze system. In 1921 another Czech, from Brno, Rosalia Chladek (b. 1905), studied under Kröschlova and became so successful as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher (Basel) that in 1930 Hellerau-Laxenburg appointed her to manage the dance activities of the school, which she did until 1938.

Under Valeria Kratina, the Hellerau performance group had attracted international interest for its German premieres, in 1923, of Bartók's The Wooden Prince (1916) and Milhaud's L'Homme et son desir (1921) and, more important, for its open-air productions (the genre so loved by Dalcroze) in ancient Sicilian ruins in 1925, 1926, and 1927. Chladek continued this tradition by choreographing open-air productions at the Greek Theatre in Syracuse of Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis (1933) and Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus (1936) and Ajax (1939). Her enthusiasm for themes of classical


antiquity extended to her solo choreography for herself in Mythologischen Suite (1936), with its separate sections devoted to Narcissus, Daphne, Pythia, Penthesilea, and Agave; to her opera choreography for Glück's Orfeus und Euridyke (1940); and to the dance suite Apollon und die Amazone (1940). Like Kratina, Chladek displayed a very international taste in subject matter and music, working as comfortably with modern music (Stravinsky, Malipiero, Medtner) as with Handel or Dvoráak[*] . As a soloist, she traveled widely throughout Europe and as far as Indonesia in 1939. Indeed, a peculiarity of the Hellerau-Laxenburg school was its cultivation of dance as a sign of both internationality and modernity. Probably no other dancer after 1930 received as many offers to appear outside her homeland (both Germany and Austria) as Rosalia Chladek, but she did not have strong appeal for German audiences, even before the Nazi takeover. Wherever it operated in Europe, the Dalcroze system appeared as a foreign doctrine, and (like Dalcroze himself) one became a successful product of the doctrine by accepting the identity of a stranger to it and, quite often, to one's audiences. Certainly this was the case with Chladek, coming as she did from Czechoslovakia.

But as director of dance activities at Laxenburg, she succeeded in opening up the doctrine to the more expressive and improvisational features of "the free dance," as she firmly preferred to call Ausdruckstanz (Welziel 19, 22; Klingenbeck 15–16). And she brought male students into the lay course in Vienna. In 1931 she choreographed a large-scale, open-air dance spectacle for the Vienna Festwoche in the Rathausplatz, performed before 15,000 spectators. Twenty-five women, ten "youths" (performed by female students), and five men danced to the music of Bizet's L'Arlesienne Suites (1872), yet the effect was neither Gallic nor Teutonic nor even socialistic but peculiarly "European." The male dancers, clad in rust-brown tunics, wielded long staffs; the female group, in flowing orange gowns, carried gold shields; and the youths wore red tunics. Chladek made dramatic use of the huge space: the three groups developed a monumental counterpoint on different planes and at great distances from each other, then converged, employing vigorous swinging, rotating, or lunging movements—movement-countermovement in parallel lines, canon-countercanon, diagonal-counterdiagonal, round-counterround, concentric circles coiling centripedally, concentric circles spreading centrifugally. In the adagio section, the women sat in a half-circle and danced entirely with their upper bodies, moving the shields in "lyrical," undulating fashion so that the sunlight flashed off them; meanwhile the men, deep in the background, made hoeing, threshing movements with the staffs. In the carillon section, the youths usurped shields from the women while the men advanced employing scything movements. Then the soloist (Chladek herself) appeared, in a red and gold cloak, and her swirling dance brought all the groups together into a great whirlpool of


"dionysiac-ecstatic vibration," concluding what Ferand suggested "not unfairly could bear the name of 'Eleusinian Festival'" (Alexander 49–51). Yet the piece was actually an elaborate application of the same principle governing the two-bar exercise described above—left leg—right leg; movement-countermovement; diagonal-antidiagonal; clockwise circle within counterclockwise circle; male group–female group—with all movements exactly synchronized with all dynamics of the music (accelerando, crescendo, ostinato, and so forth). The realization of a unified, ecstatic community that transcended divisive pressures of sexual difference depended on large-scale deployment of the symmetricality-synchronicity principle introduced in the rudimentary exercise.

During the 1930s Chladek devoted much of her time to performing solo dances. In these she displayed her preference not only for stark, monumental movement but also for abstract theatrical props such as a staff, a great disk, a hoop, or a cape, as well as glamorous period costumes and archaic garments (Tanz mit Stab [1930]; Jeanne d'Arc [1934]). Her body was powerfully muscled, like an athlete's, and she sought bold gestures that heightened its muscularity (Penthesilea ); but she contrasted this quality with a flowing, exaggerated femininity, as in Die Kamelliendame (1938), in which she swooned and soared in a luxurious white romantic dress. Unlike Wigman, Chladek enjoyed displaying her powerful legs and introducing mysteriously androgynous touches (Narcissus; Luzifer [1938]; Michael [1938]). After World War II, she continued busily on the international dance scene, receiving commissions, honors, appointments, and students well into the 1990s. "Strength is the source of movement," she remarked in 1935 (Alexander 95). But Dalcroze himself worked from almost the reverse perspective, that movement is the source of strength. Thus, although Chladek showed the power of the Dalcroze system to produce a compelling artist, she was not quite as faithful to her teacher as were the great majority of his disciples, whose mission was to strengthen ordinary bodies easily fatigued by the rhythms of the modern world.

After World War I, Dalcroze disciples worked primarily in the public school system, where they often faced difficulties no less great than those afflicting dance artists. The Dalcroze Bund constantly struggled against bureaucratic inertia and the pervasive assumption that rhythmic gymnastics was not as practical as the study of the arts and sciences. An important figure in the rhythmic gymnastics movement, Elfriede Feudel (1881–1966), studied under Dalcroze at Hellerau and taught at the Dortmund Conservatory from 1927–1935 (Peter-Fuhr 26–27). Her Rhythmik: Theorie und Praxis der körperlich-musikalischen Erziehung (1926) was an impressive collection of essays that coolly addressed the chief criticisms and misperceptions of rhythmic gymnastics, put Dalcroze's method into a historical perspective, clarified its aims, differentiated it from other approaches to bodily education,


and provided (as usual) detailed examples of "lead and follow"–type exercises. She denied that, because it did not wallow in the undisciplined, irrational pathos of Ausdruckstanz , rhythmic gymnastics was too intellectual; more surprising, she criticized the Mensendieck system for being antierotic (62), and Hedwig Nottebohm attacked arch-rival Rudolf Bode for promoting an idea of rhythm that was hopelessly vague (140). This shift from a defensive to an offensive position somewhat strengthened rhythmic gymnastics in Germany. A school opened in 1910 by Otto Blensdorf (1871–1947) in Elberfeldt (Wuppertal) and later moved to Jena (1928) reemerged as a prominent center for rhythmic gymnastic teaching when Blensdorf's daughter Charlotte (already a lecturer at the Conservatory in Mälmo, Sweden) received an appointment from the university to provide instruction in Dalcrozian thinking (Alexander). Students from this school, as well as from Hellerau-Laxenburg and a school in Essen run by Dalcroze student Dore Jacobs (1894–1979), revitalized hope for making rhythmic gymnastics the basis for a national program of physical education. The Nazis, however, were hostile to rhythmic gymnastics, which furthermore attracted many Jewish women, and they put their faith in Bode's program.

The political ramifications of the Dalcroze system become more apparent if we look at the situation of rhythmic gymnastics in Czechoslovakia. Kröschlova had returned to Prague in 1924 because she realized that rhythmic gymnastics "did not lead to dance expression" (EST 135), but the innovative dance work she did in her native city nevertheless seemed to validate the attitude toward the body implanted in her by Dalcroze. Another student of Dalcroze, Anna Dubska, had managed a popular school for rhythmic gymnastics since 1912, and through her the notion emerged persuasively that the Dalcroze system demonstrated its credibility not through beautiful dances but through behavioral changes in individuals. In 1913 the powerful Sokol (Falcon) Organization of physical educators and bureaucrats, which had close ties to the labor movement, began to absorb Dalcrozian ideas into a large-scale plan to create a strong body culture in Czechoslovakia. Under the leadership of Hanna Burgerova-Dubova, Sokol's physical education program expanded ambitiously, propelled by Dalcrozian objectives but also by the ideas of people such as Klages, Bücher, Bode, Mensendieck, and Duncan, as well as native Czechs such as Karel Pospisel and Augustin Ocenasek (EST 142–144; Sokol 33–38). The Sokol body culture program did not define itself entirely in terms of a response to internal, uniquely national pressures, as was the habit in Germany; it treated body culture as an international network of ideas that produced an embodiment of power and identity.

In 1929 Sokol collaborated with the Czech government to produce an immense book, Základy rytmického telocviku sokolského , which presented an official, state-sanctioned method for the rhythmic gymnastic education of


girls and young women. The book was designed more for (public school) teachers than for students. Professor Karel Weigner announced that men and women have quite different bodily constitutions that respond to different principles of rhythm: "[M]en tend toward a katabolic principle of courage, inventiveness, and change; women tend toward an anabolic principle of conservatism, continuity, and patience, with the most difficult and noble goal of maternity" (vii). But in spite of this somewhat limited view of sexual difference and the fact that all the authors were men, the book was an amazing and certainly luxurious production, testifying to a spectacularly deep concern with how to manage the modern female body. After several chapters of scholarly, pretty solid theoretical-historical overview, the book presented a vast treatise on rhythmic gymnastic practice, replete with more than four hundred exercises, each one described in detail regarding musical rhythm, bodily movement, and function through the use of stick figures, drawings, musical notations, and more abstract diagrams, charts, and tables (Figure 33). The book also contained some wonderful photographs of exercising students, open-air games, and theatrical dance productions and even had a kind of appendix of advertisements for Prague businesses. No German publication on bodily movement was ever as systematic, comprehensive, detailed, and precise as the Základy ; no German ideology, not even Laban's Kinetographie , showed so clearly the extraordinary range of possible human movements.

Of course, the book suffered from the usual objection to rhythmic gymnastics: it did not explain the emotional or expressive significance of all these movements. Instructors assumed that every exercise was valuable because it led to a healthier body, regardless of whether it was aesthetically interesting. But Germans (and not only Germans) strongly resisted this sort of lucid, systematic view of bodily education, partly because the state believed it was too politically risky to identify itself decisively with a particular concept of body culture and partly because Germans tended to believe that the expressive and liberating power of the body remained enshrouded in irrationality, well beyond the control of measurable, external musical rhythms. The Germans had grasped that a healthy body was not necessarily synonymous with an ecstatic body, and that led to greater darkness in the world of German body culture and to a far more complex dance culture than existed elsewhere. The Czechs liked formalistic analyses of aesthetic phenomena because they tended to believe that formalistic "objectivity" was the key to resolving political conflicts. This perspective favored the development in the 1930s of the great Prague structuralism school of literary and theatrical semiotics guided by such figures as Otakar Zich, Jan Mukarovsky, and Jindrich Honzl and exemplified further in the wide-ranging critical commentaries of Karel Teige (1900–1951) and in Irena Lexova's enchanting semiotics of Ancient Egyptian


Dances (1935).[1] In Germany, however, formalism emerged as a source of political conflict because of its innate power to estrange or render foreign even the most familiar significations.

Yet Germany was still the chief exporter of the Dalcroze model, even after it almost ceased to exist in Germany in the 1930s, because so many foreign students had studied there. An excellent example is the Finnish dancer Bertta Reiho, who published Rytmillinen likünta (1948), a textbook with numerous stunning photographs, for teachers of female rhythmic gymnastics. Though not nearly as ambitious as the Základy , it was nevertheless a beautiful elucidation of the Dalcroze technique—though, not surprisingly, it did not mention either him or a German context. But in the 1930s Reiho was a student of the Finnish expressionist dancer Maggie Gripenberg, who had studied under Dalcroze around 1911 (Hällström 200).

Rudolf Bode

By the end of World War I, Dalcroze's definition of rhythm appeared too narrow and mathematical to satisfy the German appetite for a more radical, ecstatic, and transformative definition of rhythm that yielded a distinctly "German" expression of modernity. But a German definition of rhythm was not the same thing as a German way of moving the body, nor was it to be identified with some peculiarly German physiognomy. Germanness revealed itself in the origin and formation of the definition, not in the bodies that applied or appropriated the definition. In an interesting article for Der Leib (2/2, January 1921, 34–53), Fritz Klatt proposed general categories of creative rhythms associated with the body rather than with music, machines, or dance. Blood pulse and heartbeat constituted the primal sources of rhythm: "Everything called love, knowledge, death, everything which reflects the individuality of the individual human, everything that creates unities and eventually demands the sacrifice of the self, has its sensually traceable basis, its reality, in the depths of the human-bonding bloodstream" (35–36). The breath pulse, however, connected bodily rhythm to the will, because the pace of breathing, the relation between inhalation and exhalation, between magnitudes and urgencies of breath, resulted from specific conditions of emotion and consciousness. The creative rhythm of the day evolved out of the microrhythms of blood and breath insofar as it conformed to a complex pattern of alternation between movement and pause, beat and rest. The rhythm of months and years, deadlines and holidays, seasons and ages was but a macrocosmic pulse resulting from the great


bonding power of the blood pulse. Of course, a Dalcrozian might contend that music itself was both the abstract and material revelation of drive rhythms ultimately originating in the heartbeat, but by detaching his argument from any discussion of music, Klatt implied that music did not make people more aware of the great unifying yet individuating power of the blood pulse. Active in the youth movement and in public school teaching, Klatt believed that instructors could create greater rhythmic awareness, at least among the young, by restructuring the rhythm of the school day and year, changing the durations of instructional periods, the relations between play and contemplation, the divisions between outdoor and indoor knowledge, and so forth (see Die Tat , 14/7, October 1922, 621–622).

An equally grandiose concept of rhythm came from Artur Jacobs (Die Tat , 14/9, December 1922, 641–664), who proposed that the formation of a redemptive proletarian culture depended on "renewal through rhythm." Much less precisely or concisely than Karl Bücher, Jacobs presented the conventional Marxist argument that "the great misery of the worker is not that he receives too little reward, that things go badly externally for him, but that he must live soullessly and without dignity, that he is merely a mechanical beast of labor, that he must produce in stultifying compulsion completely mechanical things, to which he has no connection and whose meaning he does not understand"—that, in short, the worker lived utterly alienated from a despiritualized (entseelte ) world: "Our bodies are as strange to us as a still undiscovered land" (655). To renew the physical dignity of the modern worker, it was necessary to perceive in eroticism the great source of love for materials and forms, which together produced a culture that bestowed a more authentic value on labor. By eroticism, Jacobs did not mean anything connected to sexual drives; "on the contrary," he meant more general actions of release, giving, expenditure, and self-offering (653). A new notion of bodily rhythm was essential in cultivating the primal strength (UrKraft ) of Eros. Jacobs acknowledged that rhythm was an image of time but contended that its form was infinite and beyond empirical measurement, for painting, architecture, theatre, and poetry possessed as much rhythm as music or dance did: "Rhythm stands over nature the way reason stands over nature" (662). He regarded rhythm as a deeply irrational phenomenon, for it did not function according to any logic of causality: erotic rhythm was an end in itself. However, the renewal of the worker through a new concept of bodily rhythm was not exactly synonymous with greater participation in games, sports, athletics, gymnastics, or dance, for these refined the mechanization of life without overcoming it (656). But in spite of his appeal to restore the authority of forms, Jacobs himself did not provide a concrete image of the proletarian body culture other than to echo Klatt in proposing, vaguely, a "complete transformation of the entire contemporary school life" (663). He simply announced the need for a "Copernican turn" in edu-


cation. With this metaphor, the implication emerged, albeit cryptically, that the rhythm of Eros remained inarticulately embedded in the form of revolution as simultaneously a physical and a historical phenomenon.

In the next issue of Die Tat (14/10, January 1923, 755–764), Wilhelm Hagen provided a much clearer image of the definitions of rhythm proposed by Klatt and Jacobs. He supposed that the answer to the question of what is the best school for gymnastics depended on the relation between rhythm and bodily education. He denied that rhythm referred to patterns of repetition, regularity, or automaticity. The study of music theory revealed that the source of rhythm was movement, not the other way around. Thus, the study of bodily movement depended not on musical rhythms but on motives for action, relations between will and object. Rhythm referred to dynamic structural relations between being and becoming. However, Hagen contended that men and women experience different essential rhythms and therefore require different modes of bodily education. He claimed that a woman feels she bears a weight, whereas a man feels he lifts a weight; the woman treats action as a state of being, whereas the man treats it as a state of becoming. Dance could well represent the female state but not the male, because for the male, will and object never merge to produce a state of being. For woman, "dance is always a transfiguration of being, not doing. . . . Man must find the bridge to sport. As a dancer he remains a neurotic" (764). The work of Rudolf Bode, Hagen declared, exhibited an attitude toward rhythm firmly grounded in the body and movement, not in music, although he expressed pronounced reservations about Bode's ability or willingness to maintain the principle of sexual difference in movement education.

Bode (1881–1971) was a student of Dalcroze at Hellerau in 1911–1912. By 1913, when he established his own school in Munich, Bode opposed the methods of his teacher and embarked on a pedagogy that developed bodily rhythms independently of music. In Der Rhythmus und seine Bedeutung für die körperliche Erziehung (1920), he introduced a "total" concept of rhythm similar to that of Klatt and Jacobs. A major influence was Klages, who asserted that excessive rationality or intellectual analysis was a source of "arhythm," or unnatural, strained, discordant, stifled movement. "In the rationalizing of instincts in our schools, colleges included, lies the final reason for the inner and outer breakdown of Germany" (RB 21). Bode's most popular work, Ausdrucksgymnastik (1925), enjoyed considerable appeal in its English translation of 1931. His school in Munich attracted many students, even though Bode had no ambition to produce dancers, athletes, performances, or anything understood as an artwork. For Hagen, Bode seemed to offer a "masculine" approach to movement education that did not rely on dance or dancelike deployments of the body to justify itself; however, the great majority of Bode's students were women. His anti-intellectualism made him susceptible to National Socialism, and during the


1920s he participated in party activities. In 1933 he became director of the Körperbildung and Tanz division of the Kampfbund für Deutsche Kultur and director of the gymnastic and dance section of the Reichsverband Deutscher Turn-, Sport- und Gymnastiklehrer in NS-Lehrerbund. In these capacities he attempted to undermine the rival Deutscher Chorsangerverband und Tanzerbund (established in 1909), which in 1933 was under the leadership of a socialist, the Hamburg ballet mistress Olga Brandt-Knack, a former student of Rudolf Laban. Bode regarded Laban as his most pernicious rival, but Goebbels, grasping Bode's limited understanding of dance, decided not to put the Tänzerbund under his control—instead, he changed its mission statement and replaced its administration (MS 116). By this time, though, Bode had firmly established the identity of a distinctly "German" notion of rhythm and bodily movement.

According to Bode, a "principle of totality" must govern perception of the body and its expressivity. He disapproved of Mensendieck-type efforts to analyze movement in relation to isolated parts of the body, and, of course, he denounced the Dalcroze system of synchronizing movement to musical rhythms. He also expressed skepticism concerning the use of gymnastic apparati such as parallel bars and weights, for these emphasized movement as a struggle against forces external to the body, whereas expression gymnastics was always a struggle of the body against forces internal to it. Bode did not want his method associated with sport competition; rather, the aim of expression gymnastics was to develop bodily movements derived from rhythms in nature, with the view of making the body expressive in the performance of everyday actions. However, a serious defect of Bode's theorizing lay in his failure to clarify what he meant by natural, or "organic," rhythms. Moreover, the gymnastic body offered "no expression of definite feelings like sorrow or joy, or patternlike forms for any feeling; all this is the task of a school of dramatics" (RB 46). What the body expressed entirely was a heightened, "ethical" sense of "vitality" and a triumphant struggle against the mental and mechanical "opposing powers inimical to life" (25). Bode built an exercise program around "natural" movements, "the simplest movements like walking, striding, swinging, pushing, or beating of the arms, bending of the body" (47). Yet nearly all the exercises in Ausdrucksgymnastik kept the body in a standing position: different parts of the body could move in swinging, flinging, beating, bending, raising, dropping, turning, rolling, pushing, or stretching motions without the body's going anywhere.

In spite of the book's focus on single bodies—a focus reinforced by photographs depicting solitary male and female models performing all of the eighty or so exercises—Bode earned respect for his skillful management of group exercises, and he obviously believed that the individual body developed its vitality more quickly through immersion in a controlled communal rhythm. But undated (ca. 1927) photographs by Gerhard Riebicke of stu-


dent activities in Munich deposited in the Joan Erikson Archive of the Harvard Theatre Collection strongly suggest that Bode did not build group exercises around interaction between bodies. In this respect, his method differed significantly from so-called "Swedish gymnastics," especially the method of Nils Bukh, which stressed variations in movement within an exercising group and therefore required an individual body to maintain constant awareness of other bodies; the movement of each contributed uniquely to an overall group design that continually changed in relation to a controlling gymnastic objective (Figure 34). Swedish gymnastics was not dance, yet it did invest group exercises and communal rhythm with a strong subsidiary aesthetic effect. But Bode presumably felt that Swedish gymnastics was too rational for a German mass audience—it was exercise for an elite, upper-class, already alert community. Six of the Riebicke photographs show groups of women exercising in a park or on some sort of beach. But whether the group consists of three, six, or seven women, the bodies make the same synchronized movement. One photo shows eighteen women in Peter Pan-type costumes advancing toward the camera with arms upraised, bearing gongs, mallets, and drums; another depicts a round dance of six women surrounded by another round dance of twenty-four women, all being watched by a milling group of sixteen women, although it is not clear who the leader is.

Thus, regardless of group size, Bode apparently did not introduce any of the polyrhythmic convolutions that delighted Laban. Although he rejected the synchronization of movement with music advocated by his teacher, Dalcroze, Bode nevertheless linked the mysterious German concept of rhythm to the phenomenon of synchronicity. Synchronicity was a supreme sign of unity—with nature, with other bodies, with movements external to the body. But synchronicity is frequently a supreme sign of simplicity, and simplicity made Bode's teachings very appealing to people with simple ambitions. Though many of his students found a humble place in the German educational system, few achieved distinction within the world of body culture. In the 1920s this limitation was evident to serious commentators on movement education: "This gymnastic method follows a friendly middle path between extremes, between unleashing and strictness: but for that reason it can at best build a bridge to an acceptable practical art, never to a high art, which always demands something unconditional" (HFK 218).

Dorothee Günther

In the early 1920s, many people realized that competing theories of bodily movement were equally persuasive, even if they contradicted each other. Some students went from Hellerau to Laban or from Mensendieck to Hellerau or from a Wigman school to a Laban school. Dorothee Günther


(1896–1975) introduced a pedagogic approach that attempted to synthesize Mensendieck, Laban, and Hellerau. At first (1913–1916) she studied art in Dessau and Hamburg, and it was while drawing nude and "crooked" bodies in class that she felt compelled to learn about bodily movement (DG 220). She enrolled in a Mensendieck school, then studied the methods of Laban and Dalcroze. After completing her gymnastic teacher exam in 1919, she taught in Mensendieck schools in Berlin, Breslau, Hamburg, and Munich. In 1923 she settled in Munich, where she collaborated with composer Carl Orff (1895–1982) on the production of his Monteverdi opera adaptations, Orfeus and Tanz der Spröden (1923). The following year, the two of them established a school in Munich, with Orff as music director. It was here that Orff developed the famous "Schulwerk" method, still used around the world for enhancing children's receptivity to music.

Günther formed stronger creative collaborations with two of her students, Gunild Keetman (b. 1904) and Maja Lex (1906–1986). In 1930 she formed the Tanzgruppe Günther, for which she acted as a sort of executive producer, with Keetman composing all the music for Lex's choreography, which emerged from the joint theoretical perspective of Günther and Orff. Keetman was a protégé of Orff and worked closely with him in editing his Schulwerk publications (see Keetman). Nearly all of Lex's choreography before the war was produced in connection with the Tanzgruppe Günther, but she did direct the Munich premiere of Alois Haba's quarter-tone opera Die Mutter (1931). Meanwhile, Günther published articles in Die Tat, Gymnastik, and Schrifttanz and wrote two books, Gymnastik Grundübungen in eigner Zeichenmethode (1925) and Einführung in der deutschen Mensendieckgymnastik (1928). The Gymnastik Grundübungen linked the study of bodily movement to exercises in drawing the body; the Einführung modified the Mensendieck pedagogy to accommodate the Weimar cultural scene.

All students of Dorothee Günther were women. At the Munich Dance Congress of 1930, where Günther students performed in Wigman's Totenmal, the Tanzgruppe Günther achieved instant glory for Lex's Barbarische Suite . Until 1943 the dance group received plenty of offers to tour throughout Germany and several European countries, especially Italy, but Keetman, Lex, and Günther (who designed all the costumes) collaborated in a slow, methodical fashion and produced a rather small repertoire of pieces. These included Miniaturen (1931), Klänge und Gesichte (1934), Paukentanz (1935), and Tänze aus dem 17. Jahrhundert (1939). The Günther school merged with the Trümpy school in Berlin in 1933, when Trümpy's status as a Swiss citizen made her suspect as the operator of a state-subsidized business in the Third Reich. Since 1931 Günther had completely owned her own school, though she still received state subsidies. She collaborated with Lex on the immense girls' round dance for the 1936 Berlin Olympiad, a work that required 3,500 children and 2,500 girls. So acclaimed was this


piece that Günther and Lex published a two-volume account of it the same year. In 1939 Günther choreographed in Berlin Stadium a gigantic waltz for 350 female dancers and musicians. During these years Lex gave numerous solo concerts, which apparently provoked widespread appreciation, aided, no doubt, by her—if I may put it so bluntly—almost overpowering beauty; but the dark, "non-Aryan" quality of her features prevented her from rising to any serious prominence within the Nazi dance culture (Abraham 42). The Nazis closed down the school in 1944 to use it as a military depot, and a bomb destroyed it in 1945.

In 1947 Günther and Lex moved to Rome to live in a villa owned by a former student, and Keetman went to Salzburg in 1949 to teach the Orff theory of musical pedagogy. Wolfgang Wagner invited Lex to choreograph the 1951 Bayreuth production of Wagner's Parsifal; in 1953, Liselott Diem offered her an appointment at the new sport academy she and her husband had founded in Cologne. (In 1933 the Nazis had shut down Diem's Hochschule für Leibesübungen, and she had enrolled in the Berlin Günther school.) Lex went to Cologne with her old assistant, Rose Daiber, while Günther remained in Rome, running some sort of school and finishing what was perhaps the most complete statement of her theoretical perspective, Der Tanz als Bewegungsphänomen (1962). Continually prone to illness, Lex did no new choreography until the late 1960s, when she formed the student Tanzgruppe Maja Lex, which traveled to a half-dozen countries around the world, performing several dances to American jazz. In this respect she differed from Günther, whose complex notion of ecstatic dance was nevertheless unsympathetic to the influence of jazz or rock 'n' roll (DG 122). But it was clear from her final project, Der Weg zum elementaren Tanz (1986), written with her student Graziela Padilla, that Lex still remained quite faithful to the theory and method of movement education established by Günther and Orff.

From Günther's perspective, the synthesis of Mensendieck, Dalcroze, and Laban entailed not only a synthesis of gymnastics and dance but a peculiar synthesis of music and dance. Her ideas were not entirely unique; for example, a Berlin teacher, Lucie Skerl, had anticipated them in her little book Anleitung für den Gymnastikunterricht in den Schulen (1926), which used a crude drawing technique, along with photos, to describe procedures for uniting hygienic and aesthetic movement. But certainly Günther linked the notion of synthesis to a stronger sense of discipline than most other teachers; under Lex, dance instruction was pretty strict and demanding. (After working with Wigman in Totenmal, Lex believed that her improvisational method was much too chaotic.) Orff's ideas about music education clarified Günther's ideas about movement education and vice versa. With Günther, dancing and music-making became interchangeable, if not entirely synonymous. The unique identity of dance depended not on detaching


dance from music but on allowing bodily movement to structure the content of music. Keetman and Orff therefore produced music that was specific to the dance and the dancers and that permitted the dancers to create music while dancing or to exchange places with musicians. A musical work for dance always was a response to a specific problem of bodily movement. Keetman even designed all the musical instruments used to accompany the Günther dancers. The orchestra consisted of wooden flutes (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), various sizes of drums, tambourines, gongs, cymbals, bells, noisemakers, and special xylophones. One dance, Zweiklang (1938), apparently involved the unusual accompaniment of only three xylophones. The first, "cheerful" part of Klänge und Gesichte contained a dance with cymbals, a dance with flutes, and a dance with bells, with dancers performing on these instruments. Even when the music remained more explicitly confined to the orchestra, Lex and Keetman treated the playing of the music as a visible part of the choreography, as was spectacularly evident in several "kettledrum dances." This peculiar orchestra even provided the music for the gigantic stadium dances of 1936, 1938, and 1939.

In a 1931 article for Schrifttanz, Hans Redlich described the music of the Günther orchestra as "Asiatic," because it belonged "conceptually to another planet than say the music of German polyphony," the world of the Burmese gamelan ensemble (VP 75–77). However, Günther and Orff actually reached deep into the premodern European past for their models, medieval and ancient modes of music and movement. Orff stressed the notion of "elementary" musical structures or tropes in forming musical-kinetic consciousness. He built exercises and compositions around a single, elementary musical idea, such as ostinato, recitative, melisma, accentuation, crescendo, accelerando, psalmody, and intensive repetitions of a phrase at different tempos. Melodic material unfolded monophonically or homophonically rather than polyphonically or contrapuntally, even in relation to rhythm; although Keetman did like to experiment (as did Orff) with unusual rhythms for dance, such as 7/8 time, she completely avoided polyrhythmic configurations that appear, for example, in ancient African drumming.

The Mensendieck method of analyzing isolated movements in relation to specific body parts converged comfortably with the Orffian analysis of elementary musical structures. Günther proposed elementary units of bodily movement, including bending, stretching, raising, sitting, standing, falling, rolling, snaking, creeping, crawling, inclining, turning, grasping, holding, gripping, squeezing, lounging, walking, running, hopping, jumping, swinging, rotating, pressing, pushing, pulling, hanging, catching, carrying, bearing, lifting, juggling, tossing, striking, throwing, braking, climbing, balancing, plunging, arcing, gliding, striding, and leaning (DG 31–32). The human body could localize each of these movement elements within a particular body part, or bodily "element." Moreover, these movement elements


operated in relation to other, more abstract elements, including the movement's direction, repetition, magnitude, tempo, accentuation, acceleration or deceleration, and crescendo or decrescendo (71–76). When groups of bodies performed, another series of elements came into play: rows, columns, branches, circles, chains, spirals, clusters, pairings, exchanges, reversals, and so forth (66–69). But all these dynamic elements of movement functioned in relation to musical, costume, and scenic elements such as the ostinato, the mask, and the spotlight. Thus, improvisation pedagogy followed Dalcroze's rational model of almost infinite variation on ever new combinations of elements.

However, Günther identified all elements as premodern, universal categories of signification identifiable in children, primitive cultures, and advanced civilizations. Modernity pervaded the physiognomy of dance only through peculiar combinations of elements, but Günther provided little guidance on how to identify such combinations. She realized that the problem with the rational approach was its failure to link elements or element combinations to specific emotional values or meanings: elements in themselves possessed no inherent semantic resonance, and a single element might carry contradictory significations in different narrative orderings of elements. Günther therefore tentatively referred, dualistically, to what we might call "emotional elements" such as affirmation and negation, having and losing, wanting and leaving, here and there; yet these elements nevertheless existed because of spatial relations between movement elements (27, 57). For Günther, movement was always a struggle with space, not (as for Bode) with the body or (as for Wigman) with death. But space was historical as well as physical. Like Orff, Günther and Lex treated archaic or medieval dance forms as elements of a modern dance, so they set pavannes, gavottes, gigues, minuettes, and contra dances against Keetman's strange (archaic) instrumentation to produce an unmistakably modern image of the body. The drawing of bodily movement enhanced one's capacity to identify movement elements, as Lex explained in a letter to Der Tanz (10, 1937, 2–3). But it must be said that the process of identifying movement elements depends as much on naming them as on seeing them and that movement forms emanate as much from linguistic as from visual structures. In any case, Günther admitted that categories of elements were not fixed and that even the difference between a gymnastic and a dance element was not always clear, in spite of a functional distinction between a utilitarian movement (gymnastic) and a movement that is an end in itself (dance).

All the principles of the Günther-Orff method manifested themselves in Lex's Barbarische Suite (1930). Here, as in other works, Lex adopted Wigman's "cycle" structure. But in this case, each dance in the cycle represented a crystallization, so to speak, of uniquely synthesized musical, movement, and scenic elements. In "Treibende Rhythmen," the emphasis was on the


phenomenon of accentuation: six dancers engaged in a "dialogue of movement" driven by continually shifting accents, interruptions, and pauses, with "variation answer[ing] variation." In "Tanz mit Stabe," three dancers accompanied a soloist with hand-clapping and beating of bamboo shoots while the soloist manipulated a staff. The "Paukentanz" began with two dancers beating on kettledrums, and their rhythm called into dialogue the orchestra, other dancers, and then other rhythms, as the beat moved from 4/4 to 3/4 time and the dancers became more violent in their movements. This dance led to the "Kanon," in which the 3/4 rhythm coincided, "quietly," with triangular formations of the dance group and sound complexes built out of instrumentation in threes: three different flutes, three timpani, three chrome xylophones, and so forth. In the final section, "Sprungtanz," an orgiastic explosion of ever higher leaps was pitted against ever more rapid accelerandos before suddenly being punctuated by a silence from the orchestra; then came a tapping of feet, a tapping of drums, and a resumption of leaps, crescendos, and accelerandos (Selden; Losch 328–331). In both bodily and group movements, Lex continually favored crisscross, X-shaped, and A-shaped (triangular) movements; in costumes, Günther inclined toward quasi-Roman or Visigothic-Viking-type tunics or dresses with metal belts or collars.

For Günther, the meaning of dance derived from the revelation of recessed or repressed elements of expression. Dance was a struggle with space because it was a struggle with the past—or rather, a struggle to recover from the past a buried notion of freedom (love and control of space). This perspective inspired her to devote many words to the discussion of dance in so-called primitive cultures (DG 139–219), even though she recognized that differing attitudes toward sexual identity and eroticism made a reconciliation between primitive and civilized cultures impossible. Her fascination with primitive dance was not original; Jaap Kool had anticipated her quite perceptively in Tänze der Naturvölker (1921). Primitive dance was compelling because it presented undisguised musical-kinetic elements. For Günther, the experience of ecstasy depended on the revelation of elemental forces (95–122): "Rapture and ecstasy arise in and through dance. . . . With the child as with the primitive the drive toward rapture and ecstasy always attaches itself to movement, to dance" (97). But she did not think elemental-ecstatic forces revealed themselves through recovery of the superstitions and myths defining primitive cultures. On the contrary, in the civilized world the only way to expose elemental signs was through rigorous, complex analysis or deconstruction of bodies and spaces. Analytic capacities, however, separated strong dancers from commonplace dancers and prevented ecstatic dance from being a total, unifying, cultic-tribal experience. In a 1930 article for Schrifttanz, Günther subtly declared that dance education lacked rigor and remained intolerably


permeated with teachers and students of Dionysian desires and mediocre abilities who did not recognize their own limitations (VP 50–53). In other words, an elementary discourse on dance did not make dance simple or more accessible. Indeed, the disciplined effort to disclose the repressed elements of musical-kinetic energy ultimately implied that the experience of ecstasy, especially through dance, was the privilege of a gifted elite, not of a culture in a large, inclusive sense.

The Bauhaus Experiments

The demand, especially among the young, for knowledge about bodily performance and expressivity was very strong during the Weimar era, and even quite provincial cities could boast not one but two or three schools for gymnastic/dance instruction. As early as 1920, the Mensendieck-Bund alone claimed to have 122 academy-trained instructors managing classes in 63 German cities (FGW 219–223). Through the proliferation of media publicity about body culture, students became more worldly and demanding as the decade progressed, and the competition of schools for students became keener. Strong schools tended to attract government subsidies, but by 1927 they could not receive them unless they met accreditation standards established jointly by the various professional organizations representing state-salaried teachers and educational administrators. The effect of accreditation procedures was to make the curricula of many schools look, on paper at least, alike, with so many hours devoted to anatomy, gymnastics, dance, music, theory, group exercise, and so forth.

The Bauhaus school (1919–1932) in Weimar and then Dessau has provoked intense curiosity because of its supposedly extravagant avant-garde attitude toward theatre and dance performance. However, the Bauhaus was a design and fine arts school and, as such, did not have to conform to the pedagogic expectations imposed upon schools more overtly focused on educating the dancing body. This exception allowed the Bauhaus to explore startling possibilities that the dance schools lacked the resources or even inclination to consider. Of course, the Bauhaus had to conform to other expectations—dance objectives always had to remain subordinate to design objectives—and while architect Walter Gropius headed the institution, the Bauhaus theatre program, to the continual frustration of theatre director Oskar Schlemmer and students alike, constantly retained a peripheral status. Nevertheless, the eccentric Bauhaus dance aesthetic has provoked abundant fascination and commentary, most of which Dirk Scheper documented exhaustively, lavishly, and beautifully in Oskar Schlemmer: Das Triadische Ballett und die Bauhausbühne (1988). But the complexities of the Bauhaus culture are too complex for any single account and continue to remain more documented than explained.


In Weimar, Gropius planned for the Bauhaus to incorporate theatrical performances into its public activities, although he did not make clear how, if at all, the curriculum should accommodate the study of theatrical art. The Bauhaus, he proposed, would bring to the public the results of research in the form of dances, dance plays, marionette plays, shadow plays, and stage works under the assumption that "the conscious application of laws of mechanics, optics, and acoustics is decisive for our form of theatre" (DS 65). Gropius brought in Lothar Schreyer (1886–1966) to coordinate the Bauhaus theatre program from 1921 to 1923. Schreyer was a hard-core expressionist with a highly idiosyncratic sense of abstraction. In 1915 he began collaborating with Herwarth Walden on the publication of the Berlin radical expressionist journal Der Sturm, and in 1918 he formed the Sturm-Bühne for the production of his own strange plays and those of Walden and August Stramm. But Schreyer found Berlin hostile to his experiments and moved to Hamburg, where from 1919 to 1920 he organized the Kampf-Bühne and collaborated with the bizarre dance couple of Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt. In Hamburg and Dresden, his hometown, he attracted a small but enthusiastic audience.

Gropius found Schreyer's radical deployment of technology and formal abstraction seductive; indeed, one can regard Schreyer as a kind of prophet of performance art, for he announced that expressionistic performance had "nothing to do with theatre" but was a completely different "stage artwork" (DS 66; Schreyer, Zwischen, 7–10). Schreyer, however, was a mystic, deeply fascinated with archaic Christianity, the moment of conversion from paganism in northern Europe. He saw the stage as a mysterious, dynamic beacon, the components of which produced a performance resembling a great, cinematic stained-glass window. Paul Scheerbart's fantastic ideas for comet and astral dances, published in 1903, also stirred his imagination (LS 39–45). Light and color possessed an inherent performative interest and were sources of action in themselves; thus, the "sacral" performance space, closer to an ancient shrine than a theatre, might contain a violet tapestry, black and gold costumes, red masks, and white feathers, all bathed in a deep blue, deep orange, deep yellow, or dazzling silver glow or set against cathedral-like glass reflectors from which emanated powerful rainbow or prismatic transformations of light. Basic colors ("Grundfarben") functioned in relation to basic sounds, forms, and movements. The human figure appeared as a remote idol, moving, in a mechanized, marionette fashion, toward ecstatic transfiguration (Kersting 155–160) (Figure 35). The revelation of the inner, metaphysical condition of being depended on exposing the core of forms, as Brian Keith-Smith has put it (Schreyer, Zwischen, 156).

But Schreyer's idea of core movements derived from a perception of rhythm rooted in language, not music: "Through the rhythmic resounding


word, the human form of the expressionistic stage artwork materializes as a sound form, a movement form, and a color form," for "in the beginning was the word" (LS 152). Words were the basic source of all movement, but only when their sound values took precedence over grammatical logic. In his little dramas, Schreyer foregrounded the sound value of words by abandoning sentence structure and employing curious repetitions of words, alliterations, verbless phrases, nounless phrases, illogical word clusters, internal rhymes, and words isolated or suspended in space. Choral voices did not sing but spoke according to rhythmic-melodic values ascribed to the words. Music entered the performance through unusual instruments, such as a West African xylophone, a five-foot-wide drum, a glass harmonica, a violin, or glass chimes ("spherical music"). These notions Schreyer introduced in Sturm/Kampfbühne productions of Nacht (1916), Meer (1916), Sehnte (1917), and Mann (1917). However, it is not at all clear how bodies moved in relation to the words of the texts.

In Kreuzigung (1920), Schreyer "scored" all components of the performance as if it were a piece of music, using his own symbol code to indicate the dynamics. The action unfolded in "measures," and within each measure he designated the appropriate words, movements, intonations, sounds, pauses, and color effects. The words appeared in different typefaces to indicate different intonations (Gordon 89–103). The little play had only three characters, Man, Mother, and Mistress, speaking in an abbreviated, expressionistic manner: "Mother:¦in light¦my son¦is silent¦(Noise tones)¦Mistress: Men scream¦ Men go into¦battle¦I dance¦I¦." During this exchange Mother moved her right hand on her right breast and Mistress moved her right arm "sideways horizontally." The performers never moved from their initial positions on the red and yellow–draped performance space until the very end, when, after saying, "Awake. World. Awake," they stepped forward and down some stairs. The scoring of the performance created a haunting, glyphic, abstract design on the page, a bold embodiment of the "word artwork" that made up the core of the dynamic performance.

With this mysterium, Schreyer drifted toward a kind of serial organization of performance dynamics such as Schoenberg initiated with the twelvetone technique in music. In Skirnismól (1920) he resurrected a primeval image from the Edda to include, in addition to the exploded, fractured language, riding, sword, and scissor dances. At the Bauhaus, Schreyer gathered about him a small cult, including Hans Haffenrichter, Hermann Müller, Gertrud Grunow, and Franz Singer; he also worked with Eva Weidemann, a dancer not officially connected with the Bauhaus. With them he produced Mondspiel (1923), which featured a large, highly abstract, idol-like effigy of Mary in the Moon standing on a mysterious shell moved from behind by an invisible speaker. The shell projected a "moon eye," before which moved a masked male dancer. In other words, the male danced with a petrified idol


that actually moved through the dance of the invisible speaker, played by Weidemann. A man spoke the part of Mary, and a woman spoke the part of the dancer. Again, Schreyer "scored" all performance components in great detail (Waserka 127). But Gropius and many other members of the Bauhaus found Schreyer's thinking too cultish and esoteric, lacking in the rationalism they wished to define the Bauhaus ideology. The dogmatic, fanatical cult surrounding the mystical painter Johannes Itten had already caused enough tension in the school, so in 1923 Gropius dismissed Schreyer, who then pursued a career combining art history with an archaic, visionary Christianity.

On 30 September 1922, the Stuttgart premiere of Oskar Schlemmer's Das Triadische Ballett attracted considerable attention throughout Germany and inspired Gropius to appoint Schlemmer to manage the theatrical activities of the school. Schlemmer (1888–1943) studied art in Stuttgart, his hometown and produced artworks in a range of forms: paintings, wood and metal sculpture, watercolors, graphics, and murals. He had no formal training in either theatre or dance but nevertheless designed stage sets and costumes for several prominent theatres in Germany, beginning with 1921 productions of Hindemith's short operas Mörder Hoffnung der Frauen and Nusch-Nuschi in Stuttgart. Until 1930 Schlemmer designed sets for theatrical productions in Berlin, Weimar, Magdeburg, and Breslau, but none of these attracted as much attention as his Bauhaus designs, even though he sought to provide emphatically modern (abstract) images for both classical dramas (Shakespeare, Grabbe) and modernist texts (Stravinsky, Bartók, Schoenberg). In his artworks, Schlemmer had dedicated himself since 1915 almost entirely to the representation of the human form, exploring the limits of the tension between abstractness and humanness—"the human as a mathematically, geometrically defined type and representative of a higher order" (DS 8). In 1919 he helped found the strange Uecht circle of Stuttgart artists who pursued a kind of cubo-expressionism to suffuse images of modernity with mysticism, a vision that coincided in no small degree with that of Lothar Schreyer (Mück). But Schlemmer was a stronger theorist than Schreyer, and he cultivated a much more congenial attitude toward academic environments.

He began working for the Bauhaus in 1921 in the sculpture and metal workshops, where he produced Das Figural Kabarett (1922), a sort of mechanical cabaret using abstract dolls and doll parts. As head of the theatre workshop, Schlemmer was a popular teacher, partly because of his aggressively experimental attitude toward performance and partly because of his determination to build performance out of design concepts rather than out of texts. Performance at the Bauhaus was inseparable from the production of independently interesting artworks that had strong exhibition value: models of experimental stages and mechanical theatres, fig-


urines, watercolors, drawings, sculptures, and photographs. Many famous examples of this work appeared in Schlemmer's widely disseminated futuristic promotional brochure, Die Bühne des Bauhaus (1925). Performances functioned as showcases for student design work and always took place in a workshop environment, as the school never had the resources to construct anything resembling the utopian theatres imagined by Schlemmer, Andreas Weininger, Gropius, or Ferenc Molnár. The arrival of Xanti Schawinsky (1904–1979) in 1924 brought a touch of circus, music hall, and carnival to Bauhaus theatre projects; other students, such as Molnár, Gyula Pap (1899–1984), László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946), Lou Scheper (1901–1976), Kurt Schmidt, Joost Schmidt, Georg Teltscher, Karla Grosch, Lux Feininger, and Werner Siedhoff brought an extraordinary range of specialization in different areas of the fine arts. Music for Bauhaus productions was often the work of the Bauhauskapelle, a student orchestra employing the usual gongs and drums but also saxophones, wood flutes, banjos, a trombone, a clarinet, a trumpet, an accordion, a piano, and even a revolver.

Though he had a lifelong preoccupation with dance, Schlemmer maintained only very marginal contact with dance culture outside the Bauhaus, and his thinking about bodily movement was neither precise, deep, nor even innovative. He assumed that the interest of a bodily movement depended almost entirely on the visual context, the scenic design. Schlemmer worked with Ellen Petz on an adaptation of The Nutcracker in Dresden (1928) but was not at all happy with the result. Gret Palucca visited the Bauhaus for a concert and demonstration in 1928, but this event led to nothing significant. Otherwise, Schlemmer seemed content to work (1927–1928) with Manda van Kreibig (1901–1990), ballet mistress at Darmstadt and student of Duncan, Bode, Laban, and Wigman, on devising movements for dance pieces. In 1928 Gropius left the Bauhaus, and his successor, Hannes Meyer, sought to move the school toward a more overtly left-wing political position. Schlemmer's politically ambiguous "formalism" brought him into intensifying tension with Meyer and many other teachers at the school, so in 1929 he accepted a teaching position in Breslau. When the Nazis came to power, Schlemmer's art faced severe reproach, and he spent the last decade of his life in painful isolation in Stuttgart.

The work most strongly associated with the Bauhaus theatre program, and Schlemmer's most important theatrical project, was The Triadic Ballet . The piece underwent several transformations over a period of twenty years (1912–1932), with major revisions or revivals in 1923, 1926, 1929, and 1932, and it was the impetus for numerous subsidiary projects and experiments by Schlemmer and other Bauhaus artists. Yet the piece transcended the Bauhaus, for Schlemmer's work on it preceded his involvement with the Bauhaus by ten years, and when he premiered The Triadic Ballet in Paris in


1932, he had been gone from the Bauhaus for four years. However, Schlemmer's association with the Bauhaus was decisive in shaping the identity of the piece; Scheper has expertly described the not always congenial tension between Schlemmer's modernism and that favored by the Bauhaus administration.

The Triadic Ballet began life in 1912 as an experimental collaboration between Schlemmer and a pair of dancers with the Stuttgart Court Theatre, Albert Burger and Elsa Hötzel, who had studied under Dalcroze at Hellerau. It hardly developed independently of established theatre institutions, although developments in modern dance culture apparently had little impact on Schlemmer, judging by the pervasive lack of reference to them in his letters and diaries. But the premiere, in Stuttgart, did not occur for another ten years, with the original pair of dancers as the stars. During the Bauhaus years, the piece mutated under the pressure of new collaborations. Paul Hindemith wrote "mechanical" music for the 1926 production at Donauschingen, and after that the piece appeared in a popular revue format in Frankfurt and Berlin. By then the dance was famous enough to spawn a gallery exhibit in Central European cities. As the piece grew older, it became shorter; once an evening-long event, it wound up featured on a program of modernist works. Finally, in 1932 the piece went to Paris as part of an international dance competition promoting the restoration of elite, high cultural glory to ballet.

In spite of its title, Schlemmer never considered the piece ballet in any conventional sense—it was always for him a modern kind of pantomime. It was modern perhaps because of the mutability of its aesthetic identity; it could migrate from a radical-experimental to a popular to a high cultural institutional context, and this capacity depended on the generic ambiguity of the work. On the one hand, according to a diary entry of 30 September 1922, the ballet "flirted with lightness without falling into grotesquerie" and strove to "dematerialize the body without destroying it through occultism"; on the other hand, it revived the Dionysian ecstatic origin of dance but did so under the terms of a "final form" of "Apollonian strictness" (OSI 96–97). But this vaguely defined generic ambiguity entailed rather specific, abstract formal relations between aesthetic components. And although The Triadic Ballet attracted attention throughout Europe, its impact on theatrical practice was very small, confined almost entirely to the tiny Bauhaus program for theatre, although graduates of the school certainly found opportunities in mainstream institutions. Perhaps Schlemmer's greatest contribution lay not in producing any particular piece but in rethinking the process by which dance does its work.

With The Triadic Ballet, Schlemmer introduced an unprecedented degree of abstraction into performance aesthetics. More precisely, he sought to invest dance with the same power of abstraction that modernism had dis-


covered was possible for the painted image. For Schlemmer, the meaning of performance depended on an appreciation of formal relations between abstract categories of aesthetic experience, such as color, shape, and pattern; it was not a matter of constructing characters or correspondences between imaginary actions and real conditions outside the theatre. Schlemmer composed "texts" for theatre from lists of formal elements that, when recombined, were the basis of performed action. This aesthetic entailed a perception of the performance space as a grid that could unitize formal elements according to a unique, mysterious system of geometry, a "symphonic-architectonic" ideology, in that the value or meaning of theatrical action derived from "the pleasure in the play of forms, colors, and materials" (DS 35). In The Triadic Ballet, for example, a triangular principle of organization dominated: the piece contained three sections, or "series" ("Yellow," "Rose," and "Black"), each requiring three dancers (two men and a woman), whose movements operated in relation to a dynamically structured trinity of costume, dance, and music; this trinity, in turn, functioned dynamically in relation to the spatial trinity of height, depth, and width, which embraced the trinity of basic forms (triangle, circle, quadrangle) and basic colors (red, blue, yellow)—all these relations accommodated by eighteen costumes and twelve dances.

This "geometrization" of performance was an initial step toward a total mechanization of theatre; indeed, Schlemmer, in collaboration with other Bauhaus artists, contemplated plans for large-scale machine theatres and robotized "plays of forms," none of which, unfortunately, ever came to fruition. Diary entry, April 1926: "No whining about mechanization, instead, joy over precision!" (OSI 183). Indeed, the three transformative "emblems of our time" were abstraction, mechanization, and technological innovation (OS 17). For Schlemmer, this optimism in regard to the salvational potential of abstraction and technology was always suffused with mysticism. No matter how abstract the performance became, the human figure (though not the body) remained the central, dominating image in the play of forms, for it was the most powerful and artistic signifier of immediacy (DS 25). Schlemmer consistently treated the human figure as a geometrical phenomenon, not as the site of a "character" or, as he put it, "psychological-literary" values. In a 1915 diary entry, he noted various geometrical properties of the body:

The quadrangle of the breast cavity,
The circle of the belly,
Cylinder of the throat,
Ball of the elbow joint, knee, shoulder, bones,
Ball of the head, the eyes,
Triangle of the nose,
The line connecting heart and brain, . . .
 (DS 24)


In 1930 he explained that human figural art lies "in the realm of the doll-like. For the abstraction of the human form . . . creates an image in a higher sense; it creates, not a natural human being, but an artistic being; it creates . . . a symbol of human form—In all early high cultures . . . the human form is remote from the naturalistic image, but close to the lapidary symbol form: the idol, the totem, the doll" (OSI 231). This geometry of the body was exposed above all by mask and costume, not by any system of movement. Whereas Dalcroze strove toward a costumeless, naked identity for modern humanity, Schlemmer perceived that "costume is everything" in modern theatre (DS 27). Many commentators on The Triadic Ballet felt that the extraordinary costumes—by turns mysterious, bizarre, and enchanting—were the only significant feature of the piece (Figure 36). Some dance critics believed the costumes merely disguised very conventional choreography. Indeed, in spite of Scheper's meticulous efforts to reconstruct the dance from abundant visual and written documentation, it is still quite difficult to see how the piece works as a kinetic event (33–58). Even Gerhard Bohner's 1977 reconstruction seemed to lack a convincing organization of movement. Schlemmer himself thought the greatest problem with the piece was its failure to inspire any music appropriate for it; before Hindemith composed a mechanical organ score for it, Schlemmer had used an eccentric mix of music by several modern and unmodern composers (Mozart, Haydn, Bossi, Debussy), and he even considered circus marches and popular tunes (235). Not even Scheper can explain why Schlemmer's radical image of the human form could not awaken an equally radical complement of music or movement. Perhaps the designs seemed to mock any complementation with music or movement; the human figure made fun of the human body, and dance became a deprecation of the body.

Schlemmer's notion of costume was total insofar as he regarded all aspects of scenography as categories of mask. He strongly resisted the established theatrical practice of treating costume, scenery, and lighting as the work of separate designers. This idea led to an even more modern one: that a designer could initiate theatrical works and become their author. Schlemmer designed many productions of literary works and established ballets, but he was never happier than when he was fashioning his own "text" out of the principles defining his mysterious geometric system, and for this reason he was utterly unique among modern dance creators. To this day, designers everywhere seem to require a text or scenario created by someone else to justify their contribution to performance. Schlemmer, however, saw scenery, lighting, movement, and sound as extensions of costume and the human figure—that is, he saw all forms as masks (although, unlike Schreyer, he did not see masks in terms of core forms). It was a tendency of Teutonic mysticism to perceive being itself as something perpetually masked, veiled, enshrouded, without form. No matter how naked the


body appeared, it was always a mask, hiding something within it that had no form: an emotion, an experience of the world, a mood.

Expressionism sought to objectify this inner world of emotion. Schreyer attempted to create a modern dance theatre oriented toward a superabstract mysticism, with an utterly strange human form as its core. His image of humanity was no less radical and abstract than Schlemmer's, but the cultic-ritual obscurity into which he and his adepts retreated violently estranged him from the rest of the Bauhaus. Schreyer simply did not believe that technology was the basis for connecting art and spiritual renewal or for establishing an emancipatory condition of modernity. The Triadic Ballet indicated to Gropius that Schlemmer understood how technology imposed a classical restraint or sobriety of form on the construction of emotion and abstraction. But Schlemmer was never really happy in the Bauhaus. A theatre curriculum was expensive, and Bauhaus theatre productions invariably stirred up political controversies that made it difficult for Gropius to raise funds and subsidies for the academy. Today one constantly encounters the inclination to regard formalist abstraction as a strategy for transcending politics, but in the Bauhaus era the reduction of theatre to a play of forms and a geometric abstraction of the body awakened extreme intensities of political feeling. Formalist performance may have constructed highly ambiguous, uncertain, "mystical-fantastic" emotions, but it did not fail to produce an impassioned attitude toward its ambiguities. For this reason, theatre education within the Bauhaus never possessed much more than a marginalized, workshop status. In a letter to his lifelong friend Otto Meyer-Amden in December 1925, Schlemmer described his estrangement from the dominant atmosphere of the Bauhaus and his awareness of the limitations of abstractionism:

The artistic atmosphere here is so cosmically remote from everything that is not actual, not immediate, not trendy . . . Dadaism, circus, variety, jazzband, tempo, cinema, America, airplane, auto. That is the real situation here. In painting: no subjects. "Abstract" = no subjects, quite demanded by the extreme power bloc of Kandinsky and Moholy. Here I am someone from yesterday, or perhaps a dissident, because I paint "classically." The general course of art is "reactionary." . . . The amusing, the dadaistic, the mechanical, cinema, etc. are the reality. One sneers at every feeling, sentiment, indeed at anything really serious (OSI 157–158).

One can now even suggest that the abstractionism pursued not only by The Triadic Ballet but by the Bauhaus generally disclosed a profound anxiety toward the body and the irrational, emotional dynamics emanating from deep inside it. Bauhaus abstractionism transcended the body rather than revealing it or developing perception of it. When abstract eccentricity replaces expressivity as the dominant sign of modernity, the resulting image


produces many handsome art books but not performances that bear up to repeated viewing.

Nevertheless, within these constraints Schlemmer made a further major contribution to modernist theatre: he proposed a revision of formal theatre education no less radical than his notion of the designer as author of theatrical performances. Schlemmer's Bauhaus curriculum detached the study of theatre from the study of literary drama, theatrical productions, or theatrical artists. It developed within an experimental, laboratory milieu in which abstract, formal elements of theatrical performance were presumed to have a powerful value independent of any specific literary or historical context and thus became the object of systematic investigation. Schlemmer divided theatre curriculum into three general areas of study: 1) scenic composition; 2) scenic technology; and 3) linguistic, musical, and gymnastic-dance studies. Each of these categories contained within it the study of aesthetic devices deemed particular to theatre, and study itself was considered virtually synonymous with experimental performance on specially designed "research stages" (Versuchsbühne ). For example, the curtain as a visual device peculiar to theatre could become the subject of various experimental performances exposing the variations in meaning signified when the curtain acted in certain ways in relation to particular qualities of light, material, color, sound, or bodily movement before and behind it. Schlemmer and a brilliant group of students and collaborators performed all sorts of experiments to isolate the signifying power of specific theatrical devices—such as costume, gesture, mask, choric movement, shadows, projections, puppets, footlights, props, and ramps—always in relation to the signifying power of a more abstract category of form—material, shape, color, geometric configuration, sound, size. The experimental group did not seek a context (a literary text) to justify this mode of performance; rather, the modern theatre artist constructed a context around a specific device or element of interest.

These experiments culminated in an astonishing series of performances in 1929 of a twelve-piece program that revealed the intrinsic dramatic interest of tensions between forms and materials: Glass Dance (solo female), Metal Dance (solo female), Staff Dance (solo female or male), Gestural Dance (three men), Mask Chorus (seven men and women), Screen Dance (three men), Box Dance (three men), Space Dance (three men), Ring Dance (two women and one man), Form Dance (three men), Sketch (one women, three men), and Women's Dance (three men) (Figures 4 and 37–38). Piano and percussion instruments accompanied the dancers. Schlemmer attempted to "score" the brief dances in the manner of Schreyer, but in their weird mask-costumes, all the dancers had to do was move to stimulate curiosity—a point that did not go unnoticed by critics of the time (DS 206–207). Most interesting in this regard are rehearsal photographs taken of the Women's Dance by a Bauhaus student, Naftali Avnon (1910–1977). These give an


idea of the eerie, somewhat stilted movement the doll-like "women" (actually men) made in their extravagant masks and costumes, which look like Oriental parodies of nineteenth-century fashions. Even more interesting, the snapshots reveal the power of the dancers to make the photographer move, to make him get closer to and farther from the strange creatures, look at them from odd angles or in different configurations of light. However, Schlemmer did not want the pictures published because they did not give an adequate sense of the space in which the dancers appeared and because they looked spontaneous or amateurish, not like genuine artworks. He preferred the posed photographs of the piece taken by Umbo (Otto Umbehr), which, although quite interesting in themselves, do not convey the idea of a dance (Faber, Tanzfoto, 79–83).

For Schlemmer, theatre education was inseparable from the experimental knowledge derived from performance itself rather than from history or dramatic literature. A modern, emancipatory theatre must derive from a new system of theatre education, a system that saw no great value in preparing students to preserve theatrical traditions dominated by reverence for the enduring authority of texts and by humility over the transitory authority of performance. Moreover, Schlemmer's experiments and the documentation on them indicated that modern study of performance did not mean the study of particular productions; it meant the study of the devices and codes that constitute the context for any specific performance (text). From this perspective, dance became a play of forms, an activation of space that ultimately needed no bodies, no dancers. It was the image of a machine-idol.

Lili Green

In spite of pervasive complaints after 1925 about the increasing Americanization of German culture, American ideas about bodily movement, so influential before the war (especially in relation to female physical culture), did not receive particularly serious attention in Germany. Of course, the Mensendieck theory had many disciples, but by 1920 her work was more of an inspiration than a rigorously applied system; in any case, Mensendieck seemed much more European than American. The influence of Isadora Duncan (1878–1927) was far weaker than that of Mensendieck, though commentators on dance continued to evoke her name reverently. She opened a school in Berlin-Grunewald in 1904; in 1911, at the invitation of the Duke of Hesse, the school moved to Darmstadt under the direction of Isadora's sister Elisabeth (1874–1948). Throughout her restless, vagabond life, Isadora Duncan opened schools in Germany, France, the United States, Greece, and Russia, but she was a very poor teacher, with no patience for pedagogic detail, systematic organization of experience, or theoretical


rigor. She left most teaching duties to faithful (rather than competent) disciples, and in the classroom she favored a tribe of completely worshipful female children eager to follow her every whim and path (Jowitt 96–97).

Elisabeth Duncan wanted a school that was independent of her sister's chaotic personality. With the help of Max Merz (1874–1964), whom she married, she sought to infuse some discipline into Isadora's improvisatory, Grecian approach to bodily movement by incorporating into the curriculum ideas from German body culture (including Merz's enthusiasm for race hygiene). The war compelled her to return to New York in 1915, but by 1920 she was back in Germany; she revived her school in Potsdam, maintaining a branch office in New York. The school operated out of the castle at Klessheim in Salzburg from 1925 until 1933, when she closed her school in New York and moved to Prague (1933–1935) (Stefan 97–98; Heun). Then she lived in Munich before returning to America. Afflicted with lameness, Elisabeth herself never danced, and her school, unlike Isadora's, did not strive to develop bodies for public performance: she wanted to produce imaginative teachers. Nevertheless, the school operated very much in the shadow of Isadora's looming personality. The pseudo-Grecian image of nature and art prevailed. Liberated movement was always a "natural" response to great pieces of classical music. (Merz published a pamphlet condemning jazz as a subversive, antisocial force.) Movement was an evocation of fantasies inspired by the music. Dance created a picture of the emotion inspired by the music; if neither the music nor the emotion stirred within the body, one should not force movement. A unique feature of the curriculum was a set of exercises in which students sang archaic German folksongs while moving (Rochowanski, Tanzende, 3). This approach succeeded with (female) children, but students over the age of thirteen or so required a much more powerful notion of bodily expressivity to sustain their interest (HB 76–81; RLM 38). Indeed, by 1920 a historical perspective had set in that made Isadora's and American attitudes toward bodily freedom seem childlike, unhelpfully naive. Still, it was obvious that in Isadora Duncan dance (more than her dances themselves) had produced a spectacular, tempestuous personality that provoked awe in almost anyone excited by the new currents in dance culture. The whole idea of Ausdruckstanz, of the body as a powerful instrument of expressivity, seemed to emanate from her.

Duncan's idea of expressivity, of painting emotion in movement, owed much to the semiotic system of Francois Delsarte, and it is therefore worthwhile to relate the curious fate of Delsartian theory in Germany. Delsarte devised a code, for use primarily in the theatre, that assigned particular gestures to signify particular emotions. Giraudet explained this elaborate system of categories and subcategories of signification in Mimique: Physiognomie


et gestes (1895). The body moved according to the rhythm of emotions it experienced or desired to represent. But the Delsarte system assumed that both gestures and emotions were clearly and immediately readable, as joy or anger or despair or delight, because emotions derived from universally common phenomena external to the body that experienced them. For Dalcroze or Günther, by contrast, a movement element had no inherent signification; one might even suggest that Ausdruckstanz as a whole represented an effort to free the body from imprisonment within a kind of semantic grid that sought to make the body "meaningful," to make it "say" things that were easily, clearly, and unambiguously understandable under conventions of "appropriate expression." American theatrical genius Steele MacKaye (1842–1894) studied the Delsarte system in Paris and around 1873 imported it to the United States, where it became enormously popular in theatre training. Its influence on the development of American modern dance was so considerable, even oppressive, that the greatly respected dancer Ted Shawn (1891–1972) felt disposed to publish a textbook on the system as late as 1954.

Genevieve Stebbins (1857–1915) studied under MacKaye in New York. In books published in the 1890s, she modified the Delsarte system by incorporating theories of breathing and rhythmic movement to produce what she called "harmonic gymnastics" for female students. Stebbins's emphasis was not on developing a large vocabulary of expressions for use on the stage but on cultivating an ideal convergence of female hygiene and beauty. It was she who first associated the "natural" female body with the wearing of Grecian tunics and chitons. A student of Stebbins, Hedwig Kallmeyer (1881–?), opened a school for girls in Berlin around 1905, and her students included Dora Menzler and Gertrud Leistikow. In Künstlerische Gymnastik (1910), Kallmeyer modified the Stebbins method to accommodate some ideas of Bess Mensendieck, herself a student of Stebbins; flexibility was apparently a feature of her thinking. By this time, however, the connection to Delsarte began to get lost in the more immediate effort to construct a modern—and "correct"—identity for the female body. Kallmeyer's influence was probably greater than the paltry information about her would indicate. After the war, she seems to have moved to Hannover. Several photographs in the Joan Erikson Archive of the Harvard Theatre Collection depict activities at her school in Hannover around 1925. These show groups of children between five and sixteen years old playing outdoor body games. Some of the children are nude. One photograph shows a group of twelve boys with two women instructors; in other images, groups containing both sexes play games, and one photo shows a group of six women sculpting clay animals.

Taken together, these photos imply that Kallmeyer had moved some distance both from Delsarte and from the all-female, Stebbins-Mensendieck cult of idealized physical comportment. But why? Perhaps the answer lies in


a 1924 statement by Fritz Giese. Discussing Delsarte, Stebbins, Mensendieck, Kallmeyer, and Duncan as representatives of a single system in which gymnastics worked to produce beautiful rather than strong bodies, Giese remarked:

Mensendieck's thinking leads to a perhaps all too ice-cold aesthetic in the sense of an impartial, sober perspective. Here, where only women fit into the system, we find the hygienic-aesthetic gymnastic purposeful, useful, and at the same time clear in form, comprehensive, physically appropriate, and therefore beautiful. But one can also deprecate this attitude. The feminine, the womanly, moves into the foreground. The spectator is the man, the performer the woman. At least in general: grace and dignity in their old polarity. That is how one learns to understand the methods of Kallmeyer-Stebbins as well as those of the veil-wrapped Duncan school. (FGK 112–113)

The ideals of the Delsarte-Kallmeyer trajectory were "renown[ed] models of Nacktkultur: the unclothed, beautiful human," which led one to "a culture of the pose like an antique bronze or marble." "Body spirit here means the soul expressed in the body—but as if it were crystallized, petrified within it, set up for observation rather than experienced" (FGK 112–113). In other words, although a gesture still signified a distinct emotion, as Delsarte intended, the emotion signified was not grounded in experience nor even in the body; rather, it was imposed upon the body by an "objective" spectatorial gaze that actually looked backward, into an idealized, mythical, eternal past, for guidance—not on how to feel but on how to display feelings that gained the approval of a society (America) that feared the expressive body's power to undermine a fragile sense of social unity and shared capacity to read signs. The Germans, however, were not so worried about crypticity or darkness of expression.

But the Delsarte system was not entirely dead in Germany. In 1929, Lili Green published Einführung in das Wesen unserer Gesten und Bewegungen, perhaps the best and most ambitious treatise ever to emerge from Delsarte's notion of correspondences between gestures and emotions. Green so overhauled the notion that she produced an elaborate semiotic analysis of bodily signifying practices, permeated with a transfigurative Germanic aura. Born and raised in Surinam, where her father owned a coffee plantation, Green (1885–1977) began to study piano in The Hague after the death of her father in 1905, but she derived no happiness from it. Then she saw Isadora Duncan perform in Scheveningen and talked with her. Duncan told her that "you cannot learn dance, you have to make dances." In 1907, Green produced her own dance-song fairy tale in The Hague, apparently with considerable success. She tried to advance her career in the London theatre, but when told she needed more training she returned to Holland, where she appeared as Ophelia in Eduard Verkade's popular 1908 produc-


tion of Hamlet . The following year she was back in England to study ballet (ESG 15–18). She assumed the "Russian" name Vallya Lodowska for a few years and began dancing with Andreas Pavley (Henryk van Dorp de Weyer [1892–1931]), who had studied under Dalcroze and in 1909 had staged in Amsterdam a production of Beethoven's Prometheus with more than a hundred performers.

With Pavley, Green produced a series of enormously successful dance concerts in London and The Netherlands (1910–1911). These presented Oriental and classical-mythological themes in a decoratively theatrical manner, for the Java-born Pavley strongly typified the prewar perception of dance as a rapturous submission to glamorous exoticism. But Green had her own ideas, especially in regard to the concert program, which always followed the example of her 1907 debut show: she supplemented dance pieces with solo performances by the pianist, a violist, and a singer (her English friend Margaret Walker). In all her dances, she impersonated a character in a little story inspired by the music: The Murderer's Dance, Death and the Maiden, Anitra's Dance . For Tchaikovsky's Songs without Words, she and Pavley devised a Pierrot and Columbine tale. Newspaper reviews of concerts given in Leiden, Haarlem, and Amsterdam in 1913 consistently and enthusiastically remarked on the pantomimic quality of her dances, and all suggested that she was a much stronger dancer than Pavley. The decorative elegance of her movements, produced by a body of exquisite slenderness and suppleness ("like the ripples of a harp"), established her enduring appeal for critics and large audiences alike, although "The Murderer's Dance doesn't suit her" ("Lili Green," G5-G7, G11). Into the 1930s she continued to perform, in cities across Europe, dances she had created before 1913, provoking virtually the same enchanted critical response she had originally inspired (see Wiener Gesellschaftsblatt, 3 March 1930).

In 1913, Pavley met Sergey Oukrainsky (1885–1972), a dancer with Anna Pavlova's ensemble. Oukrainsky persuaded Pavley to join the Pavlova group, and when that tour of duty ended, in 1915, Pavley and Oukrainsky stayed in the United States, where in 1916 they founded the Pavley-Oukrainsky Ballet. They subsequently became quite prominent for their promotion of a flamboyantly decorative ballet culture in Chicago (1916–1927) and then in Los Angeles (1927 ff.) (Prevots, Dancing, 133–151; Het Tooneel, 3/10, March 1918).

Meanwhile, Green opened a school in The Hague and began working with Margaret Walker as her dance partner. In 1918 she produced Carnaval, with Schumann's piano cycle as accompaniment and a group of her students in fantasy Biedermeyer costumes. Here she revised the Pierrot and Columbine story to put Walker in the role of Pierrot and a male dancer in the role of Pantalon; the piece enchanted audiences, despite Green's somewhat perverse approach to the material (Lapidoth). In the 1920s she


initiated several ambitious projects, including ballets of Dukas' La Peri, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, and Roussel's Le Festin de l'araignee . Debussy's music apparently unlocked a recessed inclination toward perversity in her solo dances, judging by several photos of her in the Nederlands Dans Instituut. Wearing an extravagant wig, she did a witch dance that probably represented the limit of her willingness to depart from the decorative, but in several other Debussy pieces she seems to have enjoyed baring her breasts or appearing nude under a diaphanous cloak, even though she was over forty years old. An article in Spel en dans (September 1925, 15–16) ranked her with Tamara Karsavina, Anna Pavlova, and Jenny Hasselquist as a world-class dancer. While on tour in Czechoslovakia, Green, "unhindered by labor laws," collected some slum children and brought them back to Amsterdam to perform in her fairy-tale ballet, Die Verliebten (ESG 16). Then she was busy with opera and civic spectacles.

In 1933, she appeared in a powerful open-air production at Zandvoort of Wilde's Salome . Besides playing the title role, she choreographed two ballets not designated in the text. These, according to one reviewer, were "absolutely justified" and produced a very dramatic effect, but he felt that, as Salome, Green, though "very beautiful," lacked morbid passion and sensuality, her response to the head of Jokanaan being "more the whim of a spoiled princess than of wild lust." However, she performed expertly and with great delicacy, especially at the end, and the Dance of the Seven Veils, with Strauss's music, was perhaps "the great moment of the production" ("Lili Green," A11). Green was forty-eight years old when she played Salome. But just as surprising was the publication of her Verzen (1934), which contained turbulent erotic poems: "My love is like a burning wound" (36); "I am lonely, beautiful and pale. My body longeth for thine arms to enfold me, my lips are parted with desire" (63). In 1935 she formed around her students Het Nederlandsche Ballet ("Lili Green," A12), and in 1936 she worked on dances for the Berlin Olympics. But she was not sympathetic to the fascist elements within Dutch dance culture that sought to develop nationalist feeling through ballet, and during the war years she led a cautious existence. In 1948, at age sixty-three, she gave her last solo concert, then went to Washington D.C. to create another school, which lasted until 1959. She then returned to The Hague to receive various honors and gave lessons well into her eighties.

Lili Green had a long career as a performer/choreographer in solo dances and stage plays, in opera and mass spectacle, in modern dance and ballet. Though the curriculum in her schools adapted to new trends, the dances she created did not change in their approach to bodily movement from around 1912 until her retirement from the stage in 1948. Yet her dances constantly seemed dramatic and exciting to audiences in Amster-


dam, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin. The reason is that she cultivated an attitude toward bodily expressivity that enabled her to interest audiences regardless of differences in media, cultural context, or historical era. This attitude derived from a Delsartian faith in a correspondence between specific gestures and specific emotions and manifested itself through the phenomenon of pantomime, or "plastic dancing," as Green called it. The Einführung was an impressively erudite treatise on pantomimic art. Missing from her book was any discussion of rhythm, music, or group movement. Nor did she introduce any reference to hygienic or therapeutic effect. The focus remained strictly on what particular gestures signified. In pursuit of this aim, Green used photography in an imaginative way. She herself was the model for all the examples. A sequence of photographs could show how a series of gestures produced "concentration moments" that culminated in large emotional complexes; for example, an eighteen-photo sequence depicted a girl awakened, puzzled, and drawn by the fragrance of flowers, then conveyed her desire to possess the flowers and weave them into a rapturous bouquet (67–73). The photos posited a difference between the body's reading of a stimulus ("emotion station") and the body's response to the stimulus ("will station").

"Concentration moments" referred to dynamic tensions between qualities of energy and qualities of will. Subsequent chapters explained these relations. Seven "primary impulses" encompassed all relations between emotion and will: joy, fear, pain, struggle, inclination, disinclination, and sex drive. Each primary impulse subsumed distinct categories of emotional signification. Thus, for example, fear entailed terror, suffocating anxiety, helplessness, or horror, whereas disinclination (not the same as disgust) included repulsion, hostility, or aversion. Accompanying the text for each category was a photo of Green performing the appropriate gesture. To signify attraction, a category of inclination, the body stood with one foot forward, arms hanging away from the body with suspended effect, the head tilted and turned in the same direction as the forward foot, with the eyes fixed level to the object of attraction. To signify friendship under the same category, the head should remained turned (in the same direction as the forward foot) but now should be slightly uplifted, with both arms reaching forward and the hands together. To signify erotic desire, the body stood with feet slightly apart and arms hanging close against the body (thighs) while the head cast a level gaze at the object of desire with eyes half-closed and lips pressed into a slight smile. (However, for me, Green's signs of erotic desire might just as well signify "haughtiness.") To signify erotic enticement, the body stepped forward and approached the object of desire at an angle, with arms behind the back, the head sharply tilted, the eyes open, and the lips pressed into a full smile. To signify erotic excitement, the arms moved


away from the body, which curved, arc-like, with the torso and groin pushed forward, the head pushed back, the eyes half-closed or closed, and the mouth open.

Of course, the total range of emotions the body may signify far exceeded Green's capacity to represent them or even to clarify distinctions between emotions she discussed and those she did not (such as the relation between erotic desire and haughtiness). Nor did she suppose that men differed from women in their signification of emotions. Furthermore, she did not clarify how the signification of emotions differed, in expressive value, from the performance of abstract categories of action, such as stabbing, kissing, praying, cradling, marching, or kneeling. Green's aim, however, was to demonstrate the decorative signification of emotion, so she left out all kinds of significations that convoluted the reading of bodily expressions. Decorativeness was synonymous with clear, refined readability of signs, but such readability was also synonymous with a filtering out of significations that transgressed anonymous conventions of appropriate expression and complicated the spectator's perception of the body.

In Germany, by contrast, the general mission of modern dance was to challenge the conventions of appropriate bodily expression. Indeed, German dance equated the liberated body not with an enhanced power to signify a wide range of emotions but with the power to signify and/or experience a single, great, supreme emotion: ecstasy. The basis for a free and modern identity lay in that most difficult to feel of all emotions. Green apparently sensed this problem with her approach, for she devoted a special section of her book to that "exceptional emotional condition," ecstasy (38–41). But her discussion of it was excessively conventional. For one thing, she asserted that the Greek meaning of ekstasis , "standing outside oneself," was the same as "an absence of the self," by which she seems to have meant an absence of bodily self-control. She associated ecstasy with dream states, with involuntary bodily movements such as those caused by epilepsy and hysteria, and with mystical visions of an archaic and frequently heretical nature. It was obvious that she was not at all sure how the body should signify ecstasy. "It happens with a cry," she remarked vaguely (38). She offered only one photograph of ecstatic signification, and this appeared at the end of a nine-photo sequence, "Amor Dei," that showed her in a medieval dress and cowl demonstrating the signification of revelation, awe, reverence, humility, service, prayer, sacrifice, embrace, and ecstasy (48–49). Ecstasy was manifest when the body thrust the arms upward and outward, with the head thrown way back so that it looked straight up. Ecstasy was a sculpted pose, a panel in an "appropriate" frieze rather than a peculiar condition of movement. Related to this limitation was her failure to trust her own photographic imagination. She came up with a worthwhile innovation: attaching tiny reflectors or battery lights to parts of the body


and then photographing movement at slow shutter speeds so that the image recorded the traces left by the lights (63–64). But she failed to apply this interesting device to the analysis of emotional signification. Yet it was exactly this sort of technology that might have proved effective in resolving the problem of signifying ecstasy.

It is easy to assume that Green's theory of pantomime—and the whole Delasartian legacy she sought to preserve—was as marginal to German body culture as Green herself. But the assumption is misleading. Her analysis of conventions for signifying particular emotions was sound. Though her representation of emotions seems somewhat extravagant (melodramatic) by today's standards, the difference is primarily one of degree, not kind. Conventions of signification rigidly control communication with large audiences. To reach the large audiences vital to its economic security, the German film industry relied on performers who followed fairly closely the conventions of signification described by Green. Acting in silent films especially entailed a mastery of pantomimic expression. The music that invariably accompanied silent films was created independently of the screen performances, which meant that actors could not depend on external rhythms or harmonies to shape their bodily expressivity, nor could they rely on the stilted-looking declamatory style appropriate for classical theatre or make elaborate, time-consuming Stanislavskian efforts to build a completely realistic character. They had to employ conventions of physical-emotional "plasticity." Oskar Diehl's Mimik im Film (1922) purported to explain the pantomimic conventions of film acting, which he claimed derived directly from dance. But this little book, containing no pictures and no analysis of any particular signifying practice, was worthless as a contribution to pantomimic semiotics. Diehl focused almost entirely on movements available to the face, then merely listed various dramatic situations that required facial expression. However, the book did not signify so much the bankruptcy of pantomimic art as the failure of film culture to grasp the theoretical foundations of bodily expressions appropriate for the screen, for moving images rather than three- dimensional spaces. As pantomime became an art of containing bodily expression within an image, dance became an art of opening space through movement and therefore freeing the body from conventional images of it, which was why dance critics continually displayed skepticism toward performances that were "merely" pantomimes.

Yet the distinction between dance and pantomime was not always altogether precise, considering the complex career of Green herself and considering that several prominent modern dancers became skillful film actors and even stars, including Valeska Gert, Grit Hegesa, Lil Dagover, Leni Riefenstahl, Jenny Hasselquist, Harald Kreutzberg, Anita Berber, Rita Sacchetto. Conrad Veidt (1893–1943), a wonderful actor with no dance


training, developed a highly expressive and idiosyncratic pantomimic style that sometimes seemed dancelike in its precision. According to a 7 April 1920 letter in the Leipzig Tanzarchiv, even Laban himself negotiated with the UFA film studio to produce a ten-part fairy-tale dance-pantomime, Der Komet , about a dance temple, a dance god, a dance cult, and a female dancer curious to see the invisible dance god. However, an inability to determine the relation between dance and pantomime prevented the film from being made.


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