Preferred Citation: Toepfer, Karl. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1997 1997.

Pair Dancing

Yvonne Georgi and Harald Kreutzberg

Yvonne Georgi (1903–1975) and Harald Kreutzberg (1902–1968) enjoyed enormous and unprecedented international appeal as a pair from 1928 to 1930, then suddenly went in separate directions because their ambitions were so incompatible. No pair was so interesting to such a large audience, and their appeal lay precisely in their sophisticated synthesis of quite incompatible sensibilities.

Georgi was born in Leipzig, where her father was a prominent physician married to a French-Algerian woman. Yvonne Georgi projected an exotic, Arabic image: sleek, black-haired, smoldering. At school during the war, she endured embarrassments because of her French mother; when (1920), as a result of playing in a pantomime at the home of conductor Arthur Nikisch, she announced her intention to become a dancer instead of a librarian, she faced major skepticism and disappointment from her parents. Perhaps because of a need to overcome serious doubts about the nature of her desires, Georgi was throughout her life intensely competitive and ambitious. She put on her first program of dances in 1920, then went to Hellerau to study the method of Jaques-Dalcroze, which she soon found too gymnastic and lacking in dance expressivity. Having seen Wigman perform in Leipzig, she enrolled at Wigman's school in Dresden, where she easily became a star pupil and a member of Wigman's famous first group, which included Wigman, Palucca, Holm, and Trümpy. But Georgi wanted more. She started producing her own solo programs, which consisted of dances with music, dances with percussion accompaniment only, and dances in silence, as well as cyclical works built around the music of Scriabin, Haas, Milhaud, and Krenek. By 1923 she had learned all she could from Wigman and had embarked on her own path. She accepted Kurt Jooss's invitation to dance in his production of the Tels-Wellesz Persisches Ballett (1924) in Münster, and her success prompted the Gera Municipal Opera to appoint her ballet mistress. But she was there only a year (1925) before the Hannover Municipal Opera offered her the position of ballet mistress. Her popularity in Hannover was great, enduring, and, remarkably, achieved through her desire to create distinctly Ausdruckstanz ballets using advanced modern music (Figure 54). She lured Mila Cirul and Kreutzberg away from their soloist positions with the Berlin State Opera to dance in her 1926 production of Stravinsky's Petrouchka (1911), and at the end of the year, after establishing her own school, she and Kreutzberg put on a concert together containing fourteen pieces. Only two of these were pair dances; nevertheless, he decided not to return to Berlin (Koegler 22–33).

Kreutzberg came from a quite different milieu. His grandfather and father were in the circus and wild animal entertainment business, and his mother strongly encouraged his precocious gift for play-acting and theatri-


cal gestures. He was born in Bohemia, but the family tended to wander: Breslau, Leipzig, Dresden. In 1920, while attending art school in Dresden (Kreutzberg was also a gifted draftsman), he performed a "hashish dance" at a student carnival party. The popularity of this piece was such that he decided to enroll in an amateur course at Wigman's school. His talent impressed Wigman, but she made little use of it, so in 1923 he accepted the invitation of another Wigman student, Max Terpis, to dance in Hannover, where Terpis directed the ballet of the Municipal Opera. Working in a large ensemble made Kreutzberg somewhat nervous, but the opera director, Hanns Niedecken-Gebhard, recognized Kreutzberg's gift for acting and cast him in the small character roles that often make dances memorable. Meanwhile, Kreutzberg formed a partnership with Frida Holst to produce pair dance recitals. Then Terpis accepted appointment as ballet director of the Berlin State Opera and took Kreutzberg with him. In Wellesz's controversial ballet Die Nächtlichen (1926), Kreutzberg appeared as Fear, a sinister, dissonant evocation of demonic forces circulating through the city between twilight and dawn. Despite the unpopularity of Wellesz's morbid music, Terpis went in for more gloom with Don Morte (1926), a version of Edgar Allen Poe's The Masque of the Red Death, employing music by the Austrian composer Friedrich Wilckens (1899–?). In this piece, Kreutzberg danced the role of an eccentric jester, wearing a gold costume and a mask with a bald head. The opera costume shop had difficulty devising a bald wig for him, so he shaved off all of his blond hair. His appearance made such a powerful impression on audiences that he maintained his trademark bald head for the rest of his life. Don Morte also initiated the lifelong collaboration between Kreutzberg and Wilckens, who not only wrote numerous pieces for Kreutzberg but also was his accompanist.

With Elisabeth Grube, another dancer at the opera, Kreutzberg and Wilckens produced several dance recitals in Berlin. Kreutzberg's partnership with Grube collapsed when Georgi invited him to Hannover, but the new collaboration stalled almost immediately when, in 1927, Max Reinhardt cast Kreutzberg in Salzburg productions of Turandot and Jedermann , then as Puck for a New York production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (Figure 55). Even in his most serious performances, Kreutzberg cultivated the image of a jester, a medieval fool, a demonic acrobat. When he returned to Hannover in 1928 as a dance instructor, he collaborated with Georgi and Wilckens on a grotesque pantomime, Robes, Pierre and Co., which presented a man falling murderously in love with a show window mannequin and featured dances accompanied by the sound of typewriters, gunshots, and Kreutzberg himself singing a falsetto parody of a coloratura aria (Pirchan 7–31).

Like the Sacharoffs, Georgi and Kreutzberg performed only a few dances together, but their appeal as a pair rested largely on their skill at manipu-


lating the architecture of the concert program so that their solo dances appeared not as autonomous, self-contained pieces but as movements within a large-scale image of pairing. Unlike the Sacharoffs, Georgi and Kreutzberg eschewed an aura of luxury and concentrated on perfecting an austere, streamlined modernism. Both of them were muscular, athletic dancers who delighted in displaying physical prowess and dexterity, yet they each drifted into melancholy moods, with Georgi especially prone to orgiastic-ecstatic impulses and Kreutzberg never losing touch with the grotesque, the demonic, and the macabre. Kreutzberg occasionally incorporated feminine movements and details into his dances, most obviously in his Turandot dance (1927), in which his bald head yielded to the signifying power of a dark Oriental gown and large tassel-earrings, and in Der ewige Kreis (1936), in which he wore the medieval masks and costumes of a prostitute and an idle rich woman. Unlike either Sacharoff or Seewitz, Kreutzberg tended to parody feminine movements for grotesque effect, though rarely in his pair dances with Georgi, where they tended to mirror or echo each other's movements. Georgi, however, entertained hardly any doubt about the difference between masculine and feminine; indeed, she almost never wore any sort of trousers, and she avoided any movements or costume effects that destabilized the spectator's perception of her constant, dark, athletic femaleness. She was, therefore, quite unlike Clotilde von Derp, who loved disclosing ever-new aspects of her femaleness. But as a result, in pair dances, Kreutzberg's movements, mirroring Georgi's, appeared more feminine than if she had mirrored his.

Fahnentanz (1928) was a quintessential mirror dance: they wore vaguely centurionlike cap-helmets, tunic-skirts, and large capes, which they waved as flags in great, rapid, swirling movements. They created the impression of ecstatic warriors controlled by a powerful, undulating current that made them echo rather than fight each other. Hymnis (1929), with music by Lully, was a much more somber, ceremonial piece: "[T]hrough it Mr. Kreutzberg and Miss Georgi were marvellous counterparts, weaving the dance in two strands, now meeting in unified motion, now parting in motion contrasted; two in one in mated style and suggestion" (Parker 212). Pavane (1930, music: Ravel) repeated this effect with even greater gravity, with Georgi and Kreutzberg wearing glowing white costumes as they moved slowly and mournfully through the dark space. Another slow piece, Persiches Lied (1928, music: Satie), done in glamorous Oriental costumes, showed the dancers meeting in the space, coiling about each other, striving always to produce matching movements that allowed them to sink to the floor embracing, covered in a veil (Braaksma). All their other pair dances were variations on those described here: they sought to make the couple the source of mirror-echo effects—"complementary patterns" and "reciprocities of motion" (Parker 204). They never presented man and woman in con-


flict with each other, never created tension through competing configurations of bodily rhythm, and this avoidance (or fear) of conflict greatly diminished the dramatic power of their pair dances. In their 1931 Berlin performance to Gustav Holst's huge symphonic poem The Planets (1916), one of the largest pair concerts ever staged, they employed a monumental abstract set consisting of a row of dark, cavelike entrances from which emerged spiraling ramps and towering, slanting walls; these gave the impression that no matter how remotely separated in space the man and woman were, the couple always retained its power to define itself through complementary movement.

But in reality Georgi and Kreutzberg did not complement each other, and in their solo dances the differences between them introduced a dramatic power that their pair dances lacked. Georgi constantly hungered for rapturous excitement. In Wälzer (1929, music: Wilckens) she swirled and eddied her sleek body with breathtakingly voluptuous lyricism. In Salome (1929)—which, curiously, used music by Cyril Scott rather than the more familiar pieces on this theme by Schmitt or Strauss—she was almost naked and moved with an unapologetic, maybe even vulgar determination to appear sexy. With Cassandra (1929), shrouded in a great net-veil, she displayed the ominous, tragic ecstasy she could feel in prophesizing, in dreaming of vast doom. Darker and stranger still was Tanz des Böses (1923), in which, accompanied only by crashing gongs, she exulted, convulsively, in the glamor of demonic possession, of unashamed evil and sadism. In Arabische Suite (1927), however, she signified an ecstasy derived from exquisite, shimmering, rippling refinements of a delicately fluttering body, while in Dämmerung (1929, music: Debussy) she conveyed a melancholy "restlessness subdued to quiet ecstasy" (204). Kreutzberg, for his part, nurtured the image of the jester or sardonic stranger. In Narrentanz (1927) he produced a muscular, hyperexpressionist dance in which he held rather than wore a mask and dramatized a passionate spirit of revolt against the masked identity seeking to impose itself on him. In Drei irre Gestalten (1928), accompanied only by hallucinatory noises, he adopted an even more Caligariesque expressionism in his clinical impersonations of an idiot, a homicidal maniac, and a paranoiac, solitary inmates of an asylum. Most spectacularly expressionist of all was Der Engel der Jüngste Gericht (1928, music: Wilckens), in which he wore an enormous, swirling black cape that concealed his entire body except for his bald head and made him a "figure of darksome splendors, blessing and warning, aloof and drawing nigh" (205). At the end of the dance, he sank to the floor as if he were a demonic body descending into a great, rippling circle of darkness, a pool of undulant blackness. In Engel der Verkündigung (1928, music: Wilckens), he was a good angel, in biblical costume, quietly, slowly, and luminously signifying the immanence of divine message. Der Königstanz (1928, music: Reger) was altogether more


muscular and martial, full of "turbulent, imperious motion" yet somewhat grotesque, with Kreutzberg wearing a weird, pharaoanic wire headpiece and a gold scarf attached to bracelets on both arms, so that the vehemence of his movements seemed curiously restrained, rather than provoked, by the vaguely feminine decorative accessories. With Caprice (1929, music: Smetana) he introduced his archetypal incarnation of the carefree, strolling, skipping, lolling, wandering, improvising jester who, in various "vagabond" guises, exerted such endearing appeal for German audiences of the 1930s and 1940s (Parker 200–213; Wille).

Clearly, pair dances alone scarcely explained the enormous international popularity of the Georgi-Kreutzberg team. Between 1929 and 1931 they made four comprehensive tours of both Europe and the United States, where they appeared up and down both coasts and throughout the Midwest as probably the most profitable modern dance act in U.S. history (Pirchan 32–40). No American dancers, including the team of Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, enjoyed such popularity. Yet, unlike the Sacharoffs, Georgi and Kreutzberg did not embody the "happy couple." Their pair dances tended toward the elegiac and ceremonial; they seemed to express a virtuosic, synchronized cheerfulness rather than a stirring or triumphant happiness. In Potpourri (1929), for example, they wore polka-dot costumes and goofed around on stage with the pianist, Wilckens, interrupting his efforts to get a dance started with music by hovering over him and inserting their own discordant chords: "[O]ff they flung in staccato steps with that perfect mating of heads and arms, as in a two-fold pattern made one in line and rhythm. . . . Like children, they snatched up sticks, called them bows and arrows, sported with them," until the exasperated pianist crept away with the music and compelled the dancers to follow him off stage (Parker 206–207). But though this sort of humor proved quite delightful, it both concealed and revealed the major limitation of their pair dance aesthetic: their reluctance to build dramatic tension between each other in relation to a source of conflict—the music, the musician, or the man.

Yet it was precisely because they pursued such divergent ambitions that they could not long remain a dance couple, and in 1931 they made their last tour. Georgi always wanted more powerful and commanding opportunities to assert her authority as an artist. In 1928 she accepted appointment as ballet mistress at Braunschweig as well as at Hannover. Then, when the national economic crisis of 1930–1931 severely reduced subsidies to the opera houses, Georgi accepted an invitation from the Wagner Society to choreograph in Amsterdam. In 1932 she married a prominent Dutch journalist and found even grander opportunities for her talent, although she continued to work for Hannover until 1936. Already in 1926 Georgi had published an article in the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung in which she contended that "the modern solo and group dance must conquer the theatre in


order to enlarge its field of activity and expand its borders." She complained about the lack of production values and the excessive modesty of concert recital dance culture, which, she believed, had enfeebled public enthusiasm for modern dance. She blamed dancers themselves for their lack of ambition in appropriating the state theatre apparatus, for "it is not true that the expressivity, the intensity of dance in the theatre, be it in a ballet or within an opera, becomes lost" (Koegler, Yvonne Georgi , 31–32). The article was in part a veiled criticism of her teacher, Wigman, who favored cultic performance at the expense of large-scale productions and never displayed any enthusiasm for a reconciliation of Ausdruckstanz with ballet.

Georgi always distrusted schools, including her own, to recognize and exploit talent to the fullest, for teachers invariably accommodate the limitations of most students rather than the potential of a few. Besides, she wanted to put modern dance culture on a more secure economic foundation than that offered by the fragile school companies, in which, indeed, students paid to dance instead of receiving pay. An elevation in the economic status of the dancer demanded the production of large-scale ensemble pieces sponsored by generously subsidized institutions that could attract top talent in a range of fields—dance, music, design, choreography, administration. Moreover, she wanted dance to attract strong male talent, but how was that possible if dance did not situate itself within the institutionalized emblems of power through which society expected men to fulfill their obligations to it? One might even say that Georgi aspired to become the Wagner of the German dance world, so grandiose was her sense of dance as an institutional power on the European cultural scene. She continued to give solo concerts in Germany and even in New York (1935), but her heart was in the big theatrical productions she produced in Hannover and Amsterdam. Yet progress toward her aim remained slow. She staged over twenty ballets in Hannover and Amsterdam before putting together a company to tour the United States in 1937. But the tour was a disaster that bankrupted her, and in 1938 she accepted an offer to choreograph ballets for a Dutch circus and to direct a huge spectacle celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Queen Wilhelmina's reign. Her success in these endeavors enabled her to form the Ballet Yvonne Georgi in 1939.

By this time, however, disciples of fascism in Dutch culture, led by the artist Hein von Essen and the critic Weremeus Buning, sought to dominate Dutch dance through control of a group called Nederlands Dansliga. For many years, an oversupply of dancers had afflicted Dutch dance with dilettantism. Georgi's productions considerably raised the standards of Dutch dance performance, but voices within the Dansliga contended that she "monopolized" the dance world by her intensely competitive desire to attract the best talent and highest production values, by her "un-Dutch" devotion to Greek mythological themes, and by her subordination of mod-


ern dance expressivity to the aims of classical ballet. When the Germans invaded in May 1940, the situation became more ambiguous, for Georgi's husband, Lodewijk Arntzenius, an official of the Concertgebouw concert hall, was sympathetic to Nazism, and the Germans firmly approved of Georgi's aesthetic. With unprecedentedly generous subsidies, the Ballet Yvonne Georgi produced works of a scale and virtuosity never before achieved in Dutch dance history: Orfeus and Euridice (1941), Josefs Legende (1942), Carmina Burana (1944). But when the war ended, Georgi and her husband faced serious stigmatization that compelled them to leave Holland in 1949. With great success she resumed her choreographic duties in Hannover (1953–1970), but a visit of this company to Amsterdam in 1967 awakened bitter criticism of her Nazi collaboration (Koegler, Yvonne Georgi; ESG 49–65). Well before the war, her choreography had begun to make ever greater concessions to ballet technique and conventions, and her enthusiasm for Greek mythological themes seems to have subdued her inclination toward unbridled ecstasy. In spite of her taste for modern orchestral music, her ballets never advanced the expressive power of dance beyond what it was in 1930, and certainly none of her ballets of the 1930s and 1940s displayed the innovative imagination of her early group pieces in Hannover, such as Saudades do Brasil (1925), Petrouchka (1926), Baby in der Bar (1928), Tanzsuite (1928), Das seltsame Haus (1928), and Robes, Pierre and Co. (1928).

After the war she achieved even greater acclaim for her ballet choreography in Düsseldorf, Hannover, and Vienna and for television, but this acclaim seemed directed more at her success in mobilizing postwar resources on behalf of dance than at her ballets themselves. It is surprising how meagerly German dance historians have treated her work, especially in the postwar period, even though she significantly raised the standards of German ballet, at least in terms of production values and technical competence. Her turn toward ballet implied a sacrifice of her dark ecstatic impulse; she used modernism and dance to reconcile historical tensions within herself rather than within a society struggling with its past. She displaced the aesthetic of reconciliation from her pair dances with Kreutzberg onto her large-scale ensemble productions, resulting, despite a strong narrative element, in a lack of dramatic power and transformative effect on modern dance art. But the Berlin critic Fritz Böhme had observed as early as 1923 that Georgi had "not yet reached" a "compelling" sense of composition or made the "conquering step" toward artistic triumph (Koegler, Yvonne Georgi, 24). The problem was that Georgi was afraid of her own ambition and appetite, afraid of taking that one wild step further that might destroy her in its refusal to reconcile itself with any other step. The intense ambiguity of Georgi's identity left an equally ambivalent legacy, for despite appearances to the contrary it was never her desire to abandon Ausdruckstanz for ballet. She more than anyone showed the power of Ausdruckstanz to


take over ballet and imbue it with an expressionist attitude toward the body.[1]

As for Kreutzberg, he followed a different path altogether. Though he occasionally choreographed theatre productions in Leipzig and Berlin and even appeared with Georgi in a couple of her Greek ballets for Hannover in 1934–1935, Kreutzberg's art flourished most distinctively in his solo concerts. He was always looking for a partner—Elisabeth Grube, Tilly Losch, Yvonne Georgi, Ruth Page, Ilse Meutdner—but his most enduring partnership was with Wilckens, his composer, accompanist, and business manager. With the American dancer Ruth Page (1898–1991), Kreutzberg pursued a pairs aesthetic closely resembling that of his partnership with Georgi. The two teamed up for a tour of the United States in 1933 and were so successful they repeated it the following year and continued on to Japan and China. During the 1920s, Page had exhibited an exuberant modernist spirit that had somehow evolved out of the decorative ballet style imported to America by Adolph Bolm (1884–1951), her teacher, whom she regarded as an "excessive influence" on her expressivity (Page, Class Notes , 15). Her Prelude in Blue (1926), Ballet Scaffolding (1925), and Flapper and the Quarterback (1926) were perhaps the most expressionistic-constructivist dances produced in the United States before 1930, and her astonishing Bolero (1930, music: Ravel), with its mounting tension achieved through accumulating movements of stationary bodies, was perhaps the most exciting achievement of the Ravinia Opera Company of Chicago (where Page hoped, in vain as it turned out, to create a base for modern dance culture competitive with that of New York). Like Georgi, Page longed to do big theatrical dances, but she displayed limited imagination in the construction of pair dances, with her most notable success in this vein being the violent and quite lurid Frankie and Johnny (1938, music: Moss), a WPA project. Here, at last, pair dancing (within an ensemble) was synonymous not with complementary or synchronous movements but with explosive drama.

She regarded Pavlova and Kreutzberg as the "greatest influences" on her career, but Kreutzberg's aesthetic apparently absorbed little of her romantic spirit (Page, Video Archives , tape 13). He retained his usual

[1] Max Dooijes (b. 1919) was a student of Georgi during the war years and later a prominent dance teacher in The Netherlands. When I interviewed him in Amsterdam in February 1992, he spoke of his teacher with great warmth and affection. He described the Wigman-like instruction Georgi gave, her determination to release the unique expressive potential of the student. As he spoke, it became evident that what was most significant about her was her elegant ambiguity, her ability to refine every movement, to make every movement dramatic and alluring enough for ballet without being formed completely out of ballet positions. Georgi had a unique gift for awakening in men a desire to dance expressively in a competitive and demanding way far exceeding that of the lay movement choirs in which so many female expressionist dancers encountered male movement students (Dooijes).


repertoire of solos and refashioned his dances with Georgi to fit Page. For example, in Bauerlicher Tanz (1928, music: Wilckens) the couple danced back to back in matching polka-dot costumes with their arms entwined. But in Bacchanale (1933, music: Malipiero) he took the same idea and darkened it in a way he never had with Georgi: the couple danced back to back with arms entwined, but Page wore a black dress and Kreutzberg a black shirt and pants, and both wore black elastic bands around their arms and white elastic bands crossing their faces and around their heads (Turbyfill). These bands, first introduced for Kreutzberg's solo Königstanz (1927), created the impression of bodies both bound and bandaged, reinforcing the theme of bacchanalian ecstasy as an intense closeness to another body yet a frenzied (wounding?) struggle to face that body. Page began experimenting with elastic bands for her expressionistic solos, and Kreutzberg began devising solos, such as the primeval Der erste Mensch (1934, music: Bach), in which he twisted rope around his arms in a more muscled style than elastic bands suggested.

After 1935 Kreutzberg moved decisively toward the perfection of his medieval, vagabond jester image, Eulenspiegel. Georgi inspired his interest in Greek themes, which inspired Orfeus klagt um Euridike (1935), a revision of his jester's revolt dance. This time he danced, in chiton and wig, holding the mask of Euridice, although later presentations of the dance featured a mask with more emphatically feminine features than earlier ones. In Orestes (1935), with gold rope wig, he struggled again with ropes around his arms. The pathetic Orfeus dance remained in his repertoire for years, but his fame rested on his more grotesque works, such as the medieval Der ewige Kreis (1936), in which, with fantastic masks, he presented a death-dance suite of Boschlike impersonations of archetypal Gothic figures. Even in Der Tod (1937) he impersonated Death as a lurching, pouncing, acrobatic jester wandering aimlessly across a twilight space like one of the "mad creatures" in his asylum piece. In 1935 he toured the United States yet again, this time with four women, including Ilse Meudtner. Here he introduced his "scenes from Breughel" and his Nächtliche Habanera (music: Debussy), in which the four women appeared as ancient skeletons dressed in elaborate black sixteenth-century Spanish costumes with mantillas and fans (Meutdner 30–43). Kreutzberg's appeal in the United States was perhaps only a little less than what it was in Germany, which says much for the power of his aesthetic to cross borders.

Harald Kreutzberg was probably the most popular dance figure in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, and his success with solo concerts during these years enabled him to live quite comfortably in a Tirolean chalet and to give him the sense that he had accomplished all that he was capable of doing. However, his aesthetic implied more than he intended. In 1943 Kreutzberg appeared with Werner Krauss in Pabst's handsome film Paracel-


sus , set in the late Middle Ages. Not surprisingly, he played an acrobatic jester, who winds up assisting the great physician in his escape from the volk -estranged authorities. The jester performs a grotesque dance in a tavern, almost a parody of expressionistic dance, creating a hypnotic effect on the male and female tavern patrons and driving them to a lunatic frenzy. When Paracelsus arrives on the scene, he recognizes the dance as a symptom of the plague and prescribes a cure based on his mysterious understanding of the "healthy community" rather than on the impotent academic rationalism of the university doctors. The film presents Ausdruckstanz as a sign of disease and communal pathology, but it is doubtful that Kreutzberg was even conscious of this implication. He just wandered into the film and then wandered on, always living entirely in the self-contained world of his solitary jester-self.

The army drafted him in 1944, but the Americans soon captured him on the Italian front; when they eventually released him, he returned to Germany and resumed his international career in the solo mode until 1959, performing mostly the same pieces he had created in the 1920s and 1930s. He also appeared in an excellent film version of Der ewige Kreis (1956) ("Harald Kreutzberg"). He was unquestionably the most significant male dancer to emerge from Ausdruckstanz , yet his impact on modern dance was far less than that of Vaslav Nijinsky (1888–1950), who in just a few years (1910–1917) had revolutionized the dance world by imposing upon it an overpowering intelligence. Nijinsky was a genius (and a madman) precisely because his mind was too complex to allow dance to construct a quintessential self for the dancer. He pushed bodies toward almost impossibly intricate and contradictory rhythms; he treated dance as the systematic dissolution of the self, the fragmentation of the body into multiple identities, bisexual ambiguities, violently conflicting impulses—as when, in The Rite of Spring (1913), the ballet corps had to shift instantly from, say, 5/16 rhythm to 7/8 to 2/4, and the right arms and legs had to move with a different rhythm from the left. Neither Laban nor Dalcroze, on the theoretical plain, could approach Nijinsky in complexity of imagination, in the application of an often impenetrable system of expressivity. By contrast, Kreutzberg seems to have retreated into his jester-self as a way of evading the heroic, almost superhuman expectations associated with an artist such as Nijinsky. The solitary jester figure was comfortably accessible to himself and to his audience; it was, in the iconography of male dance, a touching foil to the remote, unfathomable, and uncontainable god that was Nijinsky.


Pair Dancing

Preferred Citation: Toepfer, Karl. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1997 1997.