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modern dance261
expressionist dance262
modern dance263
post-modern dance264
dance theatre265

Mary Wigman und Wigman-Gruppe: "Totentanz" / Foto: N.N., (c) Dt. Tanzarchiv Kln

Harald Kreutzberg: "Knigstanz" / Foto: Maurice Goldberg, (c) Dt. Tanzarchiv Kln

expressionist dance271

The predominant form of dance in the Germany of the Twenties was designated expressionist dance. Its most important representatives were Rudolf von Laban and Mary Wigman. Both possessed an understanding of dance that was a philosophy of life, that explained dance as a metaphysical experience. An abundance of dancers belonged to the dance culture of the Twenties, such as the socially critical Valeska Gert or the communist Jean Weidt. All had in common the striving to bring to expression an individual world vision, through a dance touching on natural body movement. Out of expressionist dance came not a dance technique as out of American (USA) modern dance, but rather a system of movement. Influenced by the youth movement and the gymnastics and health movements, Rudolf von Laban developed a system of natural and harmonious body movement which became the foundation of expressionist dance body movement. In order to record his system of movement, Laban invented a symbolic alphabet which was used as kinetography or, in later international developments up until today, as Labanotation. To express the individual sensibilities of single persons, to create the inner movement as outer movement, this was the central point of expressionist dance. Labans pupil, Mary Wigman, was the most famous dancer in Germany from 1919 on. Her dance touched on existential human experiences, but also on metaphysical subjects, such as her Hexentanz (Witches Dance ) or Totentanz (Dance of the Dead). Mary Wigman performed predominantly as a solo dancer, but between 1921 and 1928 she also performed with her dance group. In Dresden she led the largest school of its time for artistic dance, and contributed to the great popularity of dance in the Weimar Republic with her numerous tours. She was also a successful guest performer. For example she made expressionist dance known in the USA as German dance, thereby influencing modern dance in the USA. From the beginning of the 1930s there were no further developments in expressionist dance. The designation expressionist dance was forbidden under the National Socialist regime, and the non-classical direction of dance was designated German dance. Numerous exponents of expressionist dance were driven into exile, such as Laban pupil Kurt Jooss, who had founded the department of dance at the Folkwang Academy. Many others fell victim to persecution.

Author: Hedwig Mller
Source: Tanzland Nordrhein-Westfalen, Edited by MASSKS NRW,
Referat Presse- und ffentlichkeitsarbeit, 1999272

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