Dancing Progress, Moving History at Hellerau

Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:50 PM
Governor's Square 14 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)
Ana Isabel Keilson, Columbia University
This paper examines efforts by modern dancers in Germany from 1910 to 1914 to link embodied expression to contemporary debates about historicism and social reform. Comparing examples of modern dance pedagogy and performance in the social democratic garden city of Hellerau and the anarchist artist’s utopian retreat in Ascona, this paper focuses on the work of Mary Wigman, one of the central figures of German modern dance and star student of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, Swiss composer and founder of Eurythmics, a movement-based system for musical education taught his conservatory in Hellerau; Wigman spent several summers at both Hellerau and Ascona where she developed her innovative approach to expression. The founders of Ascona and Hellerau, this paper shows, conceived of their utopian projects in radically different ways, yet in both instances, physical expression and movement education played a similar role – to similar ends. Dance, understood in earlier decades to be universalist project, became an important marker of national identity and was integral to their respective programs for site-specific, historically situated social reform. Ultimately, this paper illustrates how in both communities movement onstage, in the classroom, and in everyday life was understood as the central axis against which the progress of history and social change could be measured.