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Dance History, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

The existing dance art in Germany with its features and techniques was mostly developed at the beginning of the twentieth century and influenced by the political atmosphere in the country. During that period, Germany experienced World War I and the following abasement of the international scene, the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, the World War II, and the Holocaust. Moreover, political issues provoked the emancipation movement when women got the opportunity to put themselves next to men at various social levels.

The political and economic issues found their reflection in various social spheres and art as well; dance as an art form also experienced great modifications. In addition to the political situation in the country, the artistic world was influenced my modernist and expressionist movements that focused attention on the spiritual aspect of the performance. The main role in the development of the modern dance was played by Rudolf von Laban’s theory of movements that was followed and extended by Mary Wigman, Hanya Holm, Kurt Jooss, and Pina Bausch.

The Contribution of Rudolf Von Laban

Rudolf von Laban was a talented German dancer who worked in the first half of the twentieth century; he is more known for his theory of dancing movements that is laid in the basis of the modern dance in Germany. The dancing movements are projections of human movements in everyday life that are reflected by dance art from general to detailed forms. It is necessary to combine dynamic approach with body habits and gestures to make the dance real and able to reflect even slight emotions.

The main way to study dancing movement lies through four elements that Laban called motion factors; they are weight, space, time, and flow (Riveire 36). Each of the factors have a double nature such as the weight can be heavy or light, the space means the focus of the movement that can be single or multiple, the time describes slow or fast movements, and the flow can be free or stopped suddenly (Riveire 36). The first three factors are combined to produce eight basic effects such as dab, punch, flick, slash, glide, float, wring, and press and are transformed into a unite character by the flow (Riveire 36).

Laban believed that the study of dancing movement is possible through consistent training to reveal and enhance human potential. The real skill can be developed only alongside with consciousness-raising (Riveire 37) that means the understanding of the dancer of every movement he takes and filling it with proper emotions to reflect the dance character. The other important factor in movement studying is the effective training efforts of the teacher who needs to understand the process of switching from movement to movement as the life does not give breaks or relaxation stops between separate actions (Riveire 38).

According to Laban, it is important to observe basic motion factors to perform the dance character in a real live way; the overacting of the movements can destroy the entire character. The appliance of too much or too little strength makes the movements either jerky or careless; over directed movement leads to obstinacy, and under directed produces a fussy impression. Too slow movements look lazy, and too fast actions only create a hast on the scene; the dancer looks stuck to the floor while performing too bound flows and too flying with his exaggerated free flows (Riveire 39).

The Role of Mary Wigman

The other prominent figure in the history of the development of the modern dance art is Mary Wigman who introduced her own view of woman-dancer in Weimar Germany. The dancer denied to use her feminine nature to create dance character in contrast to the then sexually appealing women on the stage and based her performances on revealing expressivity and spirituality (Funkenstein 826). Wigman even concealed her body and conducted performances with her back to the audience to reflect socially constructed characters only with her movements (Funkenstein 826).

Wigman as a theorist of dance art followed Laban’s ideas about the priority of movements to silence on the stage; her school with the focus on self-actualization attracted crowds of young women interested in dance (Funkenstein 828). Wigman’s emancipated dance model reflected the political and economic spheres of the then German government where women started occupying place next to men regardless to the feminine nature; she became a real leader in women’s society. Wigman pursued her aim to act as a strong urban woman through her choreographic style on the stage; for example, her depicting of villain characters were eliminated of feminine spirits and associated with ‘he’ or even ‘it’ characters (Funkenstein 831).

Wigman’s distinctive type of dance performance with the main focus on the primitive aspect put her in a range of male artists and performers and thus, equaled the traditionally feminine art form with the ‘high art’ (Funkestein 855). Besides her innovation in withdrawing women dance from a subject-object binary, she influenced the visual aspect of the art through creating a new form of dancing with the priority on expression, spirit, and movements’ dynamics (Funkenstein 855). Funkenstein claims that Wigman’s example illuminates that it is possible to assert oneself as distinctive without correlating difference with others, to insist on one’s one status as a subject and for that power to be heard, understood and appreciated (855).

Expressionist Dancing by Hanya Holm

Mary Wigman applied her choreographic ideas through founding her dance school in Dresden where another great expressionist dancer started his career – Hanya Holm. Both women shared the same artistic views and were not only a teacher and a student, but also colleagues, friends, and partners. After the strengthening of the Nazi regime, Holm went to America where she opened a subsidiary of Wigman’s dance school while the other stayed in Germany. The school was run under Holm’s name to represent dancers’ philosophy without any connections with German foreign policy.

Kurt Jooss and Pina Bausch

Another follower of the dance theory prioritizing movements was Kurt Jooss who was Laban’s student and kept to his views of performing movements in a naturalistic way. Jooss paid the main attention to the dance manners to perform a real story in their framework. The most significant work of the dancer and choreographer is The Green Table: a Death of Eight in Eight Scenes that reflects Jooss’s view of the war origins and his unique dancing style in general.

The ballet was performed in Germany during the rise of Hitler power; the choreography was mainly based on medieval death dances supplemented by a range of gestures. The year after the premiere, Jooss had to leave Germany because of the anti-Jewish policy; since then, the work became a physical synecdoche of the political shifts worldwide in the 2oth and 21st centuries (Kinetz 6). In addition to the World War II, the ballet scenes have been connected with the League of Nations and Vietnam War operations.

In fact, Jooss was more interested in the way of performance; a kind of abstraction that is deeply human but not strictly temporal, the sort of thing that may be more easily achieved in dance than in more literal, narrative arts (Kinetz 6) rather than depicting historical matters. The dance pattern produce precise images of the story told, and  Jooss’s deft choreography with an incredible tempo makes the performance elegant and ironical at the same time.

One of Kurt Jooss student mates was Pina Bausch who created amazing and terrifying performances at the same time. Bausch also paid much attention to gestures to express the character in a full range; her choreography is a combination of dreamlike movements and potent drama (Sulcan and Wakin 31). Bausch took the main features of expressionism and enriched them with her own views of dance performance; according to Sulcan and Wakin, her shows featured a deep sense of theatricality; disconnected and sometimes absurd episodes; and elaborate, unusual sets, like carpets of carnations and peat moss or a collapsing wall (Sulcan and Wakin 31). Despite sometimes horror impression of her works, Bausch created a range of individual dances, inimitable and outstanding.

Conclusion

The development of German expressionism in the dance sphere made a huge contribution to the dance history worldwide. At the beginning of the twentieth century the main focus in the dance industry was switched to the importance of movements reflecting human gestures and emotions as well. Rudolf Laban offered his motion factors that were later supported by his students and followers – Mary Wigman, Hanya Holm, and Kurt Jooss. In addition to well-trained and deep-felt movements, the artists filled the dance with expressiveness and spirit.

Mary Wigman is highly merited for her withdraw from feminine nature of the dance to a neutral performance that put women in the art and the society in equal conditions with men. Pina Bausch managed to transform expressive bases of Wigman into live dance performances that touch every note of the soul and create sometimes horrifying but magnificent images of the story told by the dance. German expressionism spread to other countries and continents because of the anti-Jewish policy of Hitler government when lots of German artists and choreographers had to leave the country and continue their work abroad.

Works Cited

Funkenstein, Susan L. “There’s Something about Mary Wigman: The Woman Dancer as Subject in German Expressionist Art.” Gender & History, vol.17, iss.3 (2005): 826-859.

Kinetz, Erika. Honoring a Father, and an Antiwar Sentiment, in Dance.” New York Times (10/28/2005):6.

Riveire, Janine. “Bowing “Qualities”, Laban and Motion Factors.” American String Teacher, vol.56, iss. 3 (2006): 36-39.

Sulcas, Roslyn, and Wakin, Daniel J. “Pina Bausch, a German Iconoclast Who Rehsped Dance, Dies at 68.” New York Times (7/1/2009): 31.

Bibliography

Funkenstein, Susan L. “There’s Something about Mary Wigman: The Woman Dancer as Subject in German Expressionist Art.” Gender & History, vol.17, iss.3 (2005): 826-859.

Kinetz, Erika. Honoring a Father, and an Antiwar Sentiment, in Dance.” New York Times (10/28/2005):6.

Laban, Rudolf, and Lawrence, C.E. Effort. London: MacDonald and Evans, 1947.

Laban, Rudolf. The Mastery of Movement. Northcote House, 1988.

Riveire, Janine. “Bowing “Qualities”, Laban and Motion Factors.” American String Teacher, vol.56, iss. 3 (2006): 36-39.

Sulcas, Roslyn, and Wakin, Daniel J. “Pina Bausch, a German Iconoclast Who Rehsped Dance, Dies at 68.” New York Times (7/1/2009): 31.

Wigman, Mary. The Mary Wigman Book: Her Writings. Olympic Marketing Corp, 1978.

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