This chapter outlines aspects of the historical study of a dance genre through examination of some of the particular problems encountered with European early modern dance during the period 1910-39. 1 The subject is examined in terms of: the nature of the topic itself; methodological problems brought to light by the study of the subject; suggested areas and approaches for historical study.
The German dance critic Hans Brandenburg compiled various editions of one of the earliest surveys of modern dance in Europe. His 1921 edition of Der Moderne Tanz catalogued and reviewed the production of dance in Germany during the preceding decade. He included German dancers such as Mary Wigman, German-based dancers including Rudolf Laban, American artists working in Europe such as Isadora Duncan, dancers from Russia ranging from Nijinsky to Pavlova, the work of many other dancers and of dance schools of various styles. ‘Modern dance’ appears to have been taken to refer to ‘dance of the time’ without great regard for artistic distinctions and, in the descriptions of the work of the dance schools, the making of an art product as such.
By the late 1920s, the German definition changed to one which, whilst acknowledging the early influence of Duncan and Pavlova, concentrated exclusively on central European artists. A good example of this is Lämmel’s survey, Der Moderne Tanz (1928), where he classifies the ‘present’ as the ‘second flowering of modern dance’, 2 referring only to German and Austrian artists. After 1933 the German consensus becomes explicitly nationalistic in its renaming and redefinition of modern dance as Deutsche Tanz, German dance. 3
In the next decade, following Martha Graham’s first performances in America, John Martin attempted to characterize what was, from his critic’s standpoint, the modern dance. He made it quite clear that in