New German Dance Studies

By Lim, Wesley | German Quarterly, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

New German Dance Studies


Lim, Wesley, German Quarterly


Manning, Susan, and Lucia Ruprecht, eds. New German Dance Studies. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012. 296 pp. $80.00 hardcover.

In the Introduction to their volume, titled "New Dance Studies/New German Cultural Studies," Susan Manning and Lucia Ruprecht aim at connecting these two fields in the belief that dance studies can profit from German cultural studies and viceversa. Certainly valuable to scholars working not only in dance studies but also in literature, history, theater, and performance, this volume provides an interesting variety of perspectives and theoretical approaches from fifteen scholars working inside and outside Germany. While the collection includes essays concerning eighteenthand nineteenth-century dance discourse, it focuses mainly on three clusters: Weimar culture and its afterlife, the GDR, and conceptual trends in contemporary dance.

Manning and Ruprecht have written an eloquent and cohesive introduction that creates a cultural and historical context while also seamlessly weaving together developments in both dance studies and German cultural studies. The shift from Germanistik to Kulturwissenschaft sheds new light on historical contexts by addressing not only literary texts but by also turning the attention to discourse analysis. Grounded in eighteenth-century aesthetic discourse, the opening essay by Christina Thurner convincingly demonstrates that ballet reform of the time-in which more miming instead of virtuosic technique was used to convey natural emotion-allowed audience members to be moved immediately. In her contribution, Claudia Jeschke applies notions of alterity and otherness from contemporary sociology to the dancer Lola Montez and views Montez's heterogeneous identities as empowering and self-inventing.

While the contributors to the volume acknowledge previous research establishing the connections between Ausdruckstanz and National Socialism, it also employs the term Weimar Dance which includes other forms of performance such as cabaret. The next three contributions deal with dancers in exile. In her essay, Kate Elswit highlights the increasingly complex layers of Valeska Gerfis three forms of exile: artist as outsider, forced migration out of Germany, and remigration into Germany. Karen Mozingo looks at Lotte Goslar's clowning as an alternative to brooding Ausdruckstanz and her fairy tales as a critique on the romanticized view of women. Tresa Randall provides a fascinating perspective on Hanya Holm, who upheld many of Mary Wigman's ideas such as Tanzgemeinschaft and at the same time was able to apply these concepts successfully onto American dancers. Instead of focusing on the more narrow term of Ausdruckstanz, these three essays on exile dancers contribute further to widening the perspective of Weimar Dance as well as demonstrating their diverging paths.

This collection also includes essays devoted to dance's relationship to other media, namely (or principally) visual culture and film. By using images of Gret Palucca being photographed and photomontages from younger Bauhaus students, Susan Funkenstein analyzes how Palucca's dancing and persona influenced these artists' creative projects. Funkenstein creates an alternative narrative focusing on the Bauhaus students and junior faculty instead of, as is typically the case, on the senior male artists. Susanne Franco conducts a fascinating study concerning Rudolph Laban's unrealized film projects that raise more probing questions than answers. She shows the relationship between Laban's dance theories and his projects as well as the Weimar film scene more broadly. …

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