Moving bodies and political movement : dance in German modernism / Ji-Yun Song.
This study examines the relationship between aesthetics and politics in early twentieth century Germany by looking at the development of German modern dance, commonly known as Ausdruckstanz. Dance was at the forefront of the "modernist" movement during the Weimar Republic. Under the Nazi regime, modernist dance was used to represent a body politic that privileged choreographies of mass movement. I follow the early career of a pioneering dancer and choreographer, Mary Wigman. An artist who consciously self-identified herself as a "modernist" and yet worked under the Nazi regime, Wigman choreographed for various mass spectacles, including the 1936 Olympic Games. I show how Ausdruckstanz was rooted in the larger cultural context of the so-called Lebensreform movement and developed out of a utopian ideal of social renewal and a new form of "life". In this sense, I argue Ausdruckstanz evades the common association of modernism with "self-referentiality", "irony", and "individualism". By examining the representations of dancing bodies and mass movements in Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph des Willens, as well as in Bruno Frank's Politische Novelle and Thomas Mann's "Mario und der Zauberer", I further demonstrate how dance inspired various other arts of the time. In fact, it is through this utopian ideal of Ausdruckstanz that modernism attempted to understand its own aesthetic endeavor and political agenda. When the Nazis came to power, choreographies of mass movement that figured so prominently in Ausdruckstanz also became a highly visible medium for expressing the political ideology of National Socialism. My dissertation contributes to a wider understanding of German modernism by considering the hitherto neglected aspect of "performance" in order to illuminate the aesthetic origin of a politics of "mass movement".
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