The dynamics between gender and body in Weimar Germany explored through images and case studies
Imagine yourself in Weimar Germany: you are visually inundated with depictions of dance. Perusing a women’s magazine, you find photograph after photograph of leggy revue starlets, clad in sequins and feathers, coquettishly smiling at you. When you attend an art exhibition, you encounter Otto Dix’s six-foot-tall triptych Metropolis, featuring Charleston dancers in the latest luxurious fashions, or Emil Nolde’s watercolors of Mary Wigman, with their luminous blues and purples evoking her choreographies’ mystery and expressivity. Invited to the Bauhaus, you participate in the Metallic Festival, and witness the school’s transformation into a humorous, shiny, technological total work of art; you costume yourself by strapping a metal plate to your head, admire your reflection in the tin balls hanging from the ceiling, and dance the Bauhaus’ signature step in which you vigorously hop and stomp late into the night.
Yet behind the razzle dazzle of these depictions and experiences was one far more complex involving issues of gender and the body during a tumultuous period in history, Germany’s first democracy (1918-1933). Rather than mere titillation, the images copiously illustrated and analyzed in Marking Modern Movement illuminate how visual artists and dancers befriended one another and collaborated together. In many ways because of these bonds, artists and dancers forged a new path in which images revealed artists’ deep understanding of dance, their dynamic engagement with popular culture, and out of that, a possibility of representing women dancers as cultural authorities to be respected. Through six case studies, Marking Modern Movement explores how and why these complex dynamics occurred in ways specific to their historical moment.
Extensively illustrated and with color plates, Marking Modern Movement is a clearly written book accessible to general readers and undergraduates. Coming at a time of a growing number of major art museums showcasing large-scale exhibitions on images of dance, the audience exists for a substantial general-public interest in this topic. Conversing across German studies, art history, dance studies, gender studies, and popular culture studies, Marking Modern Movement is intended to engage readers coming from a wide range of perspectives and interests.
Susan Funkenstein is a Lecturer in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, at the University of Michigan.
"The visual imagery addressed in her book is diverse. It includes collage, drawings and paintings, photography, prints, mass-circulation periodicals like Uhu and Elegante Welt, and ephemera (e.g., posters and invitations), all of which, she argues, fixed the dancing body in interwar Germany... the study is on the whole illuminating and presents a vast wealth of archival details and artworks that will surely enrich survey courses and future scholarship on this topic"- Women's Art Journal
—Women's Art Journal
"This book is well written in engaging prose and uses accessible language free of jargon. The color illustrations are essential to gain a visual understanding of the analyzed images and documents... Scholars, postgraduate and undergraduate students in the fields of dance studies, German studies, visual arts culture, gender studies, and popular culture studies would deem this book as essential reading"- German Quarterly
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