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Mary Wigman


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(orig. Marie Wiegmann; b Hanover, 13 Nov. 1886; d Berlin, 18 Sept. 1973)

German dancer, choreographer, teacher, and leading pioneer of European modern dance. In 1911 she began studying with Dalcroze in Hellerau/Dresden and then from 1913 with Laban in Munich and Zurich, becoming his assistant. She gave her first solo recital in 1914 in the earliest version of her famous solo Witch Dance, whose distorted body shapes and dramatic intensity prefigured the spare expressionism of her mature and extremely influential style. She worked largely without music and her dances had no plot. Further recitals in Zurich and Hamburg (1919) established her reputation and in 1920 she opened her own school in Dresden which became the centre of German modern dance. Holm, Georgi, and Palucca were among her pupils and also appeared in her performing group. She choreographed many solos and group dances and toured widely, making her London debut in 1928. Branches of her school were established throughout Germany, and the one in the US, under Holm's direction, numbered almost 2,000 pupils. She was condemned by the Nazis, who closed her school, and she gave up performing in 1942. After the war she opened a school in Leipzig and in 1949 moved to W. Berlin where her school again became a focus of European modern dance activity. She also began choreographing for several German opera houses, including Gluck's Orpheus and Euridice (fully choreographed, Leipzig, 1947, and later for Berlin Opera Ballet, 1961), Stravinsky's Sacre du printemps (Municipal Opera, Berlin, 1957), and Gluck's Alcestis (Mannheim, 1958). She was author of Deutsche Tanzkunst (Dresden, 1935), Die Sprache des Tanzes (Stuttgart, 1963, American trans. The Language of the Dance, Middletown, Conn., 1966), and the posthumous Mary Wigman Book (ed. W. Sorrell, Middletown, Conn., 1973).

Subjects: Performing artsDance

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