5 Free Dance, Rhythmical Gymnastics, Expressionist Dance

Beginning in 1892, Loïe Fuller appeared with her Danses lumineuses in the Paris Folies Bergère. Using turning movements and performed in a costume of long lengths of silk, her dance created moving images, as a predecessor of the cinema, in an interplay with electrical light and color projections.[22] For Fuller, music was only one of her visually rhythmizing elements.[23] The body is dissolved as a projection surface in multimedia-generated movement and interacts with the costume and light installation. In light of the detachment of the dance as an image from the person of the dancer in Fuller’s performances, Paul Valéry takes recourse to Mallarmé’s conception of the absolute text as embodied in absolute dance.[24] Valeska Gert, who also appeared in cabaret, considered integrating noises at a level equal to that of music in order to root her satirical and grotesque dances in an urban context. However, she never implemented this early form of sampling.[25] For Isadora Duncan, music was the main inspiration, and improvisation the strategy to rediscover the natural cadences of human movements, which she saw conveyed in the works of Frédéric Chopin or Richard Wagner.[26] Music forms the filter, through which the individual finds his or her own unique expression. Building on François Delsarte’s theories, Emile Jacques-Dalcroze developed rhythmical gymnastics, in which rhythm is considered the key to every bodily expression.[27] The notion that the visual level builds on the rhythmic structure of the body inspired the reanimation of choric movement in Ausdruckstanz.

Ausdruckstanz (also called modern dance, German dance, expressionist dance) developed in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Rudolf von Laban and Mary Wigman called for the emancipation of dance from music: A b s o l u t e dance, in other words the mute dance, or that to which music and dance are subordinated as accompaniment, will always remain the purest expression of the dance form.[28] For Wigman, music weakens the immediacy of the dance expression, which should derive directly from authentic experience without detouring through an external stimulus. In Hexentanz (1926), music is used as noise, as an intensifying, dynamic means subordinated to the structure of movement.[29]

Rudolf von Laban initially composed in a tonal system with no division into measures. In class, Laban’s pupils accompanied one another, but not until they had become familiar with the rhythmic laws of their body, so as not to imitate what was only appropriate to music, but not themselves.[30] Laban’s system of dance notation, published as Kinetographie in 1928, is still one of the most widespread forms of notation today. It makes use of a line system similar to music notation, in which the measures serve the division of time, and it is read from bottom to top, rather than from left to right. The movement of the left half of the body is notated on the left and that of the right half of the body on the right. Signs are used to indicate the measure of time, positioning, direction, arm and leg gestures, distribution of weight, accentuation, phrasing, and paths through space.[31]


Timelines:1890 – 1950
Workdescriptions from this text