Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

David Ferris

Second Advisor

Ruth Mas

Third Advisor

Jennifer Peterson

Abstract

My dissertation examines the historical trajectory of Ausdruckstanz (1908-1936) from its break with Renaissance court ballet up through its transmission into Tanztheater and contemporary styles of postmodern dance. The purpose of this study is to examine the different modes of expression as indicated by the character, form, style, and concept of Ausdruckstanz, Tanztheater and contemporary dance. Through a close analysis of select case studies, each chapter provides a critical analysis of the stylistic innovations and conceptual problems evidenced by the choreographies from each movement. Ausdruckstanz challenged the traditional forms of dance given its necessity to convey subjective experiences and feelings through movements that were incompatible with the rigid structures and restrictive costumes of classical ballet. The problematic of this historical account follows.

Expressionist principles of individuality and subjective emotion produced an inflation and exaggeration of personal identity that proved problematic given its ideological tendencies. This impasse further distanced Ausdruckstanz from engaging with the presence of movement that was concealed by historical narratives and stagnant forms repeated by traditional styles of classical ballet. As a result, an emphasis on mechanical and formal concepts of movement was created to counteract the lack of critical distance and superfluous emotion that was prevalent in the choreographic works of Ausdruckstanz. Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus figures and Pina Bausch’s use of repetition in Tanztheater indicate the attempt to curb this individuality crisis through its formal mechanisms. However, since both of these technical styles relied on the concept of spatialization as derived from theatrical conventions, they subsequently failed to radically disrupt the representational value of dance.

With the establishment of contemporary dance in the late 1950s, a significantly different experience of temporality emerged that rejected the representational value of movement. When the object of dance is dance itself, the tendency towards ideological or content oriented claims is negated. In reframing how time is experienced, the presence of movement is seen through its immediacy and rhythmic configurations. This different experience of time marks a crucial intervention in the historical trajectory of modern dance insofar that form does not predicate itself upon an ideological content.

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