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Watching Weimar Dance$
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Kate Elswit

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199844814

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199844814.001.0001

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Three Stories About Private Parts

Three Stories About Private Parts

(p.60) 3 Three Stories About Private Parts
Watching Weimar Dance

Kate Elswit

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers performances by female dancers whose appearances were addressed in terms of unveiling, even though they removed little or no clothing. The chapter focuses on the tautological logic between gossip about cabarettist Anita Berber’s lurid offstage life and her scantily clothed stage dances, which were called to stand for images of Weimar glitter and doom; the many misnomers about the supposedly desexualized Tiller Girls, including the unacknowledged fact that the most infamous performances attributed to them were danced by another troupe; and Gert’s fully-clothed prostitute dance Canaille that was discussed as an actual example of “the notorious Berlin nude dances” because of her vulnerability in performance. At a moment when female visibility was being renegotiated, the chapter demonstrates how such accounts used theatrical spectacle to explore the spectacle of the gendered body under consumer capitalism, arguing that the slipperiness of such historical accounts are revealing about the cultural work they did in testing the boundaries of the performer as herself commodity.

Keywords:   female, gender, spectacle, commodity, Anita Berber, Valeska Gert, Tiller Girls, sexualized, nudity, visibility, revue, cabaret, Canaille

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