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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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The Politics of Watching

The Politics of Watching

Staging Sacrifice Across the Atlantic

(p.95) 4 The Politics of Watching
Watching Weimar Dance

Kate Elswit

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with Mary Wigman’s 1930 Totenmal collaboration with Swiss poet Albert Talhoff. The multimedia spectacle’s invocation of the World War I dead was meant to be “apolitical” even though it has retrospectively been read ideologically in terms of a proto-fascist aesthetic. Soon after, Wigman toured her solo dance cycle Opfer around the United States. This chapter considers watching as a form of political activity by comparing divergent audience responses on both sides of the Atlantic to these two late Weimar-era performances that were constructed from similar components and addressed themes of sacrifice and human fate. By focusing on the ideologies of reception, including the multiple models of community in play and the power of underreading, this chapter locates the politics of dance in how its spectators negotiated its meaning. In so doing the chapter offers a new perspective that neither situates dance as a dress rehearsal for German fascism nor neglects its continuities.

Keywords:   Mary Wigman, Albert Talhoff, Totenmal, Opfer, fascist aesthetics, transatlantic, tour, Politics, World War I, dead, ideology, United States, Fascism, underreading, apolitical, community

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