Crossing the borders of German and *American modernism: Exile and transnationalism in the dance works of Valeska Gert, Lotte Goslar, and Pola Nirenska

Mozingo, Karen A.   The Ohio State University ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  2008. 3375422.

Abstract (summary)

"Crossing the Borders of German and American Modernism: Exile and Transnationalism in the Dance Works of Valeska Gert, Lotte Goslar, and Pola Nirenska," focuses on three German dancers who fled into American exile as a result of Hitler's rise to power in 1933. Valeska Gert's exile cabarets created a multiracial and transsexual space in which her own exile and artistic identity could take shape. Lotte Goslar used clowning and fairy tales to subvert conventional images of women in dance and theatre. Pola Nirenska used dance to renarrate her history and connect her to the larger community of Holocaust survivors.

Though a handful of established dancers in German dance history, like Mary Wigman or Gret Palucca, have received the attention of scholars since World War II, the careers of many exiled dancers have not been studied. Scholars have studied the contributions of some of the major women in American modern dance—Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey—but their careers do not reveal the full history of women in American modern dance. Both American and German dance scholarship has developed within the boundaries of a constricted idea of national and artistic identities, resulting in the omission of artistic influences that flowed in both directions over the Atlantic.

Gert, Goslar, and Nirenska's artistic strategies situated them at a unique juncture between several polarities within the modern dance community: dance versus theatre, German versus American modernism, national identity versus transnational identity, content-based choreography versus design-based choreography, improvisational techniques versus codified techniques, and popular versus concert. All three women pushed the boundaries of American and German definitions of dance and subverted the nationalist representations of race and gender that were integral to both dance traditions. My study is a social and cultural history which integrates perspectives from multiple theoretical disciplines including feminist autobiographical theory, cultural theory, theatre studies, and dance analysis. Through archival research, interviews, and critical analysis, I examine the choreographic works, writings, photographs, and videos that document their artistic lives in exile and reveal a major—but as yet undiscovered—aspect of modernist art and its international traits.

Indexing (details)

Womens studies;
0378: Dance
0453: Womens studies
0465: Theater
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Social sciences; American; Dance; Exile; Germany; Gert, Valeska; Goslar, Lotte; Modernism; Nirenska, Pola; Theater; Transnationalism
Crossing the borders of German and *American modernism: Exile and transnationalism in the dance works of Valeska Gert, Lotte Goslar, and Pola Nirenska
Mozingo, Karen A.
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 70/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Ferris, Lesley
The Ohio State University
University location
United States -- Ohio
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
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