Inspiration: Mary Wigman’s ‘Hexentanz,’ 1914; Israeli dancer: Yuval Gargir.
Yuval Gargir, 18, from the Bikurei Haitim dance training program, impersonates Mary Wigman in her famous “Hexentanz” (Witch Dance). Wigman (1886-1973) was the founder of the German expressionist school, which illustrates the German predilection for reconstruction rather than revolution. Her 1914 “Witch Dance” epitomizes her work and its focus − the need to liberate dance from its enslavement to music, rhythm and story, and its ability to embody the deepest innermost feelings. It is a mystical work that Wigman viewed as a spiritual experience of renewing the bond between man and universe.
Dance critic Margaret Lloyd described Wigman’s dance as the ecstasy of sorrow, emphasizing the demonic and the macabre, as if the artist was striving, through movement, to chase away the evil demons in man’s nature. But Wigman’s works also have a lighter, more lyrical side, as in her 1930 piece “Shifting Landscape.”
Wigman was born in Hanover and studied eurythmics with Émile Jaques-Dalcroze in Dresden and later with Rudolf Laban in Switzerland and Germany until 1919. She performed her first works in silence or to the sounds of a gong. Her choreographic career began with “Hexentanz” and continued all the way through the 1960s. Her main center of activity was in Dresden, where she founded and ran a school of dance, but she also toured Europe and America numerous times. Although American modern dancers were intrigued by her, they developed different forms of modern dance.
The Nazi regime viewed Wigman as a leftist and deemed her dances decadent. Her school was appropriated and she was forced to fire all the Jewish dancers. During World War II, the Nazis allowed her to teach dance in Leipzig, and she remained in the city under Soviet occupation until 1949, when she fled to West Berlin and founded another dance school. In the 1950s, she created works for the Berlin and Mannheim Operas.