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Research Guides

Chamber Dance Company Archive: Mary Wigman

A unique collection of video documenting the UW Chamber Dance Dance Company's over 25 year history of performing modern dance classics.

Mary Wigman

German modern dance pioneer, performer, choreographer, teacher

Born 13 November 1886 in Hanover, Germany. Died 18 September 1973 in West Berlin, Germany.

German modern dance pioneer Mary Wigman had little formal dance training before she attended the Dalcroze School at the age of twenty-three. She studied there for two years, obtaining a teaching certificate prior to leaving in 1912. Her ideas about the liberation of dance from traditional, predetermined steps by the utilization of improvisation and the honoring of an internal sense of motion, rhythm and expressive gesture grew in depth and sophistication as Wigman studied and collaborated with Rudolf von Laban from 1913-1919. Laban envisioned dance moving beyond the balletic narrative and past the confines of paralleling musical structures to a stage where “dance discovers its own terms of expression” a juncture Wigman exemplifies.

Wigman's choreographic repertoire spans more than forty-five years and includes works that were vital in establishing modern dance’s stature as an art. Her reputation as a magnetic performer and progressive choreographer drew in students to the school that she opened in Dresden in 1920. With dancers hand-picked from the school, Wigman toured extensively, performing group and solo works throughout Europe. In her artistic journey, Wigman explored the balance of narrative and abstraction thus plotting the expressive human form through space, and creating a nuanced tome in the language of dance.

Watch some of Mary Wigman's dances, including Witch DanceSwinging Landscapes, and excerpts of others, as well as interviews, at the Media Arcade in Vol. 6 of the Chamber Dance Company Archive (DVD UWDP 001 v.6).