The cross-cultural rituals of twentieth-century dance: Mary Wigman, Martha Graham, Pina Bausch

Weir, Lucy Gabrielle Ann (2013) The cross-cultural rituals of twentieth-century dance: Mary Wigman, Martha Graham, Pina Bausch. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis provides a re-reading of the development of twentieth-century dance, focusing on the choreographic work and creative processes of Mary Wigman, Martha Graham, and Pina Bausch. Using these individuals as markers of three distinct temporal stages of contemporary dance, I argue that avant-garde dance practice throughout the twentieth-century was irrevocably associated with, and influenced by, the aesthetics and ritual practices of non-Western cultures. Instead of charting a chronological structure, I have used a thematic framework based on the concept of ritual performance, beginning with fertility rites (as espoused by different choreographies of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring), before moving on to explore masking devices, conceptions of national and cultural identity, and mourning and commemoration.

Through a series of individual case study analyses, this thesis maps the impact of inter-cultural exchange on the development of non-classical dance. I posit that, as modern dance emerged and evolved throughout the twentieth-century, practitioners consistently drew strong influence from cross-cultural aesthetics; I focus specifically on links between Western (represented by Germany and the United States) and non-Western (including Japanese and Native American) performance. Using evidence drawn from primary source material, including original film footage, photography and personal effects, I construct separate analyses of commonalities in the work of Wigman, Graham, and Bausch, arguing that the ritualistic themes of their work can be viewed as a pattern for the development of contemporary dance more broadly.

My research identifies previously unexplored sources of influence upon these artists. This thesis presents a re-evaluation of established discourse by focusing on a foreign influence that has not been identified in current research as a common thread linking these three artists; while connections have been established between German and American early modern dance, the reciprocal influence of Western practice on Far Eastern performance is comparatively uncharted territory. In the second half of this thesis, I outline the response to this cross-cultural dialogue, focusing on the postmodern artistic practice of groups in Japan, Austria and Germany. Accordingly, this thesis deconstructs the notion of cultural isolation, arguing instead that, as a logical outcome of this inter-cultural exchange, dance in the postmodern era is informed by a legacy of universalised, ritualistic practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Dance, Dada, Modernism, Orientalism, Martha Graham, Mary Wigman, Pina Bausch, Butoh, Viennese Actionism, Performance Art
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Lewer, Dr. Deborah and Heinrich, Dr. Anselm
Date of Award: 2013
Embargo Date: 23 June 2017
Depositing User: Lucy Gabrielle Ann Weir
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4033
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2013 09:27
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2017 13:44

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