Skoronel by Lotte Jacobi

Lotte Jacobi :: Die Tänzerin Vera Skoronel in Tanzpose vor einem Spiegel, 1930. Fotografie: Atelier Jacobi. | src Getty Images
Lotte Jacobi :: Die Tänzerin Vera Skoronel in Tanzpose vor einem Spiegel, 1930. Fotografie: Atelier Jacobi. | src Getty Images
Lotte Jacobi :: An der Berliner Tanzschule von Berthe Trümpy und Vera Skoronel, um 1925. © Staaliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek | src Zwanzigerjahre Die Weimarer Republik war ein Tanzparadies, direct link to image >
Schuelerinnen der Tanzschule Skoronel in Berlin. Tanzgruppe Skoronel-Truempy. Fotografie um 1930. Foto: Lotte Jacobi
Students at the Skoronel dance school in Berlin. Dance group Skoronel-Truempy. Photograph around 1930. Photo: Lotte Jacobi

Zwanzigerjahre Die Weimarer Republik war ein Tanzparadies / In the 1920s the Weimar Republic was a dance paradise

Nothing fascinated people in the Weimar Republic as much as dance. It was a worldview and a lot of fun at the same time. This was mainly due to the fact that women set the stress here for the first time.

There was the nude dance, the masked dance, the grotesque dance. There was the exotic, the ecstatic, the sacred and even the socially critical dance. Yes, at its peak in 1930, the youngest hope of this trendiest art movement of the epoch, Vera Skoronel, who had just created abstract dance, asked, boisterously and of course purely rhetorically: “Non-dancing – does that even exist?”

Vera Skoronel, almost forgotten today, is a good example of how quickly creative and vivacious young women were able to establish themselves in the avant-garde art scene of the 1920s. Because Vera Skoronel, who died in 1932 at the age of only 25 after a short illness, not only became co-director of Berthe Trümpy’s famous dance school in Berlin at the age of 20.

She also received a contract at the Volksbühne a short time later. There Vera Skoronel took over the movement direction for her own pieces, but also for those of the so-called workers’ speech choruses. At that time, they represented a new literary genre and bore promising titles such as “The Divided Man” or “Awakening of the Masses”.

Awakening the masses is the keyword. Because this very specific form of dance without music, which today is usually summarized under the rubrum “expressive dance”, as Mary Wigman and Gret Palucca had invented before the First World War, not only represented a rejection of the classic narrative ballet. It is also about a very fundamental farewell to bourgeois culture.

Like the Bauhaus in architecture and design, or like the Expressionist November Group in the visual arts, dance must be seen as a specific phenomenon of the Weimar Republic. Only conceivable in the turbulent and experimental interwar period. But the dance also carried a fair amount of youthful and typically German worldview with it. Because he really wanted to liberate, awaken, if not redeem.

Tanz als Religionsersatz / Dance as a substitute for religion

Awaken for what? Well, of course, first and foremost to the awareness of one’s own body in its naturalness and in allowing needs to be met. The barefoot dancer Isadora Duncan had already broken with the corseting of the dress code before the First World War. What was added after 1918 was the need to merge with other arts and to convert the old German treatment of art as a substitute for religion into new forms.

Another German cultural phenomenon quickly developed again: the splitting up into high culture and subculture. On the one hand, Anita Berber, who was incredibly popular at the time (she even became a Rosenthal porcelain figurine!) gave solos called “Morphium” or “Cocain”. And she tried to authenticate herself by taking these substances so intensively that she collapsed on the open stage in her late 20s and died shortly thereafter.

On the other hand, Charlotte Bara made herself the brand of a “Gothic dancer”. With deliberately slow movements, she aimed at the sacred, the priestly. Unlike Berber, she did not try to come to terms with the catastrophe of the world war in excess, but to come to terms with the tremendous suffering that the fateful four years had brought to Europe through a new spirituality.

Schmerzensgestik / Pain gesture

And that did not only appeal to Heinrich Vogeler in Worpswede, who left Art Nouveau behind and struggled with new forms after 1918. We owe him a particularly expressive portrait of the Bara, which presents her as almost ecstatically fervent. But even a moderate nature like Georg Kolbe was attracted to Charlotte Bara’s gestures of pain.

With Georg Kolbe we have arrived at the place where the most famous dancers of the Weimar Republic have once again gathered: in Kolbe’s studio museum in Berlin’s Westend. There are eleven of them – perhaps a small nod to the first avant-garde group in Berlin: the exhibition group “The Eleven”, which rallied around Max Liebermann in 1892.

Der absolute Tanz / The ultimate dance

Each of these dancers is different, each unmistakable, each swept up in the whirlpool of that time and often swallowed up by it early on. But they all have one thing in common: they take the viewer on a journey into a time that experienced a rare explosion of creativity. With a staggering abundance of testimonies, the exhibition“Der absolute Tanz” proves that no other art genre can be understood as a metaphor for the restless movement of the 1920s as clearly as dance.

With the help of films, photos, drawings, paintings and sculptures, the Georg Kolbe Museum evokes an attitude to life that seems to stretch in a very unique way between new beginnings here, self-wasting, self-consumption there.

The grotesque dancer Valeska Gert, one of the very few who were granted a comeback after the collapse of civilization, represents the radical side of this attitude towards life. At the peak of her career she said: “The old world is rotten, it cracks at every joint. I want to help break them. I believe in the new life. I want to help build it.”

Solidarität mit Bedürftigen / Solidarity with the needy

Jo Mihaly and Tatjana Barbakoff did the same, to introduce at least two more dancers. The former, whose real name is Elfriede Alice Kuhr, had chosen the name of a Roma-family as a pseudonym, which gave her the name Jo Mihaly out of gratitude, which means something like “one of them”. Mihaly was serious about her solidarity with the needy. For a long time she lived without a permanent address and was successful with solos called “Revolution” or “The Worker”, in which she also portrayed men. Like many of her colleagues, she continued her work in Switzerland after 1933: on Monte Verità.

Tatjana Barbakoff focused on exploring non-European cultures and experimenting with their dance traditions. She was a grateful object of the dance photography of the time, also a new artistic genre that is richly documented in the Georg Kolbe Museum. Anyone who looks at the recordings and sees Barbakoff performing her exotic movements in fantastic costumes cannot help but get the impression that our contemporaries are at work here.

Here, a feminine aesthetic speaks up, self-confident, curious, ready to test itself, which has only fully developed in recent years. We should take note of this dawn of modernity – and allow ourselves to be carried away by its verve.

„Der absolute Tanz. Tänzerinnen der Weimarer Republik“, Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin.

“The ultimate dance. Dancers of the Weimar Republic”, Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin.

quoted from Welt, roughly translated by us with the aid of Google-traductor, any amend will be welcome.

Skoronel by Hänse Herrmann

Vera Skoronel, Foto: Hänse Herrmann © Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig | src Georg Kolbe Museum in the framework of “Die absoluten Tänzerinnen”, available on Spotify (Episode 7)
“Vera Skoronel, a true exceptional talent of modern expressive dance. She was confident, charismatic, her enthusiasm infectious. “Not-to-dance – does that even exist?” she once asked, purely rhetorically, of course.” quoted from source
Hänse Herrmann :: Portät von die Tänzerin und Choreographin Vera Skoronel (1906-1932; eigentlich Vera Laemmel, Vera Lämmel) um 1928. Aufnahme: Hänse Herrmann. Originalaufnahme im Archiv von Ullstein Bild. | src Getty Images

Vera Skoronel · Tanzschule Trümpy

Hede Rohr :: Wieviel Arbeit gehört dazu, um so schöne Beine zu ertanzen! (Vera Skoronel), Berthe Trümpy Tanzschule, 1929. Uhu Magazin, Band 5 Heft 4.
Hede Rohr :: Vera vor dem Spiegel: Die Tänzerin Vera Skoronel versucht einen neuen Tanz [Vera in front of the mirror: the dancer Vera Skoronel tries a new dance], 1929. Uhu Magazin, Band 5 Heft 4.

Celebration in the Hotel Bristol

Hans Robertson – Atelier Robertson :: Celebration in the Hotel Bristol in Berlin. From left, standing row: Trude Engelhart (?), Grete Wallmann, Vera Skoronel, Gret Palucca, Yvonne Georgi. From left, sitting: Elisabeth Wigman, Mary Wigman, Berthe Trümpy, Hanya Holm; links Harald Kreutzberg, ca. 1929. Published in Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung [BIZ] 48/1929. | src Getty Images

Movement studies: Vera Skoronel

Suse Byk :: Bewegungsstudie Vera Skoronel, 1927-1928. © Staaliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek | src Georg Kolbe Museum FB

“Vera Skoronel hatte ein System entworfen, um dem freien Tanz ein festes Gerüst zu geben: da kurbelten, kreisten, wirbelten wir die Gliedmaßen ungeachtet der normalen Körpergesetze wild durcheinander; bekämpften Schwerkraft und Gleichgewicht, warfen unzählige Sprünge in die Luft oder stießen sie in die Erde; zwangen Muskeln, sich in anderen Dimensionen zu bewegen. […] Erst wenn der Körper frei ist von jeglichen Hemmungen, zeigt sich der beseelte Ausdruck im Tanz.”
Mit diesen Worten beschrieb die Skoronel-Schülerin Ilse Meuthner den Eindruck, den ihre Lehrerin in den 1920er-Jahren auf sie machte.
Das atemberaubende Tanzgeschehen, das vor einhundert Jahren in Berlin stattfand, ist Thema unserer aktuellen Ausstellung ‚Der absolute Tanz. Tänzerinnen der Weimarer Republik.‘

“Vera Skoronel designed a system to give free dance a solid framework: we cranked, gyrated, whirled our limbs wildly, regardless of the normal laws of the body; we fought gravity and balance, threw countless jumps in the air or pushed them into the ground Earth; forced muscles to move in other dimensions. […] Only when the body is free of any inhibitions does the soulful expression appear in the dance.”
With these words, the Skoronel student Ilse Meuthner described the impression her teacher made on her in the 1920s.
The breathtaking dance that took place in Berlin a hundred years ago is the subject of our current exhibition ‘Absolute Dance. Dancers of the Weimar Republic.’

[quoted from source]

Suse Byk :: Bewegungsstudie (movement study); Vera Skoronel, um 1928 © Lipperheidische Kostümbibliothek. | src Monopol magazine: Tänzerinnen der Weimarer Republik
Suse Byk :: Bewegungsstudie (movement study); Vera Skoronel, um 1927 © Lipperheidische Kostümbibliothek | src Georg Kolbe Museum on FB and Welt-Kultur

Mit expressiven Bewegungen, extravaganten Erscheinungsbildern und expliziten Vorstellungen von der eigenen Rolle in der Welt sprengten Tänzerinnen wie Vera Skoronel, Claire Bauroff, Tatjana Barbakoff und Anita Berber die Konventionen und Klischees ihrer Zeit. Es waren die Weimarer Jahre, ein Gefühl von Aufbruch lag in der Luft. Am 30. November 1918, also heute vor 102 Jahren, war das Frauenwahlrecht in Kraft getreten, bald darauf wurden erstmals weibliche Sportlerinnen zur Olympiade zugelassen. Während immer mehr Bürgerinnen von den Möglichkeiten Gebrauch machten, die vorangegangenen Generationen von Frauen verwehrt geblieben waren, wurden vor allem die Tänzerinnen dieser Ära zu Ikonen eines modernen Körper- und Selbstbewusstseins, das neben der Gesellschaft im Großen und Ganzen auch die bildende Kunst prägen sollte. Im Berlin der 1920er-Jahre belebte das neue Lebensgefühl auch die fruchtbare Verbindung von Tanz und Skulptur, welche auch Kolbe so wichtig war. Unsere neue Ausstellung „Der absolute Tanz – Tänzerinnen der Weimarer Republik“, die im Februar beginnt, spürt den radikalen Neuerungen und symbiotischen Wechselwirkungen nach, denen wir so vieles verdanken.

With expressive movements, extravagant appearances and explicit ideas of their own role in the world, dancers such as Vera Skoronel, Claire Bauroff, Tatjana Barbakoff and Anita Berber broke the conventions and clichés of their time. It was the Weimar years, and a sense of breakthrough was in the air. On November 30, 1918, 102 years ago today, women’s suffrage came into force, and soon afterwards female athletes were admitted to the Olympics for the first time. While more and more women made use of the opportunities that previous generations of women had been denied, the dancers of this era in particular became icons of a modern body and self-confidence that was to shape society as a whole as well as the fine arts. In Berlin in the 1920s, the new attitude towards life also enlivened the fruitful connection between dance and sculpture, which was also so important to Kolbe. Our new exhibition “Absolute Dance – Dancers of the Weimar Republic”, which begins in February, traces the radical innovations and symbiotic interactions to which we owe so much.

[quoted from source]

Vera Skoronel, 1920s

Suse Byk :: Vera Skoronel, Postkarte, Privatbesitz. | src Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin on FB
Suse Byk :: Vera Skoronel, Postkarte, Privatbesitz [cropped and enhanced by source]. | src Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin on FB

Hannah Höch scrapbook, 1933

From Hannah Höch’s Album page (scrapbook), 1933. 
left: Dancer Gret Palucca, ca. 1925. ph, by Charlotte Rudolph (top) & Ursula Richter (bottom).
right: “Stabhochsprung” Athete high jumping (pole vault) and “Starke Geste im modernen Ausdrucktanz (Die Wigmanschülerin Vera Skoronel)”. Expressionist dancer (Wigman student, Vera Skoronel) ph. by Suse Byk. | src Female artists
Suse Byk :: Vera Skoronel, Postkarte, Privatbesitz. | src Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin on FB
Charlotte Rudolph :: Gret Palucca in Hochsprung, ca. 1925. Published in monthly magazine UHU, Feb. 1926. Uhu magazin was published between 1924 and 1934 in Berlin by Ullstein Verlag. | direct link to source
Ursula Richter :: Dancer Gret Palucca, ca. 1925. Published in monthly magazine UHU, Februar 1926.