History ETDs

Publication Date



From her birth in 1886 to her death in 1973, the life of German dancer Mary Wigman spanned the Wilhelmine Empire, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich and the post-war years. She stands as a seminal figure in what has come to be known as the modern dance. Her Ausdruckstanz or dance of expression was fundamental to the development of dance and theater in Germany and beyond. Her aesthetic ideas were disseminated across the European continent and traveled to the United States through her own touring from 1929-1932 and continued after the establishment of the Mary Wigman School in New York City in 1931. Her former pupil, Hanya Holm, brought Wigmans technique west and translated and adapted Wigman's ideas to the North American temperament. Wigman's work also can be viewed as an assimilation of many of the major artistic innovations of her time, Romantic Symbolism, Primitivism, Expressionism and Dada art, all gathered under the banner of Modernism. As an example of the New Woman of the Twentieth Century, she embraced her own version of modernity, one made complex by the political, economic and social upheavals of her time. Wigman carries many roles in the world of dance and theater. She stands as a trailblazer, a pedagogue and theoretician, an inspiration for many artists who followed, a conflicted figure caught in the political drama of her time, an intellectual, a mystic and the most pragmatic of arts administrators. The complexity of Wigman's persona cannot be overstated. Fundamentally, though, Wigman was an artist, the consummate soloist for whom performance was the moment of transcendence. This dissertation provides the key facts about Wigman's life including new information about her relationship with the Third Reich and her life following World War II. It also contains a detailed discussion of her philosophy and dance aesthetics with a focus on her major works.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Bokovoy, Melissa

Second Committee Member

Ferguson, Eliza

Third Committee Member

Bennahum, Judith



Document Type