Univeristy of Roehampton Assignment

Performance of Heritage
Curatorial Project

The Galerie Berinson hosts Valeska Gert
Performing Valeska

Performing Valeska

Janet-13

Janet-13

JanetCollard2

JanetCollard2

Performing Valeska

Performing Valeska

Janet-40

Janet-40

You see here in colorful pictures

The life of Valeska Gert

You see it from the beginning,

And not in reverse

 

Here you see Valeska

As a baby small and delicate, In its first gestures so sweet and so attractive.

The great war-and many worries, the great war and Berlin falls on its face.

The people, are all disjointed, she shows them as they are

 

And finally dance – the dance of tomorrow – She was, the dance of tomorrow. 

 

She danced – and one screamed: There was never anythin’ like this!!!

 

But always dance, in each form

She explodes the boundaries and the norm,

She danced the day of the whore, the poet, the crash

The sin and the prayer, the bold and the brash

 

You saw here in these pictures, the life of Valeska Gert

You can go, see her in person at the Witch and Beggars Bar

She shows you, how to see people, true and bad, just as they are……..

 

                                     

The Great War, and many worries

The Great War and Berlin falls on its face,

The people are all disjointed, she shows them as they are.

 

And finally dance, the dance of tomorrow, she was the woman and film star, she danced and one screamed: “There was never anythin’ like this”

 

But always dance, in each form

She explodes the boundaries and the norm,

She danced the day of the whore, the poet, the crash

The sin and the prayer, the bold and the brash

 

You saw here in these pictures, the life of Valeska Gert

You can go, see her in person at the Witch and Beggars Bar

She shows you, how to see people, true and bad, just as they are……..

The Galerie Berinson is hosting Valeska Gert/Janet Collard as part of its early 20th century avant-garde artist collection.  This will be a new venture for the gallery as they mainly focus their exhibits on visual artists’ paintings and drawings.  Different from the still image, they are opening their gallery space to the moving image, the dancing image of the artist Valeska Gert.  Valeska Gert was an avant-garde performer of Weimar Berlin whose work spanned the genres of dance, theatre, film and sound/vocal exploration.  Her work was grotesque and feminist in nature, doing pioneering and experimental performance that defied being put into any pre-conceived artistic box.  Avant-garde is what we often use to describe Valeska Gert’s artistic oeuvre, but Valeska herself rejected any labels.  Although, her dance solos could be akin to Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre, after all, he did tell her as much in a conversation they had, Valeska played Mrs. Peachum in the original film version of The Three Penny Opera.  But Valeska didn’t equate her performances with Brecht’s new style of theatre, however you can see modern artistic influences of the times in her work from expressionist dance, dada aesthetics and film montage.  Valeska made a name for herself by creating dance solos based on real life happenings around her in the city of Berlin.  She performed street scenes in the dance Traffik where she danced a traffic guard and a car crash.  She also took inspiration from the Berlin prostitutes, of which there were many, making a dance titled Canaille.  This dance may have been the most controversial as she performed an orgasm onstage in which the police were called on occasion on charges of indecency. 

 

My history with Valeska Gert began in 2005 at Mills College as a modern dance student I was immediately struck by the provocative images of this early modern dancer who I had never heard of before and who looked so different from the early modern dancers I had learned about in previous dance history classes.  The image; her clothes, her shape was so very different from that of any image of other dance canons such as Martha Graham, with her shiny slicked back hair and perfectly symmetrical make-up, or other German dance contemporaries such as Mary Wigman and Hanya Holm with their svelte figures and perfectly tailored costumes making quintessential early modern dance poses.  This dancer stood out as something other and unique even amongst her peers.  I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.  That intrigue and curiosity proved to be a decade long journey into discovering all I could about Valeska Gert; her career, body of work and life and times.

            As a dance artist, I became interested in studying her movement language of her early dances, of which very little visual documentation exists.  For the next several years I continued to do research on Valeska Gert which was not an easy task, the archives of her life’s work especially her early dances were fragmentary, showing up in a blog post here, an essay there, but not a lot of concrete information in one place.  But there are many images, she is well photographed and some video snippets of her dancing does exist.  Considering the methodology of dance re-enactment, I set out on the task of putting the pieces back together of Valeska’s early dances.  Her work demanded a realism, a literal interpretation/re-creation through a contemporary body as Martin Nachbar in the Oxford Handbook of Dance Reenactment states, ‘they are what give us the clues with which to examine the dance archive as a place where documents of past dances are stored, from the particular point of view of a dance artist, whose intention is to bring the study of documents into movement’. (Nachbar, 2017: 2)

The spaces of the Galerie Berinson will allow me to continue to explore the dances of Valeska Gert in the presence of other ‘early 20th century avant-garde artist movements’. (Galerie Berinson, para: 1) Continuing a 21st century fascination and education with this era of pioneering modernist and feminist art. 

Galerie Berinson.png