1. Through their gentle walk, the nymphs of Act I make us aware that Orpheus is remembering Eurydice not as a woman, but rather as a classically stylized embodiment of feminine grace. The psychological trauma that could cause a fixation upon a classicist vision of women serves as the focal point of Wilhelm Jensen’s short story Gradiva, Greek bas relief of woman walking that inspired Wilhem Jensen's story "Gradiva"which in turn was the focus of Sigmund Freud’s first literary analysis in 1907. Jensen describes a young archeologist named Norbert who is in love with the classical walk of a young woman he names Gradiva; this woman he finds depicted on an ancient Roman copy of a Greek relief associated with Pompei. Jensen’s Gradiva walks dynamically forward with the very raised back foot characteristic of Eurydice’s Apollonian grace. Norbert becomes aware of his long suppressed desire for a childhood friend through a series of dreams and through his study of Gradiva’s Greek walk. This walk turns out to be his lost friend’s walk, transformed into a safe, archeological, classicized, stone form—the symbol for Freud of Norbert’s sexual repression. The woman he once loved recognizes his trauma and follows Norbert to Pompei, transforming herself into a living Gradiva and walking in front of him in order to break through his insanity and lead him back to a healthy erotic life.

  2. Enveloped in a dreamy blue light,32 overwhelmed by the disembodied sound of choral singing from behind the curtain, Jaques-Dalcroze’s Orpheus seems to be inhabiting the same dream world as Jensen’s archaeologist, haunted by a similar archaeological manifestation of his own sexual repression. He dreams in Act I of an Apollonian Eurydice, whose beautifully arched ankle not only symbolizes her classical perfection, but also the impossibility of that ideal—she is in hell after all because she was bitten by a snake and thus brought to her death. Like Jensen’s archeologist, Jaques-Dalcroze’s Orpheus will attempt to face the emotions hiding beneath his nostalgic fixation on an archaic image. He will experience in Act II a terrifying visual nightmare, leading him to a direct confrontation with Eurydice herself.

  3. Before he finds Eurydice, however, he must confront Amor—a character that never physically appeared on Appia’s stage at all. Amor’s voice, though, was heard “like a promise” from behind the stage as Eurydice’s tomb opened, revealing a brilliant light from another world (Ernst Ansermet, qtd. in Appia 122). Inspired by Rudolf Steiner and Gurdijieff, the lighting technician for the show, Alexandre Salzmann, imbued Amor’s light with moral and spiritual significance. Martin Buber described the space created by this light as “unnamable”: “It is shaped by a principle whose name we do not yet know and of which we know only a symbol drawn from the senses: creative light” (Martin Buber 82). From Jaques-Dalcroze’s Amor, Apollo passes on to Orpheus the clarifying light of reason, which he then takes with him to fight the furies in the underworld.

  4. In Jaques-Dalroze’s production of Orpheus’s famous second act, Emmi Leisner (as Orpheus) enters the dream of Hades by descending Appia’s long dramatic flight of stairs. She is accompanied not by Orpheus’s famous lyre, but rather by a powerful light that increases in brilliance as she moves downwards, symbolizing Orpheus’s role as an enlightened artist and Apollonian hero who brings with him reason, music, and the word.33 stage set of staircase dramtically lit designed by Appia This emblematic light defined Orpheus as the spiritual leader, or elite of his community—as one of the “progressives” who “marched alone, lighting the way,” and whom Jaques-Dalcroze believed the masses necessarily had to follow (Le Rythme 13; original). Emmi Leisner had trained in rhythmic gymnastics for several months before taking on the part of Orpheus; she used her training particularly in this scene, allowing Orpheus to invade the physical space of the furies and shadows in his attempts to tame them. In this hell, the furies confront Orpheus with the vivid specter of his own sexuality, singing and dancing a series of violent movements, choreographed by Jaques-Dalcroze’s student, Anne Beck.34 Audiences were particularly excited to see this famous scene staged as they imagined it may have been in the eighteenth century, before the decline of ballet and dance.35 Jaques-Dalcroze also gave the furies more opportunity in which to move by opening the scene with the “Dance of the Furies,” a number Gluck had originally written for the reform ballet Don Juan (1761), and that he later added to the Parisian version of Orpheus in 1774.36 Jaques-Dalcroze also repeated the furies’ more commonly known dance no. 20 after the chorus no. 23, causing slight dramatic and harmonic confusion, and demonstrating that he was less interested in Orpheus’s ability to overwhelm the furies with his harmonies and vocal sound than in their presentation of a Dionysian sexual threat through plastique animée.

  5. In bringing the furies to life, Jaques-Dalcroze undoubtedly had before him not only Isadora Duncan’s recreation of the “Dance of the Furies” photo of Isadora Duncan as a Bacchantefrom Gluck’s Orpheus of 1911, but also Wagner’s more famous designs for the Bacchanal in Tannhäuser.37 In the period between Wagner and Jaques-Dalcroze, choruses of angry women (either Bacchanten, Maenades, or Furies), were established as a dominant trope, providing a Dionysian image of the feminine that dialectically opposed the Apollonian grace presented in Act I. Jaques-Dalcroze intensified the threatening allure of these spirits by dividing the furies up into opposing groups of furies and shadows, each of whom wore different costumes and acted independently of each other. The furies sexually provoked not only Orpheus, but also their audiences, by dressing in shocking new maillots resembling modern gymnastic suits and seen in Hellerau publicly for the first time.38photo of orpheus with the blessed spirits dressed in Greek robes Many members of the audience found it unsettling to see the rapid individual motions of their glistening white limbs and felt overwhelmed by the sea of moving bodies squirming and twisting before them: “it was just a mass of swarming larvae, I don’t know what fantastic image of Gustav Doré or what evocation of Dante,” Ernst Ansermet shuddered (Appia 122; original). Photo of Orpheus with furies dressed in maillots“Imagine,” George Bernard Shaw told a friend, “all the pupils at the school, heaped on the floor in a dim light and tossing their arms and legs about looked like heaps of snakes in hell” (Bernard Shaw 126).39

  6. The famous dance of the furies from Don Juan offered Jaques-Dalcroze an entirely different rhythmic framework from that of the nymph’s walking lament of Act I. He cut out the mysterious trembling in the first ten measures of Gluck’s score, starting the dance immediately with the powerfully simple progression that begins at m. 11 (Müller 91).40 drawing of gesturing furies Each chord here receives a four-bar dramatic emphasis and spectacular hammering out on the accented first beat of each bar, giving Annie Beck occasion to have the furies and shadows thrust themselves from one sharp, terrifyingly tense body position into another, designed to match the violence of the downbeats. Hans Brandenburg remembered that “the furies’ intentional, accentuated stamping added a coarsening, impertinent instrument to the music,” and that they unfortunately “stuck too much to the bar line, rather than advancing to the grand, freely controlled line of a rhythmic movement” (Brandenburg 82; original). The tension of the music was so dramatic that even years after Tristan, Jaques-Dalcroze’s audiences practically fell off their seats, each time the rondo dance’s motto dissonance recurred (as in m. 316 where it is a vii/E over a pedal E). (Listen to Ex. 3; download size 653K)

  7. Unlike Wilhelm Jensen’s archaeologist, Orpheus is not awakened by this musical and visual nightmare to the hidden meanings of his archaic Eurydician vision. Rather, he remains in a state of troubling psychological blindness that is significant for Jaques-Dalcroze’s interpretation of the opera. After overcoming the furies through the transcendence of his pure light and sincere song, Orpheus confronts in Elysium not the vibrant young woman Freud found behind the classical relief of Gradiva, but rather Eurydice as a glorious Apollonian presence. Skeptical about the female body’s base urges, Jaques-Dalcroze presented the real Eurydice as even more chaste than Orpheus’s memory of her. This classicized, chaste depiction of Eurydice emphasized Jaques-Dalcroze’s belief that in plastique animée women had to transcend their own corporeality through classicization, relinquish their connection with their sexuality or instinct, and mold themselves aesthetically into art.41 Appia and Jaques-Dalcroze were so convinced of this process that they suggested that their students dance in the nude, because:

    … as the idea of sex diminishes in their artistic fever and thanks to the will they have to consecrate themselves entirely to beauty and truth of expression, and as their bodies are penetrated by feeling, so they sense that they would be committing a sin against the spirit by not respecting the nudity of the human body. (Appia 14; original)

    Eurydice joins her chorus in expressing a dance of idyllic bliss and sorrow. Although no photographs survive documenting the blessed spirit’s visual appearance and movement style, reviews suggest that this chorus resembled the nymphs of Act I in their dignified gestures and serene music.42 They presented “attitudes couchées,”43 mirroring the rhythmic vitality of Appia’s innovative and visionary stage design by dancing with “imperceptible elevations of their arms,” “inclined heads,” and “slow evolutions” (Ansermet, qtd. in Appia 124). Ernest Ansermet marveled at how perfectly Eurydice realized the music of Gluck’s famous flute solo in dance no. 31 (qtd. in Appia 124). In Berlioz’s opinion, this dance expressed the “sublime lament of a suffering and despairing spirit,” and “eternal grief, still imbued with the passions of earthly life” better than any other in the repertoire (228).

  8. As Orpheus attempts to bring Eurydice to the earth’s surface in the most famous and troubling scene in the opera, she expresses for the first timeGreek bas relief of woman flanked by two men that inspired Rainer Maria Rilke's poem the desires that constitute her subjectivity. He marches proudly to the surface in his music, making no attempt to communicate to her through dance or gesture, although these expressive means have not been forbidden by the gods. (Click here for text) Dalcroze emphasized Orpheus’s and Eurydice’s failure to develop mutual trust and rise to the surface as a unified force by adding trumpets, horns, and trombones to the instrumental interludes. This instrumentation gives Orpheus’s march an ominous tone, suggesting that his strict rhythms do not match Eurydice’s lyric dance (Müller 92). Eurydice herself takes on the allure of the timid young woman depicted on a Greek relief, one that Rainer Maria Rilke—a subsequent visitor to Hellerau—described in the poem “Orpheus, Eurydice and Hermes” (written in 1904). Rilke’s Eurydice does not provoke repressed desire through revealing sexual allure, but rather teaches Orpheus through her own Apollonian form about the serene transformation she experienced in the service of musical ideas and through her own human death. The poem's Eurydice walks again, but this time:

    … unsicher, sanft und ohne Ungeduld.
    Sie war in sich, wie Eine hoher Hoffnung,
    und dachte nicht des Mannes, der voran ging,
    und nicht des Weges, der ins Leben aufstieg.
    Sie war in sich. Und ihr Gestorbensein
    erfüllte sie wie Fülle.

    Confused, gentle, and without impatience.
    She was absorbed, like a woman great with hope,
    and took no notice of the man who walked ahead
    Or of the path that led them up toward life.
    She was absorbed. And her death-existence
    Filled her like fullness itself.

    . . .

    Sie war in einem neuen Mädchentum
    und unberührbar; ihr Geschlecht war zu
    wie eine junge Blume gegen Abend,
    und ihre Hände waren der Vermählung
    so sehr entwöhnt, daß selbst des leichten Gottes
    unendlich leise, leitende Berührung
    sie kränkte wie zu sehr Vertraulichkeit.

    . . .

    She was inside a new virginity
    and was untouchable; her sex was closed
    like a young flower in the evening,
    and her hands had now grown so unused to marriage
    that even the light god’s guiding touch,
    endlessly gentle, sickened her,
    Like too much intimacy.

    Sie war schon nicht mehr diese blonde Frau,
    die in des Dichters Liedern manchmal anklang,
    nicht mehr des breiten Bettes Duft und Eiland
    und jenes Mannes Eigentum nicht mehr.

    . . .

    She was no longer that blond woman
    who sometimes echoed in the poet’s songs,
    no longer the wide bed’s fragrance and island,
    And that man’s property no more.

    . . .

    Sie war schon Wurzel.

    Und als plötzlich jäh
    der Gott sie anhielt und mit Schmerz im Ausruf
    die Worte Sprach: Er hat sich umgewendet—,
    begriff sie nichts and sagte leise: Wer?

    She was already root.

    And when, all at once,
    the god stopped her and with pain in his voice
    spoke the words: He has turned around—,
    she understood nothing and said softly: Who?

    (Rilke, Selected Poems 54–5)

  9. Jaques-Dalcroze omits Eurydice’s very human rage aria about leaving Elysium, and proceeds immediately to the moment when Orpheus glances at her. At this point she melts into the curtains as wistfully as she emerged from them, leading the spectators to believe she had been a vision all along, or, as Jaques-Dalcroze commented, “as if it had all been a dream” (Giertz 164; original). Eurydice’s disappearance into the hazy blueness of the plush curtains communicated in the strongest terms that Jaques-Dalcroze’s method was not concerned with the human body and its sexuality, but rather with its transcendence. Her body evaporates into thin air, her energy transformed into the shining glow of the clear bright light that floods the stage, releasing what Jaques-Dalcroze described as energy or “joy,” “a new factor of moral progress, a new stimulant of the human will”—the goal of plastique animée (Le Rythme 59; original). Several years later, Paul Valéry immortalized this neoclassicist vision of dance as transformation in his influential essay “L’âme de la danse.” In his essay, Socrates, Phaedra, and Éryximaque engage in a dialogue over the meaning of dance by watching the Greek dancer, Athikté. This dancer begins by performing Eurydice’s classical Greek walk, “the ankle tipping the body towards the point, the other foot passing and receiving this body, transferring it in advance” (Valéry 13; original). Athikté quickly moves into complex movements, avoiding the “boredom” of reality through the ecstatic impulse of her acting body, which “participates with all her being in the pure and immediate violence of extreme happiness,”— an instant of bodily transcendence in which she resembles a flame (Valéry 26; original). Rainer Maria Rilke expressed a similar vision of the transformative joy of dance when he returned to the figure of Eurydice in his Sonetten an Orpheus, in which he immortalized the recently deceased young dancer Wera Ouckama Knoop:

    Wolle die Wandlung. O sei für die Flamme begeistert,
    drin sich ein Ding dir entzieht, das mit Verwandlungen prunkt;
    jener entwerfende Geist, welcher das Irdische meistert,
    liebt in dem Schwung der Figur nichts wie den wendenden Punkt.
    Choose to be changed. With the flame, with the flame be enraptured,
    where from within you a thing changefully-splendid escapes:
    nothing whereby that earth-mastering artist is captured
    more than the turning-point touched by his souring shapes.

    (Rilke, Sonnets 111)

  10. In many interpretations of Gluck’s Orpheus, Eurydice’s death, however beautiful, is deemed necessary for Orpheus’s development as a poet and artist. She is the muse whose absence enables Orpheus to create song in his powerfully symbolic air “Che faro senza Eurydice.” Jaques-Dalcroze’s production contested that familiar narrative by having Orpheus collapse exhausted at the end of his aria, leading some of the spectators to conclude that he died without experiencing any psychological or spiritual awakening. By turning around to glance at Eurydice, he demonstrated that he could not live without the vision of her dance, and that he had not learned to be an independent artist, a requirement of plastique animée. Orpheus had neither faced his demons nor transcended the realm of his own artistic activity to become pure light. If that was not enough to shock his audience, Jaques-Dalcroze’s decision to truncate the opera at this point certainly was. Musically knowledgeable spectators argued over the aesthetic merits of omitting Gluck’s disliked yet familiar happy ending in favor of an abrupt return to the opening choral number. This return included a dance by the mourning nymphs, who simply repeated their lament over the loss of Eurydice as they closed the curtains and the performance ended.44 The omission of the famous ballet sequence from the Parisian version of the opera proved unequivocally that this production had not been about dance, but rather about a new art of movement that visualized musical ideas. The nymphs’ return also indicated that plastique animée could only work if Eurydice remained a distant and unattainable vision or idea—the inspiration for Orpheus’s song and the absence that enabled the chorus’s dance. The nymphs reveal that the opera’s central musical idea was Nietzsche’s “elegiac pain of eternal loss” (208); they allowed Jaques-Dalcroze to unify his production by expressing, as he said in his own words, only the tragic core of the Orpheus myth, without its pompous or entertaining elements (Ansermet, qtd. in Appia 124).

  11. Jaques-Dalcroze’s interpretation of Gluck’s famous opera as a tragic depiction of Eurydice’s Apollonian metamorphosis left less than a unified impression on his audiences. Whereas a few writers shared Jaques-Dalcroze’s and Appia’s aesthetic tastes, and reveled in their Orpheus’s classical beauty, many others were wary of the possibility of transcendence or bliss. Gerhart Hauptmann, for example, felt “charmed and shaken by the revelation that beauty still existed in modern bodies, just a bit covered up” (Reudel 17; original). And Paul Claudel exclaimed almost ecstatically that, “it is the first time since ancient Greece that we see true beauty on the stage” (476; original). But many critics felt less emphatic, joked about Jaques-Dalcroze’s project, and wondered about his motives. After all, why were all these young women so diligently following his orders? For Oskar Bie and other eminent critics, the source of such energy was not Apollonian, but rather could only be erotic female energy (366–67). As John Balance explained in the English journal The Mask:

    … Apollo never asked for a parade of womanly charms in his service … Women don’t follow after Gods that offer bitterness … No, Venus, or some more pleasant Deity is their favorite. And as Dalcroze fills his school with girls he empties it of Apollonian possibilities and lets the Cyprian slop into the Fold.” (33–4)

  12. In a culture immersed in Nietzsche’s Die Geburt der Tragödie, Jaques-Dalcroze’s classicizing attempt at Greek orchestique appeared as a concession to Apollo—a misdirected emphasis on plasticity, clarity, harmony, light, rational coherence, and a miscomprehension of music’s mythical mystery and Dionysian depths. Some critics even understood Jaques-Dalcroze’s Orpheus nationalistically as an expression of French civilization that had nothing to do with the Dionysian rhythm in the soul of the German people (Marsop 368–69). But perhaps nobody was more suspicious of Jaques-Dalcroze’s project than the Hellerauer workers themselves. The Czech worker Wenzel Holek commented, for example:

    One had indeed proclaimed to the whole world that rhythmic gymnastics was an all-purpose medicine that would solve all our social problems. But that still didn’t enable me to suppress my conviction that it may all be nice physical exercise, but nothing more.

    The blacksmith was supposed to hammer rhythmically, the locksmith polishes, and the carpenter planes. And peoples’ will was supposed be raised within them. What were people promising themselves from all this, and what was our real work worth in comparison? It was idealistic, unpractical gushing enthusiasm. (128; original)

    Holek’s remarks, and the reactions of the community in which he lived, demonstrated how impossible it had become by 1912 to unify German society under the banner of Classicist, humanist principles. Orpheus did not unify, but rather caused dissention and contradiction. Very shortly after the performance of Orpheus in Hellerau, Jaques-Dalcroze had to leave Germany and abandon his school with the outbreak of World War One. Ironically, the spectacular Festspielhaus in Hellerau became not a site of cultural pilgrimage, but rather a field hospital for soldiers, and later, during National Socialism, barracks for the Reichspolizei, SA and SS. After 1945 the Red Army moved in, remaining until the Berlin wall fell in 1989. For almost a century then, daunting violence and the rhythm of guns and marches disrupted Jaques-Dalcroze’s far too innocent aesthetic dream of a beautiful classic walk.

  13. The contradictions of Hellerau were nowhere more evident than in the careers of its dancers. Whereas many of the young gymnasts who danced as furies went on to establish major careers in modern dance (including Mary Wigman, Rosalia Chladek, Bertha von Zoete, Grete Wiesenthaler, and Micho Ito), nothing was later heard of the gymnast who danced Eurydice, and of the nymphs who followed in her footsteps. The violence of the furies, instead of the classicist Eurydice, seemed to resonate in the minds of the young women dancing and of the audience members with feelings they considered central to their own lives and time. Jaques-Dalcroze’s fiercely independent furies left him because they no longer wanted to submit to the rhythms of his chosen music (Suzanne Perrottet 92–93). The fury became so much part of the modern dancer’s image, that some observers stereotypically identified the independence they required for their careers with qualities of anger or madness. When Rudolf von Delius first met Mary Wigman in 1914, he wrote that she was “wild, tall, electric. Almost like a fury” (Odom 51). The desires of these furies, and of the audience members who followed them, could not be met by following in the blissful steps of Eurydice. Such unsettled spectators felt a need for a Freudian exploration of the unconscious, and for a Dionysian conflict that was left unresolved in Jaques-Dalcroze’s Apollonian production—a production that would thus continue to torment and disrupt the entire twentieth–century tradition of neoclassical music visualization.

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