Although often associated with functional design and minimal, modernist architecture, Germany’s Bauhaus movement – as a visit to the Berlin’s splendid Bauhaus Archive reveals – was impressively multi-faceted and aesthetically diverse at its core.
One of its more flamboyant aspects was its theatrical school, which from 1923 was led by painter, sculptor and choreographer Oskar Schlemmer alongside painter and stage designer László Moholy-Nagy.
Both artists had connections to Berlin: Schlemmer lived in the city between 1910-1912, and Moholy-Nagy developed stage sets for the Kroll Opera House. Both also took a multi-disciplinary approach to theatre that spanned architecture and music, painting and dance, not to mention the theatre traditions of the Far East and avant-garde musical and poetic works like Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.
Schlemmer in particular aimed to synthesise choreography and geometry together with other artistic disciplines to ‘elevate’ the aesthetics of human movement and create a new theatrical Gesamtkunstwerk. To enhance the visual element of his productions, he and his workshop colleagues created highly imaginative costumes for the dancers.
The most famous were for his three-act Das triadische Ballett, (Triadic Ballet), an avant-garde dance production that premiered in 1922. The original concept involved three participants for each act as well as 12 specific dances and 18 costumes. Each act employed a different colour scheme (yellow, pink, black and white), and conveyed a different emotional mood from happy to solemn. Each time it was performed, however, various elements changed.
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