Elevate Difference

Ecstasy and the Demon: The Dances of Mary Wigman

Through her extensive research, Susan Manning is able to paint a portrait of the person that Mary Wigman was. Her career was based on her development of a unique style of movement which became a strong influence of American modern dance. Mary Wigman refused to conform to the standard norms of dance, she didn’t rely on elaborate costumes and lightning; at times she wouldn’t use music either. She stripped the theatrics from her performances, leaving only her body and face to transmit her message. She shunned the notion of femininity and masculinity in dancing and instead strived for movement and the body’s relation to space.

Her solo performances were powerful exhibits of nonconformity and uniqueness. All of this resulted in the creation of a dancing style truly unique which has transcended throughout time. Both loved and hated by members of the dance community alike, her definition of dance has remained alive in the form of controversy. Some see her as genius, others as a degenerate. One thing that can be agreed on, however, is how different her corporal style was.

In her book, Ecstasy and the Demon: The Dances of Mary Wigman, Susan Manning presents us with her extensive research of Wigman, illustrating the type of intense and driven woman that she was. Manning begins by taking the reader from the early years of Wigman’s life, details her career from beginning to end and discusses the impact she has had on future generations, bringing the effect of Mary Wigman full circle. Her research is as extensive as it is compelling, and she exhibits it as transparent as possible, giving the reader an opportunity to make their own observations as opposed to instilling her own opinion of Wigman. Although at times the text can get rather scholarly and intricate, this a book that can be a great asset to the academic community, dance aficionados and those who just want to read about an interesting woman who decided to follow her own rules and how she has impacted the dance world.

Written by: Jessica Sánchez, May 7th 2007

This looks really interesting. I am hardly an expert on the history of dance but she intrigues me... thanks for the great review!