Kurt Jooss

(1901—1979) choreographer and teacher of dance

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(b Wasseralfingen, 12 Jan. 1901; d Heilbronn, 22 May 1979)

German dancer, choreographer, teacher, and ballet director. He attended the Stuttgart Academy of Music, where he studied dance with Laban; in 1922–3 they worked together in Mannheim and Hamburg with Jooss dancing in Laban's ballets and acting as his assistant. Jooss was appointed ballet master in Münster in 1924 and founded the Neue Tanzbühne with the Estonian dancer Aino Siimola (later his wife), Sigurd Leeder, and Hein Heckroth. Among the works he made for this company were Ein persisches Märchen (mus. Egon Wellesz, 1924), Der Dämon (mus. Hindemith, 1925), and Die Brautfahrt (mus. Rameau and Couperin, 1925). In 1926 he and Leeder went to Paris to study ballet with Lubov Egorova and the following year Jooss was appointed director of the dance department at the Essen Folkwang School. This launched the Folkwang Tanztheater in 1928. In 1930, when Jooss was appointed ballet master of the Essen Municipal Theatre, his company became the Folkwang Tanzbühne. He created Le Bal (mus. Rieti, 1930), Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor (mus. Borodin, 1930), Coppélia (1931), Prodigal Son (mus. Prokofiev, 1931), Pulcinella (mus. Stravinsky, 1932), and—his most famous work—The Green Table (mus. Cohen, 1932). It was Green Table, a scathing anti-war piece based on the medieval Dance of Death, which drew him to international attention when the work won first prize at the first choreographic competition organized by Rolf de Maré and Les Archives Internationales de la Danse in Paris. Here Jooss's synthesis of classical and modern dance was at its most theatrically effective. Two other important works were created at this time: Big City (mus. Tansman) and Ball in Old Vienna (mus. Lanner, both 1932). In 1933, with the Nazis taking power in Germany, Jooss and his company were forced to flee. They found a new home in Dartington, England, then in Cambridge. From their English base they toured the world as the Ballets Jooss. In 1947 the company was disbanded and Jooss went to Santiago de Chile. In 1949 he returned to Essen and re-established the Folkwang School and the Folkwang Tanztheater. The company was later disbanded due to lack of local government support, but the school continued. In 1962 he re-formed the company as Folkwang Tanzstudio, with Pina Bausch. He retired as head of the dance school in 1968. His daughter, Anna Markard, has supervised productions of The Green Table around the world. A list of Jooss's other ballets includes Drosselbart (mus. Mozart, 1929), Pavane (mus. Ravel, 1929), Petrushka (mus. Stravinsky, 1930), Seven Heroes (mus. Purcell-Cohen, 1933), The Prodigal Son (mus. Cohen, 1933), Ballade (mus. J. Colman, 1935), The Mirror (mus. Cohen, 1935), Johann Strauss, Tonight (1935), Company at the Manor (mus. Beethoven-Cook, 1943), and Pandora (mus. R. Gerhard, 1944).

Subjects: Dance.

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