Partner Mary Wigman

Queer Places:
Bautzner Str. 107, 01099 Dresden, Germany

For seven years, Mary Wigman was close to her former student Bertha Trümpy (October 19, 1898 – January 3, 1989), who secured the house for her school and was instrumental in to administration and Wigman's early career. Trümpy later supported dancer Vera Skoronel in a similar way, financially supporting, organizing, and administrating her school in Berlin.

Bertha Trümpy was born in Zollikon, Zürich, Switzerland, the daughter of Samuel Trümpy (1871-1957) and Margaretha Eggli (1865-1954).

A successful tour of north German cities in 1919 brought Mary Wigman back to Dresden, where audiences displayed the most gratifying enthusiasm. With Berthe Trümpy, she founded a school in that city, acquiring as students young women stirred by her bold dance performances. During the 1920s her performing ensemble expanded from four to eighteen dancers; she produced nearly one hundred solo and group dances, and her school prospered so much that by 1927 she had 360 students enrolled at Dresden and more than 1,200 enrolled at "Wigman schools" operated by former students in Berlin, Frankfurt, Chemnitz, Riesa, Hamburg, Leipzig, Erfurt, Magdeburg, Munich, and Freiburg. In 1931, Hanya Holm went to New York to establish a Wigman school there.

As a teacher, Wigman exerted tremendous influence in the classroom. But she was not much of a theorist, and her authority outside of the classroom depended on her success in dance performance. Her great appeal for students lay in her promise to maximize the individuality of the student through dance: "The longing for self-expression so characteristic of our age is driving today's girls to seek satisfaction through dancing" (MWB 104). However, this attitude had significant limitations. Her first, and possibly best, ensemble broke up in 1924 because Berthe Trümpy, Yvonne Georgi, and Gret Palucca had developed such strong personalities that they had to leave in quite separate directions to fulfill their ambitions. Moreover, the improvisational "technique" Wigman used to accommodate diversity of personalities was difficult to transfer outside of the cultic atmosphere in the Dresden studio, with its gold and red walls and with Wigman, swathed in luxurious gowns, veiled in cigarette smoke, gazing with hawklike intensity and presiding on a throne in the corner as a mysterious priestess. Trümpy's effort to establish a Wigmanesque pedagogy in Berlin encouraged Rudolf Lämmel to compare the discipline and accomplishments of her faculty and students unfavorably with those of the Estas school in Cologne.

All students of Dorothee Günther were women. At the Munich Dance Congress of 1930, where Günther students performed in Wigman's Totenmal, the Tanzgruppe Günther achieved instant glory for Lex's Barbarische Suite . Until 1943 the dance group received plenty of offers to tour throughout Germany and several European countries, especially Italy, but Keetman, Lex, and Günther (who designed all the costumes) collaborated in a slow, methodical fashion and produced a rather small repertoire of pieces. These included Miniaturen (1931), Klänge und Gesichte (1934), Paukentanz (1935), and Tänze aus dem 17. Jahrhundert (1939). The Günther school merged with the Trümpy school in Berlin in 1933, when Trümpy's status as a Swiss citizen made her suspect as the operator of a state-subsidized business in the Third Reich. Since 1931 Günther had completely owned her own school, though she still received state subsidies. She collaborated with Lex on the immense girls' round dance for the 1936 Berlin Olympiad, a work that required 3,500 children and 2,500 girls. So acclaimed was this piece that Günther and Lex published a two-volume account of it the same year. In 1939 Günther choreographed in Berlin Stadium a gigantic waltz for 350 female dancers and musicians. During these years Lex gave numerous solo concerts, which apparently provoked widespread appreciation, aided, no doubt, by her—if I may put it so bluntly—almost overpowering beauty; but the dark, "non-Aryan" quality of her features prevented her from rising to any serious prominence within the Nazi dance culture (Abraham 42). The Nazis closed down the school in 1944 to use it as a military depot, and a bomb destroyed it in 1945.

Trümpy died in 1989 in Uster, Zürich, Switzerland.

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