Partner Maja Lex

Queer Places:
Kaulbachstraße 16, 80539 München, Germany
Via Aurelia Antica, 180, 00165 Roma RM

MUGI - Musik und Gender im internetAnna-Katharine Dorothea Günther [1] (born October 8, 1896 in Gelsenkirchen , † September 18, 1975 in Cologne ) introduced a pedagogic approach that attempted to synthesize Mensendieck, Laban, and Hellerau. At first (1913–1916) she studied art in Dessau and Hamburg, and it was while drawing nude and "crooked" bodies in class that she felt compelled to learn about bodily movement. She enrolled in a Mensendieck school, then studied the methods of Laban and Dalcroze. After completing her gymnastic teacher exam in 1919, she taught in Mensendieck schools in Berlin, Breslau, Hamburg, and Munich. In 1923 she settled in Munich, where she collaborated with composer Carl Orff (1895–1982) on the production of his Monteverdi opera adaptations, Orfeus and Tanz der Spröden (1923). The following year, the two of them established a school in Munich, with Orff as music director. It was here that Orff developed the famous "Schulwerk" method, still used around the world for enhancing children's receptivity to music.

Günther formed stronger creative collaborations with two of her students, Gunild Keetman and Maja Lex. In 1930 she formed the Tanzgruppe Günther, for which she acted as a sort of executive producer, with Keetman composing all the music for Lex's choreography, which emerged from the joint theoretical perspective of Günther and Orff. Keetman was a protégé of Orff and worked closely with him in editing his Schulwerk publications. Nearly all of Lex's choreography before the war was produced in connection with the Tanzgruppe Günther, but she did direct the Munich premiere of Alois Haba's quarter-tone opera Die Mutter (1931). Meanwhile, Günther published articles in Die Tat, Gymnastik, and Schrifttanz and wrote two books, Gymnastik Grundübungen in eigner Zeichenmethode (1925) and Einführung in der deutschen Mensendieckgymnastik (1928). The Gymnastik Grundübungen linked the study of bodily movement to exercises in drawing the body; the Einführung modified the Mensendieck pedagogy to accommodate the Weimar cultural scene.

All students of Dorothee Günther were women. At the Munich Dance Congress of 1930, where Günther students performed in Mary 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 Bertha 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 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. The Nazis closed down the school in 1944 to use it as a military depot, and a bomb destroyed it in 1945.

In 1947 Günther and Lex moved to Rome to live in a villa owned by a former student, Myriam Blanc, and Keetman went to Salzburg in 1949 to teach the Orff theory of musical pedagogy. Wolfgang Wagner invited Lex to choreograph the 1951 Bayreuth production of Wagner's Parsifal; in 1953, Liselott Diem offered her an appointment at the new sport academy she and her husband had founded in Cologne. (In 1933 the Nazis had shut down Diem's Hochschule für Leibesübungen, and she had enrolled in the Berlin Günther school.) Lex went to Cologne with her old assistant, Rose Daiber, while Günther remained in Rome, running some sort of school and finishing what was perhaps the most complete statement of her theoretical perspective, Der Tanz als Bewegungsphänomen (1962). Continually prone to illness, Lex did no new choreography until the late 1960s, when she formed the student Tanzgruppe Maja Lex, which traveled to a half-dozen countries around the world, performing several dances to American jazz. In this respect she differed from Günther, whose complex notion of ecstatic dance was nevertheless unsympathetic to the influence of jazz or rock 'n' roll. But it was clear from her final project, Der Weg zum elementaren Tanz (1986), written with her student Graziela Padilla, that Lex still remained quite faithful to the theory and method of movement education established by Günther and Orff.

Günther lived in Italy for over 20 years until she moved to Cologne in 1969, already seriously ill. There she was accepted by Maja Lex, who had been teaching at the German Sport University in Cologne since the mid-1950s . Dorothee Günther died shortly before her 79th birthday.

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