The Pointe Dances: 150 Years of Ballet at the Wiener Staatsoper
Curated by Andrea Amort
16 May 2019 – 13 January 2020
Side-stage view at the Wiener Staatsoper, during a rehearsal of Swan Lake.
© Wiener Staatsballett/Ashley Taylor
At the minute, at the Theatermuseum in Vienna, you can see two dance-related exhibitions: The Pointe Dances and Everybody Dances, both curated by Andrea Amort.
The Pointe Dances looks at the history of ballet in Vienna, from the early seventeenth century to the present day, with the focus firmly on ballet at (what is now) the Wiener Staatsoper. In the middle of the nineteenth century the Ringstrasse was built, and in 1869 Vienna’s main ballet company moved into (what was then) the Hofoper am Ring building. Ballet performances have been taking place there (and elsewhere too, mind: I saw a wonderful production of Coppelia earlier this year at the Volksoper out past the Wahringer Strasse) virtually ever since.
Notable historical highlights include Richard Strauss’s reign, from the end of World War One to the early ‘20s, so right at the birth of Austria as a republic, and Rudolf Nureyev’s tenure in the 1960s, where he famously devised a new way of doing Swan Lake. His version is still in production at the Wiener Staatsoper, incidentally; I saw one such performance in February. In this exhibition there are myriad photographs of dancers and productions, together with related films and video clips and diverse archival materials such as posters, postcards and letters. A treasure trove for fans of ballet.
With Everybody Dances, also curated by Andrea Amort, you get something different: a history of modern dance in Vienna (and Greater Vienna and, to some extent, Austria itself) from about 1900 to now. And it is still very much a vital tradition, what with the flagship ImPulsTanz festival taking place in Vienna each Summer. Bestriding this exhibition you have the gigantic presence of Rosalia Chladek (1905-1995) – charismatic dancer, inventive choreographer and influential dance theorist – although, as the title implies, it covers popular dance as well as the avant-garde. In Vienna, especially Rote Wien, dance was not an exclusively elitist pursuit.
I was surprised to learn that Isadora Duncan had once danced in Vienna, at the Secession no less, in 1902, and that Klimt (amongst other artists) was in the audience on that occasion. And here is a weird and wonderful photograph of an avant-garde dance troupe, captured in mid-1930s Vienna:
TÄNZERINNEN DES ENSEMBLES GERTRUD BODENWIESER IN “DÄMON MASCHINE”, 1936, FOTO: DʼORA-BENDA
Theatermuseum © KHM-Museumsverband
Also at the Theatremuseum, for the last couple of years and for a few years more one hopes, you can see masterpieces by Bosch, Cranach, Titian, Rubens and others. The Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts, much of it anyway, has been installed at the Theatremuseum while the Academy of Fine Arts building is being refurbished. You can also see Lifelines, an exhibition of drawings by Rembrandt, there at the moment until 22 September 2019.
The Theatermuseum has always been one of Vienna’s hidden gems, and just now there is an awful lot worth seeing. So check it out.
Further details of The Pointe Dances: 150 Years of Ballet at the Wiener Staatsoper can be found here.
Further details of Everybody Dances: The Cosmos of Viennese Dance Modernism can be found here.
Further details of the Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts, including the Lifelines exhibition, can be found here.
Details of current and forthcoming exhibitions at the Theatremuseum Wien can be found here.