To the layman, the legacy of the Bauhaus movement is often unfairly reduced to über-gloomy goth rockers and boxy modern architecture, but my formative years were influenced by a succession of eccentric ballet teachers, so to me, Bauhaus will always mean Oskar Schlemmer’s 1922 opus, “Das Triadisches Ballett” (The Triadic Ballet)—perhaps the least “human” dance performance ever concieved.
Schlemmer was a painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer—that kind of factotum being par for the course in the Bauhaus ethos. When hired to teach at the Bauhaus school, Schlemmer combined his work in both sculpture and theater to create the internationally acclaimed extravaganza which toured from 1922 until 1929, when Schlemmer left an increasingly volatile Germany.
When I showed this video to an ex-boyfriend, he described it succinctly as “some really goddamn German Maude Lebowski art shit,” and that’s not a bad way to put it. The sets are minimalist, emphasizing perspective and clean lines. The choreography is limited by the bulky, sculptural, geometric costumes, the movement stiflingly deliberate, incredibly mechanical and mathy, with a rare hints of any fluid dance. The whole thing is daringly weird and strangely mesmerizing.
Below are a few pictures of original Bauhaus ballet performers, and the 1970 German film production of “Das Triadisches Ballett.” New music was composed for this short, and the orchestral sounds contrast nicely with such an inorganic spectacle.
Performers from an early run of Das Triadische Ballet, 1924
Costume for the Neue Sachlichkeit Party, 1926
Triadic Ballet costume and David Bowie’s Kansai Yamamoto-designed Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit, for comparison