Irmgard Bartenieff: A Personal Journey through Dance
Irmgard Bartenieff was a German-born Dancer, Choreographer, Teacher, Labanotator, Dance Therapist, Physical Therapist, Dance Historian, Dance Ethnographer, and Activist. Of her work, cultural Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said it “is of the very greatest importance in research on mother-infant relationships, the social behavior of primitive people, choreometric styles around the world, work with psychiatric patients, and studies of animal behavior.” While all of that is true, one thread wove continuously through Irmgard Bartenieff’s life: Dance.
Bartenieff’s love of dance and her deep interest in human movement began as a child when she studied the folk dances of her native Germany. A bright student, Bartenieff also studied Languages, Math, and Science, including coursework on Physics, Anatomy, and Biology at the pre-med level. Although interested in science, Bartenieff left University and in 1923 began advanced training in Dance at the Rudolf Laban School in Munich where she studied Modern Dance, Movement Analysis, and Movement Notation and danced with the Tanzbühne Laban. A consummate performer, Bartenieff founded a company in 1931 that toured in Berlin and Stuttgart until 1933 when the political situation for artists in Germany deteriorated, eventually forcing Irmgard and her husband to emigrate from Germany to the USA in 1937. Irmgard Bartenieff’s sojourn in the USA began in New York and, fueled by her training in Dance, she pursued various paths that led finally to the founding of the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS). In 2015 MSPAL Special Collections in the Performing Arts acquired the LIMS collection, which included 70 boxes of Bartenieff’s personal and professional papers, a treasure trove of materials. A few of the archival items are on display in the MSPAL Gallery, along with interactive exhibits where you can play with a kinect sensor and in an icosahedron to explore some of the theories Bartenieff taught and used in her research.