a personal journey through dance
"We see light etched by shadows, feel joy emerging from sorrow; the present hovers between the past and the future. Between all these opposites, there is a sense of movement that renews the clarity of each experience."*
Irmgard Bartenieff (nee Dombois, b. 24 February 1900, Berlin; died 27 August 1981, New York City) 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, Michail, to emigrate from Germany in 1937, with their two sons following in 1939.
*Irmgard Bartenieff (from her book with Dori Lewis: 'Body Movement: Coping with the Environment')