Mary Wigman



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Born Karoline Sophie Marie Wiegmann (1886–1973) in Hanover, Germany, Mary Wigman was a founder of modern dance in Europe. She studied with Emile Jacques-Dalcroze and Rudolf von Laban. She is the author of two books published by Wesleyan University Press: The Language of Dance, translated by Walter Sorell (1966), and The Mary Wigman Book: Her Writings (1975).

Mary Wigman was one of the most celebrated dancer/choreographers of the modern era, and was an iconic figure in Weimar German culture. She was known for her incorporation of non-Western instrumentation and dance, as well as for pioneering work in dance therapy. In addition to documenting important cultural history, this autobiography demonstrates Wigman’s personal passion and her role in shaping the art form.

“This fascinating document is the autobiography of a creative imagination rather than an individual. In dealing with her past, Wigman has chosen to eschew all dates, names, and places, and instead of personal anecdotes she describes the state of mind that accompanied the birth of certain specific dances…Those who have seen Wigman dance will find reminders of her performances in the lovely photographic illustrations. All who read the book will find in it some rare revelations of the artistic process.”
—Joan Cass, Boston Herald

“It is a book to be warmly recommended to anyone interested in dance; a book that demands comparison with Doris Humphrey’s magnificent Art of Making Dances, as a personal document concerned with the raw material of dance.”
—Clive Barnes, The New York Times

“Miss Wigman writes with a passion and a richness of imagery which Walter Sorell’s translation captures very well…. The book is of the utmost importance to anyone concerned with dance history, and it also affords extraordinary insight into the operations of a remarkable creative mind.”
—Jack Anderson, Dance magazine



Publication Date



Wesleyan University Press




NEH, National Endowment of the Humanities, open books, Melon Foundation, open access humanities, Modern Dance, Dance Therapy, Appropriation, orientalism, Weimar, Emile Jacques-Dalcroze, Rudolf von Laban, Existentialism, expressionist, choreographer, choreography


Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Art Practice | Dance | Digital Humanities | Esthetics | Feminist Philosophy | Movement and Mind-Body Therapies | Other Arts and Humanities | Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Performance Studies | Somatic Bodywork and Related Therapeutic Practices | Theatre History | Therapeutics


The Language of Dance, translated by Walter Sorell, is licensed under
a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Publication of this title is funded by the Humanities Open Book program, a joint initiative of The National Endowment for the Humanities and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

All images reproduced in this edition are reproduced with the permission of

© Mary Wigman: Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln / Mary Wigman Stiftung

The Language of Dance