Genevieve Stebbins in Poetics of Dance by Gabriele Brandstetter

For each of the past few years there has been a scholarly book or two discussing the unique role of Genevieve Stebbins promoting fresh ideas about the meaning of dance and exercise in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.Newly available in English from Oxford University Press is Poetics of Dance by Gabriele Brandstetter. First published in German in 1995, the book is described on the publisher’s website as a “classic text in dance studies” which had been a “path-breaking publication, the first to explore the relationships between the birth of modern dance, new developments in the visual arts, and the renewal of literature and drama in the form of avant-garde theatrical and movement productions of the early twentieth-century.”

The section on Stebbins begins on page 46 and runs through page 52, and is viewable through Google Books.

Brandstetter writes that “Stebbins’s main contribution to modern dance– her emphasis on the dynamics of dance movement– is still underestimated even today. She was the first to no longer regard dance from the perspective of dance technique, muscular training, or the systematic development of articulation, emphasizing instead its energetic principles. Stebbins’s elaboration of the Delsarte system heralded a paradigm shift in modern dance in an attempt to redefine dance movement on the basis of a vitalist understanding of dynamics.” (p. 46)

While the impact of Stebbins’s life and work is increasingly recognized, the roots of her ideas in her early experiences with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor are yet to be explored in depth.  We can hope that she will eventually be the subject of a full biography in which this influence will be discussed at length.

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