Creative Sanctuary

Creative Sanctuary: Refugees at Dartington in the 1930s and beyond

Programme Day 1: Friday 20 October

Day 2: Saturday 21 October

Setting the Scene

9.15am: Welcome and introductory words by Monica Bohm-Duchen, Founding Director of Insiders/Outsiders project

9.30-10.15am: Dr. Anna Neima, author of Practical Utopia: The Many Lives of Dartington Hall: An Experiment in Living: The Story Behind Dartington Hall

10.15-11.00am: Charlie Knight (Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton): The Refugees of Dartington Hall: Reflections on the Archive

11.00am: Q &A + COFFEE BREAK

11.30-11.50am: Professor Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles (University of Exeter): Girls in Science: Margarita Comas, from Menorca to Dartington

11.50-12.20pm: Discussion + Q&A

12.20-1.00pm: LUNCH BREAK

Architecture, Fine and Applied Arts

1.00pm: Introduction by architecture and design historian Alan Powers

1.15pm: Valeria Carullo (Curator, The Robert Elwall Photographs Collection RIBA British Architectural Library): Modern Architecture at Dartington

1.35pm: Marcus Williamson (independent curator and journalist): Artists and sculptors at work: René Halkett and Willi Soukop at Dartington

1.55pm: Sigrid Ruby (University of Giessen, Germany): A Man of Many Talents: Hein Heckroth at Dartington Hall School

2.15pm: Q&A + ‘comfort break’

2.35pm: Rüdiger Matthias Joppien (Honorary Professor, University of Hamburg): Naum Slutzky: Bauhaus Artist as a Refugee from Nazi Germany at Dartington, 1935 – 1940 

2.55pm: Dr. Anna Nyburg (Imperial College London): Hellmuth Weissenborn: A Leipzig-born refugee from Nazism and Dartington Hall (1958)

3.15pm: Elizabeth Lamle (University of Birmingham): From Nazi Germany to Dartington Hall: Community and Migration in the Freud Family Letters

3.35-4.15pm: Discussion + Q&A

c.4.15pm: END

Abstracts and Biographies

in order of presentations

Monica Bohm-Duchen is an independent writer, lecturer and curator. Based in London, the institutions she has worked for include the Courtauld Institute of Art, Birkbeck University of London, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Tate, the National Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts. The exhibitions she has curated include Art in Exile in Great Britain 1933-1945 (1985/6); Chagall to Kitaj: Jewish Experience in 20th Century Art (1990); After Auschwitz: Responses to the Holocaust in Contemporary Art (1995), Rubies and Rebels: Jewish Female Identity in Contemporary British Art (1996/7) and Charlotte Salomon: Life? Or Theatre? (1998). Her many publications include Art and the Second World War (2013). She is the founding director of Insiders/Outsiders, an ongoing celebration of the contribution of refugees from Nazi Europe to British culture, contributing editor of its companion volume, Insiders/Outsiders: Refugees from Nazi Europe and their Contribution to British Visual Culture (Lund Humphries, 2019) and the organiser of the Creative Sanctuary symposium.

An Experiment in Living: The Story Behind Dartington Hall

Dartington Hall was a social experiment of kaleidoscopic vitality, set up in Devon in 1925 by a hugely wealthy American heiress, Dorothy Elmhirst (née Whitney), and her Yorkshire-born husband, Leonard. It quickly achieved international fame with its progressive school, craft production and wide-ranging artistic endeavours. Dartington was a residential community of students, teachers, farmers, artists and craftsmen committed to revivifying life in the countryside. It was a socio-cultural laboratory, where many of the most brilliant interwar minds came to test out their ideas about art, society, spirituality and rural regeneration. It also became a refuge for those fleeing totalitarian regimes in Europe. To this day, Dartington remains a symbol of countercultural experimentation and a centre for arts, ecology and social justice where artists, writers, thinkers and doers continue to come together. This talk will focus on the people behind the early years of the experiment, on their vision for a transformed society, and their experiences trying to turn these dreams into a reality.

Anna Neima has a PhD on the history of Dartington Hall and interwar social reform from the University of Cambridge. She is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Warwick and the author of two books: Practical Utopia: The Many Lives of Dartington Hall (2022) and The Utopians: Six Attempts to Build the Perfect Society (2021).

The Refugees of Dartington Hall: Reflections on the Archive

On a trip to the Devon Heritage Centre archives in Exeter in 2019, I stumbled across files pertaining to the ‘refugees’ of Dartington Hall. Amongst other items, the papers contained a partial list of those whom the patrons Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst helped alongside various correspondences, logbooks, and other ephemera associated with their time in Devon. Whilst this ‘creative sanctuary’ at Dartington Hall may have featured in the individual biographies of a handful of well-known refugee creatives who passed through the Totnes countryside, the full scale and importance of the site and those who called it home has yet to be properly appreciated. As a space of refuge and asylum for those fleeing persecution on the continent, Dartington Hall brought together, and attempted to help, a far greater number of refugees than was previously thought.

Through examining the archival record of Dartington Hall and that of its owners the Elmhirsts, this lecture will reflect upon the various individuals, families and organisations which called Dartington home from the 1930s onwards. Highlighting both those that were successful in their migration to the site as well as the narratives of those who wanted to relocate but could not, we will discuss the importance of focussing on the space of Dartington as well as its inhabitants.

Charlie Knight is a Postgraduate Researcher at the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at the University of Southampton and is funded by the Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities for his research into German-Jewish refugees from Nazism in Britain. Charlie was the joint postgraduate representative for the British and Irish Association for Holocaust Studies in the 2021/22 academic year, and currently teaches German History at the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies at UCL. He has spoken at conferences in the UK, Germany and Israel, and is currently co-editing a special issue of the journal Holocaust Studies entitled ‘Transnational Holocaust Studies in History and Memory’.

Girls in Science: Margarita Comas, from Menorca to Dartington

Margarita Comas Camps was a great educator. She was awarded a scholarship by the Spanish Junta para la Ampliación de Estudios to come to England, the country which she found herself in when the Civil War broke out and where she lived in exile, defending coeducation and the need for scientific education from childhood. She took care of the Basque children evacuated to England in 1937, and worked as a biology teacher at Dartington Hall, in the county of Devon. She returned to Menorca with her husband, the photographer and painter Guillem Bestard, during the final years of Francoism but maintained her residence in the south-west of England, where she died in 1972. Margarita Comas Camps is brought back to us via the project By exploring her contribution to Dartington we will reach out to a small but significant community of Spanish exiles that made Dartington their home and embodied, in the South-West, the educational spirit of the Spanish Second Republic.

Professor Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles graduated in 1995 from the University of León (Spain). She completed an MSc and a PhD in Hispanic Studies at the University of Edinburgh and spent her postdoctoral research period at Oxford University where she was the holder of the Queen Sofía Junior Research Fellowship. She spent three years working as a permanent lecturer in Hispanic studies at the University of Lancaster before joining the University of Exeter in 2005. She is now Professor of Hispanic Studies and Gender Studies. She specializes in gender historiography and works on the first generation of Spanish feminists with the awareness of being a group. They were active before the Civil War and forgotten or exiled during the dictatorship. Her most important books are Autoras inciertas, He de tener libertad, Artistas y precursoras: un siglo de autoras Roësset, El camino es nuestro (by Elena Fortún and Matilde Ras), El regreso de las modernas, Corcel de fuego, and her much-acclaimed critical editions of Elena Fortún, including Oculto sendero and the letters compiled in Sabes quién soy and Mujer doliente.

Following a degree in History of Art from Cambridge, Alan Powers received his doctorate on Architectural Education in Britain 1880-1914. He is a prolific writer for magazines and author of numerous books. He is joint editor of the journal Twentieth Century Architecture and joint editor of the monograph series, Twentieth Century Architects. He has curated popular exhibitions, including Modern Britain 1929-39 (Design Museum), 1999; Eric Ravilious (Imperial War Museum), 2003; and Eros to the Ritz: 100 Years of Street Architecture (Royal Academy), 2013. As professor of architecture and cultural history at the University of Greenwich, Alan taught architectural history and theory for undergraduate and diploma courses from 1999-2012 and has been a frequent external examiner for PhD and other higher degrees. He is chairman of Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust in London, and formerly chair of the Twentieth Century Society (2007-12). An expert on 20th century architecture, Alan was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2008.

Modern Architecture at Dartington

High Cross House is only the most well-known of a group of modernist buildings commissioned by the Dartington Hall School. Its architect, Swiss-American William Lescaze, was a friend of headmaster William B Curry, with whom he shared a passion for architectural and educational experimentation. Lescaze’s work at Dartington also included boarding houses, worker’s cottages and other spaces required by the school. On these later projects he was assisted by young British architect Robert Hening, who had originally joined Oswald Milne to work on more conservative projects for the school. Lescaze and Hening’s buildings – expressions at Dartington of the Modern Movement – received much attention from the architectural press and are a testament to the Elmhirsts’ commitment to innovation and experimentation.

Valeria Carullo is the Photographs Curator at the Royal Institute of British Architects. Her principal area of research is the relationship between modern photography and modern architecture in the inter-war years. She has curated or co-curated several exhibitions, both in Britain and abroad, including her latest Wide Angle-View: architecture as social space in the Manplan series 1969-70 at the RIBA. Valeria regularly writes and lectures on both architectural and photographic subjects, and in 2019 she published the book Moholy-Nagy in Britain 1935-1937. She is currently working on a research project on refugee architects in Britain in the late 1930s, based on the activities of the RIBA Refugee Committee.

Artists and sculptors at work: René Halkett and Willi Soukop at Dartington

The visual artists René Halkett (1900-1983) and Willi Soukop (1907-1995) took refuge and worked at Dartington in the Thirties. This talk will discuss that period and the influence it had on their networks and creative output, in painting and sculpture. Dartington emerges as a key ‘defining moment’ in the lives of both these émigré artists.

Marcus Williamson is a freelance journalist, curator and database publisher, with a particular interest in British Surrealism. He is an obituarist, having authored more than 400 biographical pieces for The Independent, “i”, Scotsman and Jewish Chronicle. He curated the exhibitions ‘René Halkett – From Bauhaus to Cornwall’ at Falmouth Art Gallery (2019) and co-curated ‘Ithell Colquhoun: Image and Imagination’ at Penlee House (2016). His book ‘Claude Cahun at School in England’ (2011) examines the period that this surrealist writer and photographer spent at an English boarding school, as a refugee from antisemitism. He is a collector of British Surrealist art and literature and contributed a group of biographical essays to ‘The International Encyclopedia of Surrealism’ (Bloomsbury).

A Man of Many Talents: Hein Heckroth at Dartington Hall School

The German artist, costume and stage designer Hein Heckroth (1910-70) left his home country in 1933, together with his wife Ada. They first found refuge in Paris, then in London and – via the Kurt Jooss ballet – eventually came to Dartington Hall in 1935. Until 1940, when he was classified as an enemy alien and deported to Australia, Heckroth worked as a designer and art teacher at Dartington Hall School and for some years even directed the school’s art section. In my paper I will give an overview of Heckroth’s various activities while in Dartington and of the work he produced during these years. My presentation is based on archival material I researched and analyzed at Exeter, Cologne and Heckroth’s hometown Giessen. A particular focus is on Heckroth as a protagonist of Surrealism and on contacts he made in Dartington – also to better understand his personal and professional network and the career he made in the British film industry after the war.

Sigrid Ruby is professor of art history at the University of Giessen (Germany). From 2014 to 2016, she held a professorship for art history at Saarland University. She studied Art History, American Literature and Economics at the universities of Bonn, Frankfurt am Main and Harvard. Ruby got her PhD in 1994 from the University of Bonn with a thesis on transatlantic exhibition history after World War II and German-US American relations in particular (publ. 1999). Her second book deals with representations of the royal favourite in early modern France and, thus, sets a focus on the intersection of art history and gender studies (publ. 2010). Recent research activities, partly carried out within the framework of DFG-funded projects, concern the history of Surrealism in the 1940s/50s, the art history of dreams and dreaming, gender studies and gender in art history, early modern portraiture, and questions of visuality in Critical Security Studies. Sigrid Ruby is a member of the scientific advisory board of the “Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte/Centre Allemand d’Histoire d’Art” in Paris and also involved in various other academic bodies. For research activities, publications and further information, click here.

Naum Slutzky: Bauhaus Artist as a Refugee from Nazi Germany at Dartington, 1935 – 1940

Naum Slutzky (1894-1965) was born in Kiev, trained in Vienna, and was a member of the Bauhaus in Weimar (1919-23), before he set himself up as an independent jeweller and light designer in Hamburg (1924-33), in the course of which he designed the light elements for the newly founded Warburg Library (1926) and the Jewish Temple (1931). In 1933 he fled to England in order to escape Nazi persecution. After an interim period in London he finally lived and worked at Dartington Hall (1935-40), where he became a teacher at the Dartington Hall School, teaching metalwork. The Elmhirsts had been generous supporters of the Bauhaus, thus Slutzky’s presence at Dartington was a natural choice for them. Here he came into contact with other emigrés, dancers of the Ballet Jooss such as Sigurd Leeder, as well as with Rudolf von Laban, whom he probably knew from Hamburg. After his internment as enemy alien at Douglas, Isle of Man (1940-41), Slutzky did not return to Dartington, but settled in London at the Lawn Road Flats, a temporary hub of Bauhaus emigrés like Gropius, Breuer and Moholy-Nagy. Its owner, Jack Pritchard, was also an admirer of the Bauhaus. Such was also Robert Dudley Best, owner of the lamp producing firm of Best & Lloyd, which had engaged Slutzky a number of times for new models. After 1945 Slutzky held various teaching posts as a teacher of industrial design, which at that stage was new in Britain. From 1957 to 1964 he was employed as a design professor at the School of Industrial Design at Birmingham. Only at the end of his life did he return to jewellery, which was eagerly purchased by the V & A, Goldsmiths’ Hall and the newly founded Bauhaus Archive in Darmstadt.

Rüdiger Joppien has spent the last 36 years at Hamburg, where he was keeper of the department of Art Nouveau and Modernity at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe from 1987 to 2011. He studied in Cologne and London (Slade School of Art) and wrote his Ph. D. – thesis on the stage -designs of Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg. In 1973 he organised an exhibition on de Loutherbourg at Kenwood House at Hampstead. After a period of research into visual documents of overseas expeditions he became co-author – with Prof. Bernard Smith from Melbourne – of the four volumes edition of The Art of Captain Cook’s Voyages, Yale University Press, 1985/87. His other publications include catalogues on Christopher Dresser, Elisabeth Treskow, Naum Slutzky, Louis C. Tiffany, Bauhaus artists in Hamburg, etc., as well as numerous contributions to the history of applied art mainly of the 20th century. Since 1992 Rüdiger Joppien held regular seminars in the Art Historical Institute of the University of Hamburg, and in 2009 was named honorary professor there.

Hellmuth Weissenborn: A Leipzig-born refugee from Nazism and Dartington Hall (1958)

Hellmuth Weissenborn (1898-1982) was a Leipzig-born artist who fled Germany in 1938 after losing his post as a professor at the prestigious Leipzig Academy of Graphic and Book Arts because his wife was Jewish. In Britain, he soon met ‘his best English friend’, Victor Bonham Carter (1913-2007). After graduating, the latter worked for The Countryman and from 1937 he was a director of School Prints Ltd. Always interested in rural matters as well as the arts, he was appointed as the historian of Dartington Hall and duly chose Weissenborn to illustrate the small book, giving him exaggerated credit in the book for his work. This freelance commission was much appreciated, no doubt with Bonham Carter’s name adding kudos to the work and is one example of the patronage and support given to refugees from Nazism by kind and influential personalities.

Dr. Anna Nyburg is an Honorary Lecturer at Imperial College London, where she taught languages for some 30 years, a committee member of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies and a trustee of the Arts Foundation supporting the Insiders/Outsiders Festival. After a BA and an MA in European language and literature, she gained her PhD in Exile Studies. She has published widely on the subject of the refugees from Nazism to Britain in art publishing, in design and trade and industry. She is the author of Emigrés: The Transformation of Art Publishing in Britain, Phaidon, 2014, The Clothes on Our Backs: How Refugees from Nazism revitalised the British Fashion Trade, Vallentine Mitchell, 2020 and From Leipzig to London: The Life and Work of the émigré artist, Hellmuth Weissenborn, Oak Knoll, 2012. She has co-edited several books, including the forthcoming Innocence and Experience: Childhood and the refugees from Nazism to Britain, Peter Lang. She co-produced with Robert Sternberg the 2017 film ‘Refuge Britain: Stories of Émigré Designers’. Anna is currently writing a history of the publishing company, Thames & Hudson.

From Nazi Germany to Dartington Hall: Community and Migration in the Freud Family Letters

As Anna Neima has observed in Practical Utopia, “‘One of the main aims of the Elmhirsts’ work at Dartington Hall, as a social and cultural laboratory that tested ideas about art and society, was to create an integrated, supportive community. The success of these efforts are difficult to quantify; as Leonard Elmhirst stated in 1934, this aspect of the estate’s work – nominally spearheaded by his wife and co-founder, Dorothy Elmhirst – dealt with ‘the intimate problems and difficulties in personal relationships that no-one measures, that few notice, and that – when the story of Dartington is written, will largely go unrecorded’.”

However, newly unearthed material sheds light on this aspect of the Dartington experience. An archive of letters from the Lucian Freud estate was gifted to the National Portrait Gallery in 2011, which includes an extensive collection of correspondence from Lucian’s mother, Lucie Freud, which she wrote to her husband Ernst during their family’s flight from Nazi Germany in 1933 – where their first port of call was Dartington Hall. This case study of the Freud family therefore gives precise and interesting insight into the personal perspectives of some of Dartington’s inhabitants, their interpersonal relationships, and how the school and its people facilitated and supported refugee families.

Elizabeth Lamle is a third-year History of Art PhD student at the University of Birmingham, studying material from the Lucian Freud Archive at the National Portrait Gallery. Her research examines Freud’s juvenilia of drawings and the family’s written correspondence from 1928 to ca. 1951, with a focus on the flight of refugees from Nazi Germany to Britain. She started working on this project in October 2021 together with the late Dr Jutta Vinzent (University of Birmingham) as her main PhD supervisor, and Prof. Paul Smith (University of Warwick) and (Rosie Broadley, National Portrait Gallery, London) as co-supervisors. Elizabeth was awarded a B.A. in Fine Art: Painting from the University of the Arts in London in 2016, after which she undertook an M.A. in Art History and Curating at the University of Birmingham. Her M.A. dissertation explored German émigré artists in Spain and their role in fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Refugees at Dartington in the 1930s and beyond

Programme Day 2: Saturday 21 October

Dancing in Utopia

9.15am: Introduction by dance historian Dr.Clare Lidbury

9.25am: Dr.Marion Kant (University of Cambridge): Concepts of Utopia: Dartington and Dance.

9.45am: Laure Guilbert (Max Planck Institute, Berlin): The Ballets Jooss during WWII: the odyssey of an exiled company in the Americas

10.05am: Tim Rubidge (dancer/choreographer): Sigurd Leeder’s Echo – a parallel reflection from Tim Rubidge

10.25am: Q&A

10.50- 12 noon: COFFEE BREAK + opportunity to watch recent film version of live performance of The Green Table. To view, click on this link [film lasts c.37 minutes]

12 noon: Larraine Nicholas, author of Dancing in Utopia: Dartington Hall and Its Dancers: Lisa Ullmann and Jenny Gertz: promoting dance, community and education in and around the crisis of 1939/40

12.20pm: Professor Rebecca Loukes (University of Exeter): ‘I am, I am, I am’ Gertrud Falke-Heller’s Body Awareness Training at Dartington Hall 1937-1940

12.40pm: Julia Seiber Boyd: Lilla Bauer 1912-2011: sources – true and false

1pm: Discussion + Q&A

1.20- 2.00pm: LUNCH

Music-making in Utopia

2.00pm: Dr. Clare Lidbury: Fritz Cohen, before and after The Green Table

2.20-2.30pm: Q&A

2.30-3.30pm: Dr. Harriet Cunningham, Dr. Alison Garnham and Nobert Meyn, founding director of Music, Mobility and Migration project: Post-war music at Dartington: the importance of the Summer School of Music

3.30pm: Q&A + TEA BREAK

4.15pm: panel discussion + Q&A with Leina Schiffrin, Gabriele Foti and Etain Todds, former pupils at Dartington Hall School

c.5.15pm: END

Abstracts and Biographies

in order of presentations

Concepts of Utopia: Dartington and Dance

In the mid-1920s, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst bought the somewhat run-down estate of Dartington Hall in Devon to commence with an experiment that, they hoped, would change the world. When the refugees from Nazi Germany began to arrive in Dartington after 1933, the Dartington utopian project received a new impulse. The modernist German artists brought their own utopian experiments and experiences with them. They were wide ranging and did not all conform to the vaguely ‘progressive’, or social democratic orientation of the Elmhirsts. Some had been born out of the totalitarian imagination that Dartington was supposedly questioning and opposing. The experiments in dance were a particularly powerful example of utopia coming alive and going wrong. Kurt Jooss and his dance group, Sigurd Leeder and his notion of dance and education, or Rudolf von Laban and his grand community project demonstrated the wide range of visions and how they began to clash in the paradisical circumstances of Dartington.

Dr. Marion Kant has taught at the Universities of Pennsylvania and of Cambridge. Her teaching and her research focus on the ideology and aesthetics of Modernism; on theatre and performance in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich; on anti-fascist exile; on secular Judaism. With musicians Sam Hsu and Marshall Taylor, she organized a concert series of “Degenerate Music” – Music forbidden by the Nazis with events in Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and Salzburg, Austria.

The Ballets Jooss during WWII: the odyssey of an exiled company in the Americas

This presentation provides a brief overview of a little-known episode in the history of the Ballets Jooss: the North and South American tour that took place between late 1939 and mid-February 1942, in the midst of the Second World War. Since its flight from Germany in September 1933, the company had earned a significant portion of its income through extensive international touring. However, the world conflict changed again the destiny of the Ballets Jooss. From an exile company hosted at Dartington Hall, they became a nomadic exiled troupe. The company slipped into the interstices of wartime theatre, trying to continue its work in the service of the humanistic dimension of art and the defence of democracy. Thus, at the end of their long-organized US tour between January and April 1940, the artists collectively decided not to return to an invaded Europe where, soon after the defeat of France and the Low countries, only England stood up to Nazi Germany. They improvised a 13-month journey that lasted until May 1941 and took them throughout South America. An odyssey in 10 countries that ended with part of the troupe scattered across both Americas and the other part returning to England, where Kurt Jooss, released from the “enemy alien” internment camps, initiated a new dance company based in Cambridge.

Laure Guilbert is a historian who works in the cultural and academic sectors in France and abroad. She is currently Visiting researcher at the Max Planck Insitute in Berlin (Center for the history of emotions). Between 2002 and 2018, she edited the dance programmes of the Paris Opera Ballet and co-founded the Association des Chercheurs en Danse and its online research journal, Recherches en danse. She is currently researching the exile and deportation of Central European choreographic circles. She is the author of Danser avec le Troisième Reich. Les danseurs modernes sous le nazisme (Brussels, 2000/2011/2024).

Sigurd Leeder’s Echo – a parallel reflection from Tim Rubidge

“It seems to me as if all the moments of our life occupy the same space, as if future events already existed and were only waiting for us to find our way to them at last….”  W G Sebald

Tim Rubidge studied with Sigurd Leeder in Switzerland between 1972 and 1975. In this talk Tim notes the way that time can be collapsed… and that some fifty years later the three years of study with Leeder – including memories of his stories of Dartington Hall – that taught, inspired and motivated him remain as clear in mind and memory as they do as a somatic experience. “Those three years brought about tremendous change in who I was, and how I perceived the world. Over the years since I have experienced many other changes – in what kind of choreographic work I wanted to make, who I wanted to work with, and where and why I wanted to make it. In relation to Leeder it’s been sometimes like an orbit… while at others more a stretched ellipse. Yet, I can feel as close to all that we valued as students then in how I recall it now in all its discipline, imagination, fun and adventure.”

Lisa Ullmann and Jenny Gertz: promoting dance, community and education in and around the crisis of 1939/40

The events of 1933 Germany brought these two women to Britain via Dartington.  Ullmann arrived as a teacher of the Jooss-Leeder School while Gertz, a socialist and well-known for work with youth movement choirs, was a political refugee. Highly motivated women, they needed to adapt their dance skills and knowledge to the different circumstances they found themselves in. But they were not mistresses of their own destiny. As aliens, they were in need of sponsors. Their relationships with more high-profile male colleagues, such as Jooss and Laban, were not straightforward. I will be investigating the vicissitudes of these critical years, and their efforts in animating a very different dance culture.

Dr. Larraine Nicholas is an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Roehampton, London. Publications on the history of dance at Dartington include the monograph: Dancing in Utopia: Dartington Hall and its Dancers (Dance Books: 2007); and ‘Leslie Burrowes: a young dancer in Dresden and London, 1930–34’ (Dance Research, 28.2: 2010). She was co-editor, with Dr. Geraldine Morris, of Rethinking Dance History, 2nd edition (Routledge: 2018).

‘I am, I am, I am’ Gertrud Falke-Heller’s Body Awareness Training at Dartington Hall 1937-1940

‘I am… I am… I am… a piece of weight… I am present, in gravity, in this living body, in this chair, in this room, opposite you.’ (From a lecture by Gertrud-Falke Heller, 1982)

Gertrud Falke-Heller was a Hamburg-based dancer and choreographer who was invited by Kurt Jooss to teach at the Jooss-Leeder School of Dance at Dartington Hall in 1937.  Her pedagogy, which ran alongside the main teaching of the school, was a form of sensing practice known to the Dartington students simply as ‘Heller Work’.  It derived from teaching by German Body Awareness practitioner Elsa Gindler (1885-1961).  When European ‘aliens’ were forced to leave Dartington as World War II broke out, her work in performance came to an end, and though she intended to write a book about her training, it never came to pass.

This presentation draws on archive material to discuss key practical experiments from Falke-Heller’s teaching, in order to illuminate her work at Dartington and explore how it sat alongside other teaching at the School.  I propose that although little is written about this practice, her work provides us with a quiet, yet radical approach to sensing and an ethics of engagement that remains relevant in the 21st century, both inside and beyond the performer training studio.

Rebecca Loukes is Associate Professor of Performance Practice at the University of Exeter where she teaches and researches in the areas of Performer Training, body awareness, theatre making and histories and practices of intercultural performance.  She is co-Artistic Director of RedCape Theatre whose play On Track: A Play on Two Wheels is touring the UK in 2024.  She has trained in Elsa Gindler’s approach to body awareness with Eva Schmale and Charlotte Selver and in Phillip Zarrilli’s psychophysical actor training.  She is co-editor of the book series Perspectives on Performer Training and her book Radical Sensing: Elsa Gindler and Performer Training is forthcoming with Routledge.

Lilla Bauer 1912-2011; sources – true and false

Lilla was born and trained in Budapest, her father the respected architect Émil Bauer. She divulged little of her early life, never returning to her homeland after 1938. Documentary sources are equally elusive, or distorted – but fortunately photographic and artistic images provide a useful counterpart. These vary from early photographs by her friend Mariann Reisman, to press cuttings, and wood-cut prints by her lover (1933 – 1938), György Buday – found in both Budapest’s Petöfi Museum and the British Museum in London.

Joining the Jooss company in 1932, she performed as the “young girl” in The Green Table. She toured Europe & the USA (in 1936), taking part in other productions before leaving to form her own company in Budapest in 1938, but almost immediately was overwhelmed by WW2. Still possessing her visa & with fond memories of Dartington Hall and the Ballet’s sanctuary there, she settled in London in 1938. She lectured at Goldsmith’s College for most of her remaining working life until retirement in 1972, teaching widely at many summer schools and acting for years as an examiner.

Lilla married composer Mátyás Seiber in 1946, remaining in contact with many from the Modern Dance world & corresponding warmly with Laban for many years.

Julia Seiber Boyd was born in 1949 and raised in leafy North Downs Surrey, Julia was told not a great deal of her parents’ early lives but has discovered much in the last 20 years. Reading History at Oxford and then specialising in Byzantine studies for research and a thesis. She then qualified as a lawyer specialising in matrimonial law, married Simon Boyd, an educational publisher, and moved to Cambridge in 1979. Retiring from practice, she set up the Mátyás Seiber Trust in 2005 to facilitate research into her father’s music and produce CDs and concerts. She became Chair of the Cambridge Szeged Society the same year (our twin city in Hungary) – and has encouraged choral exchanges (6 so far) and other musical and artistic joint enterprises.

She has given several talks on both parents, for the Cambridge Szeged Society and an interview by Norbert Meyn for the Royal College of Music (as part of their Music and Migration and Mobility project) – and on Lilla in particular for Insiders/ Outsiders and the Laban Institute in the last five years.

Fritz Cohen: before and after The Geen Table

This paper examines the contribution of composer Fritz Cohen to the creation of The Green Table (1932) and his importance in the life and work of the choreographer Kurt Jooss, seen in the context of Cohen’s role as musical director of the various iterations of the Ballets Jooss; he was composer, editor, or arranger of much of the music of their repertoire as well as being their chief accompanist. The career Cohen forged in the USA, after his acrimonius rift with Jooss, is briefly explored reaching the conclusion that Cohen’s, and Jooss’s, greatest compositional work grew from their close collaboration.

Clare Lidbury is a freelance academic and dance practitioner focussing on the work and legacy of the German choreographer and theatre practitioner Kurt Jooss, his partner Sigurd Leeder (teacher and choreographer), and their debt to the work of Rudolf Laban – movement theorist, writer, choreographer and educator – on which she has published widely. She has been editor of Movement, Dance and Drama (the magazine of Laban Guild International) since 2010 and was executive editor of Dance Chronicle 2019-2022.

Post-war music at Dartington: the importance of the Summer School of Music

Dr. Harriet Cunningham, music critic and author of Creative Hotspot: a cultural history of Dartington International Summer School of Music will present the remarkable story of the Summer School with Norbert Meyn and Alison Garnham of the Royal College of Music’s AHRC-funded Music, Migration and Mobility research project – who have been examining the history of the Summer School as part of their wider research on the legacy of émigré musicians from Nazi Europe in Britain. They will feature particularly influential émigrés such as the Amadeus Quartet and Hans Keller and play some of the music of the many émigrés associated with Dartington. They will also show images from the Dartington sketchbooks of the émigré artist Milein Cosman, whose many evocative drawings of musicians are now held in the Royal College of Music Museum.

Dr. Alison Garnham has been researching the history of the Dartington Summer School as part of the Royal College of Music’s AHRC-funded research project Music, Migration and Mobility since 2022. She is a cultural historian specialising in music in Britain during the mid-twentieth century; her particular interests lie in the history of music broadcasting and the BBC’s role in British musical life, the influence on British culture of central European émigrés, and post-war ideas around musical nationality. She has previously held visiting research posts at Goldsmiths and King’s Colleges in the University of London, and the University of Cambridge, where she was the founding archivist of the Hans Keller Archive when it was established at Cambridge University Library in 1996. She also chairs the Cosman Keller Art & Music Trust. Her publications include Hans Keller 1919-1985: A Musician in Dialogue with his Times (2019), Hans Keller and Internment: the Development of an Emigré Musician 1938-48 (2011) and Hans Keller and the BBC: The Musical Conscience of British Broadcasting 1959-1979 (2003/2017).

Norbert Meyn is a professional singer, coach and project curator. Born in Weimar in former East Germany, Norbert has been living in the UK since 1997. After a short period as a curator of international arts projects in the 1990s he chose a full-time career in music. Norbert has been designing and leading a range of practice-based research projects since 2004. His research interests are the performance practice of the German Lieder repertoire, the history of vocal pedagogy and the theme of music and migration, especially émigré musicians from Nazi-ruled Europe.  Norbert is Principal Investigator for the three year AHRC funded research project at the Royal College of Music Music Migration & Mobility. His previous research outputs include the online resource Singing a Song in a Foreign Land and a project about the émigré composer Peter Gellhorn. He is also director of the research-lead professional Ensemble Émigré.

A mobile version of the ‘Music, Migration and Mobility’ exhibition was on show this year at the Dartington Music Summer School This included two special panels about Dartington and introduced a digital database about the early years of the Summer School. Based on Jeremy Wilson’s archive in the British Library, the database allows users to search performers/teachers by name and concert repertoire by composer. The database can be accessed here.

Leina Schiffrin’s father Federico de La Iglesia fought on the losing Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. Her parents and Leina (née Maria Elena de La Iglesia) arrived at Dartington as refugees in 1940. Her father was given a job teaching Geography at the School. After attending Dartington Hall School, she read English at Newnham College, Cambridge then married an American and moved to New York where she has lived ever since. In New York she wrote books, taught briefly, and produced two daughters.  She has returned to Dartington almost every summer for the last sixty years, and now spends the summer months in Totnes.

Gabriele Foti was born in Berlin in 1932 into a very assimilated German-Jewish family, which managed to get out of Germany by joining an evacuated Jewish school brought over to England by its headmistress Anna Essinger. That school was Bunce Court in Kent. Her father Ludwig Rosenberg taught for a term at Bunce Court and then worked as a teacher of German, French, Greek and Latin for the remainder of his life at Dartington Hall School in Devon. Gabriele married a Hungarian refugee in 1958 and had one son. Later she taught the violin and cello in various state schools in London, where she still lives. She has donated all her family papers to the Wiener Holocaust Library.

Etain Todds (née Kabraji) was born in India in 1929 and came to Dartington Hall School when she was seven years old. She stayed there throughout the war until she got into Cambridge (Newnham College), where she read English. She became an English teacher, spending 31 years at St. Paul’s Girls’ School (12 years as Head of English). Her husband was a Senior Music Producer BBC Television. She lives in Suffolk in retirement. Etain has either worked for or attended nearly every Music Summer School since it first came to Dartington in 1953.