Dancer in the Dark: Hypnosis, Trance-Dancing, and Weimar’s Fear of the New Woman

Barbara Hales


Many writers in the Weimar press viewed the liberated New Woman as undermining traditional gender roles and, thus, as posing a threat to the entire social order. This article will demonstrate the cultural resonance found in the Weimar popular media through an analysis of Anita Berber’s expressive dance and through female characters in films of the period (Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, Metropolis, and Arnold Fanck’s 1926 film, Der Heilige Berg [The Holy Mountain]) that unleash evil consequences upon their male protagonists. As background to this analysis, the article provides a detailed study of women engaged in hypnosis and trance-dancing. Like the New Woman, the trance-dancer is both an object of men’s desire and a femme fatale that threatens male subjectivity. (BH)

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