Otto Luening

Refugees and Dadaists in Zurich
1917- 1920

When we left Munich, Father gave us, in a magnanimous gesture, a one-thousand-mark bill plus travel money. «This will be enough for several months,» he said, «but should you be temporarily embarrassed, cable Aunt Gretchen. She is a good woman and will know what to do.» Unfortunately, Father had forgotten that the German mark had been devalued. [...]
I used some of my few remaining francs to register at the Zurich Conservatory of Music. I was sure that Dr. Andreae, the director, would recognize my genius. After further studies I would undoubtedly land a conducting job. I went to the conservatory for an appointment. Dr. Andreae, a major in the Swiss militia, was in military service. I went ahead and registered anyway for a semester for fifty francs, or $ 12.50.
Zurich, in addition to being a center of espionage and the home of many questionable characters was also the international cultural center of the world during World War I. Besides welcoming artists from all of the warring countries, the city gave asylum to countless others, many of whom later became worldfamous. The city had a population of approximately two hundred thousand. Many diverse cultural activities took place simultaneously and often conflicted in their artistic aims. At times, and in a rather tenuous fashion, cultural dividing lines were crossed and people from the Swiss establishment rubbed elbows with the avant-garde artists. Far-out literary people met with painters and musicians from the establishment, if only briefly, and sometimes even exchanged views with members of the developing psychoanalytic group around Dr. Jung and Dr. Riklin.
I was roaming through the corridor of the conservatory one day when a fellow bumped into me.
«I beg your pardon, I'm so sorry; I hope I didn't do any damage,» he said. This was followed by a kind of fast laugh that then modulated into solicitous phrases such as «very stupid of me» and «I didn't see you.»
I looked at my apologetic bumping partner. I saw a rather fat young chap of about twenty with a moonlike face, slightly curly hair, twinkling black eyes, and volatile hands and arms, who used fairly fast footwork while he talked. His sentences came out in a sputter and a torrent. At times it was hard to know what he was saying, but his intent could easily be deduced from the expression on his face and his dance movements. I put him at his ease. Then he introduced himself.
«I'm Otto Strauss. Are you a stranger here?»
«Yes, I'm an American and I'm going to study here.»
«An American. How wonderful! Have you just arrived and will you stay for a while? ... I hear that business is fine in America and everybody is getting rich.... Are you rich too? Wonderful to be rich, isn't it?»
I answered, «My name is Otto Luening.... Not everybody in America is rich.... No, I'm not rich, I'm poor.... It s wonderful to be poor.» [...]
In the cafe, he ordered coffee, insisted on lacing it with kirsch, and looked at the international papers for a few moments. Then we began exchanging further information. He told me that his grandmother was African and his grandfather German Swiss. His father was a physician in the Italian canton of Ticino. His very beautiful mother became incurably manic-depressive when she was thirty-five and had been confined in an institution for many years. Strauss wanted to be a concert pianist and had already been coached by Ferruccio Busoni. [...]
Next day, Strauss introduced me to the Tivoli owner and my credit was established with a handshake. The restaurant was soon jammed with students and a few older, impressive-looking guests who sat at reserved tables. The food was excellent and plentiful: soup, meat, potatoes, vegetables, salad, and dessert were included in the regular dinner- cost: thirty-five cents.

Strauss steered me around town between meals, and I soon felt quite at home in what appeared to be the peaceful atmosphere of Zurich. At table three days later, he suddenly leaned over to me and hissed apprehensively, «Sshh, sshh. Revolutionaries... over there,» and pointed to three men who were making their way to a reserved table in the rear of the hall. When they were out of earshot Strauss continued: «Ulyanov, a Russian revolutionary, also known as Lenin... Don't look now.» Strauss went on: «They come here almost every day for the midday meal. They just sit in the corner and eat and talk a little, and then leave.»
«Do you know anything about them? Who are they?»
«Lower your voice ... we don't want anyone to hear us.»
Ulyanov, who used the cover name Lenin, had been living in Zurich for about a year. The Lenins rented a room in Spiegelgasse 14 near what is now the Jacob's Fountain in the old part of Zurich. The little street was rather dark and narrow and only a block and a half from the Restaurant Meierei where the Cabaret Voltaire, the famous Dada nightclub, held its programs.
Strauss, as a Swiss from the Ticino, had learned Swiss German and had a direct pipeline to the Swiss Social Democratic party through his friend Büttner, the kettledrum player of the opera and symphony orchestra, a radical socialist who attended every meeting of the Party. Büttner told Strauss that Lenin paid twenty-four francs for his room, that Lenin's wife sometimes made simple meals on a kerosene stove, that Lenin produced all his political manifestos in the tiny double bedroom, and that he occasionally ate a meal in the Restaurant Meierei, carefully avoiding the Dadaists. Although they were a quiet and unobtrusive couple, Lenin was a well-known figure in the central library, in the museum, and in the Central Archive for Social Literature. He was in close contact with Otto Lang and Fritz Platten, two prominent members of the Swiss Social Democratic party, and other radicals. In addition to the Tivoli restaurant, Lenin liked Zur Eintracht, a simple restaurant that had a private room where he could hold meetings of Russian emigres, the Café Adler with its small lecture room, and the Odeon, which was headquarters for most of the intellectuals and artists in Zurich. Lenin too, could spend an undisturbed afternoon reading international magazines and papers while enjoying a cup of coffee in the Odeon.
Lenin came to the Tivoli fairly regularly. It was whispered that he was broke and needed the credit. His entrance was always unobtrusive. He was generally accompanied by two or three other men and they passed fairly close to our table. Strauss, who was very well versed in Swiss restaurant manners, got in a «Guten Tag!» whenever he could catch the eye of one of them, who, in turn, might quite correctly return his greeting. I'm afraid that my own attempts on these occasions were rather furtive. Europeans had a style about their restaurant behavior that is not natural to Americans and it took me awhile to catch on and fit in.
As Lenin sat at his table, it was possible for us to observe him without being noticed. His clean, clearly sculptured features and his well-barbered Vandyke and mustache gave a certain decisiveness to his facial expression, unlike the straggly and somewhat Santa Clauslike appearances of some of the other bearded radicals in Zurich. I think it was his pale face that made him look to me like a workingman's Cardinal Richelieu. But the main impression was that of his almost marblelike forehead and his eyes, which transmitted a sense of great concentration and power. There was something statuesque about him, not a classical statuesqueness, but more that of certain Renaissance men. His appearance was neither particularly benevolent nor malevolent. He simply gave out the vibrations of a completely coordinated human being, charged with electricity, in total command of the moment, even in the relaxed and public atmosphere of a restaurant. I can't help thinking of him now as being what the yogi Patanjali called «onepointed.»
Toward the end of March, Strauss was more and more mysterious when he spoke about Lenin. But eventually I wormed out of him that Buttner the kettledrummer had heard from Swiss socialists that they in turn had heard from Russian friends, who had the message from a Polish emigre, that Lenin was planning to leave Switzerland. Strauss, who had many connections in town, was a railroad buff who generally landed at the main depot at least once a day and had friends among the train personnel and the station administration. They told him that the German embassy in Bern was trying to make a deal for Lenin to travel through Germany to Finland and then to Russia. The Germans hoped that Russia would be thrown into turmoil and revolution and that the country would collapse and be easy to control. Lenin had lined up ten people to accompany him to Russia, and the party kept growing in size. Most of the Swiss dropped out, but some Poles joined. Strauss even whispered that Romain Rolland was supposed to go along, a completely unfounded rumor.

On April 7, Strauss said he had heard that the Russian party was actually leaving from the main railway station around noon on Easter Monday, April 9.
We arrived at the Hauptbahnhof at ten-thirty on Monday morning. It was a typical Zurich spring day-drizzly, cold, foggy, and rather dark. There was an air of great expectancy among the station personnel and the onlookers. A few of these were more conspicuous than they might have wished, but on the whole it was not an impressive group.
Lenin and his party arrived. Lenin had a knapsack on his back, crammed with books and papers. With a companion he walked briskly to the stationmaster and made the last arrangements for boarding the train. He was quite self-possessed and in passing greeted acquaintances in the group of onlookers with a smile as though nothing unusual was happening. He talked to the station master in a businesslike manner and without visible signs of emotion. What looked like about thirty, mostly Russian emigres followed him. They were shabbily dressed and carried knapsacks, small trunks, baskets, pillows, and blankets. They looked decrepit and rather pitiful. But they were obviously moved by the thought of this new adventure and showed it, if only furtively, in their expressions and actions.
After Lenin had arranged matters with the stationmaster, the emigres moved slowly toward the train. From behind the rope that cut us off from the train itself, we observed some last-minute shoving and hauling. Lenin grabbed one fellow by the collar and threw him out of the group; Strauss identified him as a Swiss socialist by the name of Blum who tried to force his way into the Party after Lenin had forbidden him to join because he was accused of being an agent of the Russian secret police.
The small group of onlookers behind the rope shouted insults at the emigres, bellowing at random «Rascals!» ... «Pigs!» ... «Spies!» ... «German agents!»
The emigres shouted back half-heartedly and finally sang the «Internationale». The stationmaster herded them onto the train. The Swiss railroad personnel sealed the baggage cars and we watched the train slowly pulling out through the smoke and fog until it disappeared from sight. We heard the coughing of the engine gradually fade away. For a moment, there was complete silence in the station.
The little group that had come to watch straggled away. Strauss and I, at first only curious, were now excited and disturbed. We returned to the Café Odeon for an espresso.

Strauss knew everyone in Zurich and was tireless in introducing me to his favorites. One day in the Cafe Odeon he called over a sad-looking man.
«Salut! This is David Rubinstein, a great cellist, the nephew of Anton Rubinstein.... Otto Luening, a great American composer - rich, too, but financially embarrassed, temporarily.»
After a couple of cognacs, Rubinstein asked me to compose some cello pieces for him. Strauss remarked that Rubinstein performed often and was a member of the Zurich Symphony Orchestra and a fine soloist, so I accepted his invitation.
As our conversation waned, Strauss pointed excitedly to a weird fellow who was looking f'or a table. «Shh, shh, quiet. He's completely crazy. Dada. Do you want to meet him?»
The wild man joined us. His name was Hans Heusser. He was a student at the Zurich Conservatory of Music, but also the professional music director for the Dada group. I mentioned Busoni and Richard Strauss.
Heusser looked pained and said, «Very old-fashioned; we play only Schoenberg, African music with percussion, and sometimes improvisations.
Strauss told Heusser that I had composed many cello pieces for Rubinstein, so Heusser invited us to play them at the Meierei, the headquarters of the Dada movement. I was very anxious to hear more about this group for they sounded like some of the wild, pre-First World War artists in Munich. Heusser talked at length about Dada in the Odeon and over our daily coffee and kirsch in the Meierei.
Heusser said that Tristan Tzara, a Rumanian poet, was the real founder of Dada. Tzara surrounded himself with an international collection of artists, anti-artists, pacifists, draft dodgers, deserters, junkies, real and phony physicians, and other camp followers. Heusser explained that Tzara, a conscientious objector, had learned to simulate schizophrenia so convincingly that the military attache and physicians at the Rumanian embassy in Bern classified him as unfit for military service because of mental illness.
The Dadaists did much of their philosophizing in the Cafe de la Terrasse. The coffee was good; cocaine fixes could be arranged and were popular, for had not even the great Dr. Sigmund Freud praised the virtues of this drug and himself used it for a while? There were lengthy discussions of its effect on creative artists. Some of them, of course, alleged that they had been freed. Not so one musician, a brilliant violinist who became habituated and cured himself only by spending a summer high in the mountains practicing Bach solo sonatas six hours a day, playing in a hotel for room and board, and climbing mountains to exhaust himself the rest of the time. He regained his health and had a distinguished career without a recurrence, but two of our young artist addicts suffered complete mental breakdowns, and there was also a suicide. But these events were blamed on improper dosages. Eventually most of the group agreed that at least a minimum of selfdiscipline was needed even to create and sustain Dadaistic chaos.
The collage of Dada activities became part of my life for a period. I was already a «radical» composer, and I now found the uninhibited atmosphere of Dada exciting. I listened and looked carefully as I attended the various events and met the people involved.
I learned that Marinetti, in his Futurist Manifesto of 1909 and Russolo's noise music had anticipated many Dada twists. Some of Marinetti's ideas turned into proclamations such as «War is an eruption of possibility, a simultaneous poem, a symphony of screams, shouts and commands by which one tries to solve the problems of life.» This now has a fine Fascist ring about it, but then it influenced the Dadaists enormously, along with thoughts like: «Music is an harmonic art - an action of common sense.»
«Bruitismus shows life as it is» ... «Wagner was a pathological liar» ... «The noises of a brake can at least stop a toothache» ... «Death is vomiting, screaming, and choking.» Everything new to the Dadaist seemed important, artistic, and true.
Busoni, Stravinsky, and Varèse were all claimed as blood brothers by the Dadaists, but I never saw or heard of them being present, although Busoni had written his radical book «Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music» in 1907 and looked tolerantly upon Marinetti and the Futurists. When Stravinsky visited Zurich he did not attend Dada events. During Busoni's stay in Zurich I never heard him or his followers mention the Dada events or people. Years later, Varèse too disavowed any connection.
Heusser, Rubinstein, and I played at the Meierei one night at 1:30 A.M. The program included one of my compositions for cello and piano, known as the «Wet Dream Gavotte»! We also played an aria and a one-step. Why Rubinstein and I also played Saint-Saens' «The Swan», I don't know, but Heusser found it suitable for his interesting programs. These included his own works for piano, voice, and harmonium, which were much hated by the Establishment. African dancers with masks were accompanied by Arabian tunes and tambourines. One-steps, ragtimes, noise music, balalaika concerts, music with magic lantern slides, piano improvisations, folk songs, brothel songs, and bass drum solos rounded out his programs. There was a huge crowd, an unearthly din, and blue smoke clouds, and everybody talked. Nobody listened except Heer, the Swiss poet. When we finished he banged a beer mug on the floor and bellowed, «Silence! A concert! Encore!» We repeated the program. Again nobody listened, but there was much applause, and we were offered drinks and were cheered. One fellow kept hollering, «Eff-a, eff-a.» I finally understood he wanted me to play the notes F and A on the piano. I did. There were shouts of «Encore!» «F, A» went on for ten minutes. At half-past two the police closed the place. A few years later Heusser became music director in St. Gallen and made a reputation as a composer of marches for band - Swiss marches with a Dada twist!
I met Tzara and saw him in action once or twice, but he was too mad for me and I too square for him. He declaimed poetry and sometimes sang. He used bells, drums, whistles, and cowbells, beating the table to punctuate his declamations and to incite the audience to participate in his performance. He would curse, sigh, yodel, and shriek when the spirit moved him. His famous prescription for a poem - cut out words from a newspaper article, shake them in a hat, and spill them on a table, using their random order to reveal the poet's mind - smacked of the I Ching. His constant mobility was tiresome. Most of the Zurich artists thought him a poseur. They said of him, «Er spinnt» - «He spins» (or «is spinning») - and I agreed.
Far more interesting to me were Dr. Walter Serner and Hugo Ball and his mistress, Emmy Hennings. Serner was an adventurer, professional nihilist, and anarchist. Ball and Hennings, who were later married, were cabaret artists of some distinction. Hennings sang chansons and folk, brothel, and satirical songs. She had a thin voice and was like a rather anemic Yvette Guilbert or Edith Piaf. Ball was a poet and pianist of sorts. Together they were somewhat pale precursors of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya.
I had to face many conflicting interests in Zurich. Dr. Andreae and Philipp Jarnach introduced me to the larger professional world of music. My meeting with Ferruccio Busoni, a world figure, soon showed me that Bach and Milton, Mozart and Beaumarchais, Berlioz and Delacroix, Liszt and Cervantes, were all paths leading to the twentieth century. Busoni's prophetic genius pointed out possibilities for the future but demanded continuing self-education and self-discipline.

My contact with many of the other branches of the Dada movement was less immediate. The awakening dance movement in Zurich was led by Alexander Sakharoff and Clotilde von Derp of the Pfauen Theater. They gave numerous interesting and, for that period, daring recitals in the municipal theaters and concert halls. Mary Wigman and Rudolph von Laban were allied with the Dadaists. Wigman's dances with percussive and exotic musical accompaniments attracted much attention because of their angular and nonsentimental type of movement. When performers were available, exotic art forms were presented, including African and Kabuki dances. Von Laban's studio was the center where Wigman and a group of other young dancers could develop new dance ideas, in movement, in choreography, and in notation. Wigman used masks and abstract stage settings.
Von Laban, after perfecting his notational system, made a spectacular career in Germany, where, in 1936, he became involved with the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda. Over his signature he invited Martha Graham to appear at the Olympic Games in Germany, an invitation she turned down because of its political, nonartistic coloring. Von Laban had come full circle from the chaotic, creative efforts and contributions of the Dadaists in 1917 to the state-controlled art of the Nazis in 1936.
The painters were unusually active; many of them later became internationally famous. They held exhibits all around town. When I arrived in Zurich they were moving to the Gallerie Corray on the Bahnhofstrasse, just across from my lodgings at Bahnhofstrasse 24, so I saw most of those exhibits. They also showed in the «Zurwaag» hall and in the Kaufleuten (the same hall that was host to James Joyce's English Players and to a Viennese operetta company that later engaged me as a flutist and conductor). These exhibits were distinguished by their high artistic quality and included works by Picabia, Picasso, Duchamp, Franz Marc, and Kandinsky. Further exhibits of paintings by Paul Klee, Giacometti, Kokoschka, and many other outstanding artists made a powerful impact on the artists, connoisseurs, and art dealers in Zurich. The Dada group also arranged exhibits of Chinese, African, Japanese, and other exotic art.
The tireless activities of the Dadaists included the printing of a number of flyers, pamphlets, magazines, and proclamations that appeared sporadically, depending on available funds. The periodical Dada, with contributions by Apollinaire, Picasso, Modigliani, Arp, Tzara, Kandinsky, and Marinetti, was more permanent. Café conversations concerning these manifestos were endless and ranged from discussions about the destruction of art, the resurrection of art, and the discovery of new art, to the inclusion of African and other exotic arts in Western civilization. Discussions of new materials and how to pull down the Establishment and its traditions were frequent. Hugo Ball summed it up when he wrote that Dada considered art an adventure of liberated humanity. He stated that the Dadaists "painted" with scissors, plaster, paper, stockings, adhesives, and other new tools and materials; he described how they made collages and montages and how exciting it was to find in the corner of one's own room a pretty leg, a train ticket, a stone, an insect, a clock movement - anything that inspired direct and pure feeling. He considered Dada an alarm signal against routine and speculation and all declining values: not a school of artists, but a desperate appeal for a creative basis on which all forms of art could find a new and universal consciousness. He pointed out Dada's influence in poetry, architecture, films, typography, music, and articles for everyday use. Sixty years later, there is no doubt in my mind that the effect of the movement can be seen in much commercial art, certain literary and musical trends, and in many of the other areas that Ball mentioned.

Heusser introduced me to a French medical student named Albert. During one of our debates in the Café Odeon, Albert spoke glowingly of Dr. Paul Eugen Bleuler's course in abnormal psychology at the university. Dr. Bleuler was director of the Burgholzli Sanatorium, an institution that became internationally known when James Joyce brought his daughter Lucia there for observation and diagnosis in the twenties. Albert explained that in Bleuler's monumental work Dementia Praecox, or the Group of Schizophrenias, published in 1911, Bleuler had written that schizophrenia was not a dementia but rather a disharmonious state of mind in which contradictory tendencies coexist. He was the first to believe that it could be helped and often cured by psychoanalysis and he pointed out that there were often spontaneous recoveries. Albert invited me to attend Bleuler's course in abnormal psychology in the Aula, or assembly hall, of the university.
Patients that Bleuler borrowed from Burgholzli were used as examples and living stage props in his memorable lectures on diagnosis. Professor Bleuler walked to his lectern in a relaxed manner and talked to the class in a low key. He looked and dressed like a country family doctor, and there was a touch of country pastor about him. He exuded good will, kindness, and understanding, both in his facial expression and through his gestures as he escorted the patients to the platform. Bleuler began his first lecture by introducing a woman, a religious fanatic. He explained to the students that no matter what he would say to her, she would eventually relate his statement to Jesus. Bleuler was a skillful and kind interviewer, and he led her to prove his point that she was a religious maniac. He told us that this type of fixation would be hard to cure.
At another lecture, Bleuler brought in a very pretty young woman patient who looked like a zombie. He steered her to a corner of the platform and moved her arm up into a Statue of Liberty pose. She held it for fifteen minutes, until he posed her in another position, which she rigidly held for the rest of the session. During this interminable episode Dr. Bleuler explained that her rigidity came from a psychic fear, that it was a deep fixation on something that probably frightened her into immobility. Hot baths could bring her out of it sometimes, but he could never predict how long the relief would last.
Professor Bleuler admitted that he could neither predict nor explain spontaneous cures and remissions. Patients would sometimes almost walk out of their symptoms, ask for their clothes and transportation home, and perhaps never return. He explained that often only a small adjustment in their everyday life was necessary to keep them functioning. He also explained that through psychoanalysis it was difficult but no longer impossible to help many patients and so restore them to society. None of this seemed in the least depressing, for Dr. Bleuler was renowned for being the first psychiatrist who was confident and optimistic about possible relief for schizophrenics. What I learned in his lectures and remembered for more than half a century was that almost no psychic illness is really hopeless.
Albert was delighted that I had been impressed by Dr. Bleuler. As a senior medical student Albert seemed to me a very sophisticated older man (he was about twenty-five) who knew all the answers, so I asked him about some of the fine points of psychiatry.
One day, one of Bleuler's patients insisted that there was an angel sitting in the front row of the lecture hall. I told Albert that such fantasies often inspired artists, and mentioned William Blake.
He looked rather bored as he said, «Oh yes, we know that; you should read the articles by Dr. Carl Jung
Jung had been Bleuler's student and his assistant at Burgholzli at the beginning of the century. He had a large private practice. His dissertation was entitled On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena. He analyzed mediums, went to seances, studied autism, hallucinatory visions, sensations, inner voices, and automatic writing. I asked Albert whether I could meet people who were involved in these analytic studies. Albert suggested that I attend a party given by one of Jung's patients.
The party began around 9:00 P.M. and lasted until 4:00 A.M. The guests included musicians, painters, writers, and many university students, some of them in the faculty of medicine. I was the only composer. I met a Dr. Franz Riklin and felt attracted to him. His friendly blue eyes, pleasant face, and soft-spoken manner had the effect of making me want to talk. He was soon questioning me about composing and in particular how I composed and what it meant to me. I told him I had discovered the Dadaists. This interested him and he asked how I reacted to this whole business and what I thought of painters like Picasso and composers like Schoenberg. Although we had had a glass or two of wine and everybody was rather lively, it was Dr. Riklin's conversation that animated me and seemed to open new facets of my nature. I went on at length about how I composed from inner aural images. He told me that he had been Jung's assistant for a time and how they had collaborated in conducting a laboratory for experimental psychopathology at Burgholzli. He had made many studies in free association, and, like Jung, was very much interested in the arts.
The host, a young literature student, had on his piano a rather nicely sculpted head of an African woman. He was being analyzed and told me he had made the head as part of his therapy. He explained that thinking about the head, dreaming about it, and then using his hands to shape it had helped to restore his emotional health. His remarks made me consider the possibility of therapeutic benefits from artistic activities.

One day, Dr. Andreae, the conservatory's director, arranged an outing for his students in the foothills near Zurich. Before we began our excursion, a few of his friends joined us. One of them was a striking-looking man with very sensitive features but otherwise seemingly rather energetic and rugged.
«Students,» said Dr. Andreae, «this is Hermann Hesse. Hesse, these are the students.»
I asked Otto Strauss, who had joined the group at the last minute, «Who is Hesse?»
«The greatest German poet since Goethe,» he responded.
On our outing and afterwards, I learned that Hesse had been in Switzerland off and on for many years but now was a permanent resident, totally opposed to the war and to the mentality that had helped bring it on. In 1916, because of family problems and overwork, he had had a severe emotional crisis and was unable to function normally. Dr. Joseph Bernhard Lang, a student of Jung, became his friend and introduced him to the writings of both Freud and Jung; he had between sixty and seventy psychiatric interviews with Dr. Lang. This treatment and his study of Nietzsche turned him away from «art for art's sake.» He immortalized Othmar Schoeck and Dr. Andreae, both Swiss composers, in Journey to the East - in which «Othmar played Mozart in the lofty hall of the castle,» and Andreae was transformed into Leo.
Although Hesse seemed not to have a direct contact with the Dada group, he could hardly have escaped some of their exhibits and performances. Later when he, Hugo Ball, and Emma Hennings moved to Italian Switzerland, they became close friends. Hesse's understanding of the underlying motives of the Dadaists without doubt had a strong influence in helping to release his creative powers.
ALEXANDER SAKHAROFF e CLOTHILDE (S.A., Zuckermann, Mariupol, 1886 - Siena 1963; Von Derp C., Von der Planitz, Berlino, 1892 - Roma 1974)

Il ruolo dei coniugi Sakharoff nella danza libera europea è piuttosto unico. Raffinati e aristocratici, erano dotati di uno straordinario senso musicale che li portò a ballare sulla musica di tutti i maestri più famosi, da Lully a Ravel.
I coniugi S. svilupparono su queste musiche il loro linguaggio personalel definito «danza plastica», anche per la forte suggestione derivata dalle altre forme di arte. Importanza primaria veniva data anche ai costumi che, per Alexander, dovevano rispecchiare fedelmente il senso e l'intento di una danza.
Nato in Russia, Sakharoff studiò legge e pittura a Parigi, prima di dedicarsi alla danza. Studiò anche da acrobata a Monaco dove diede il suo primo concerto-danza nel 19 10. Nel 1919 sposò la danzatrice Clothìlde von Derp che diventò la sua fedele compagna di scena. Insieme fecero molte tournée all'estero prima di stabilirsi a Roma nel 1953, dove aprirono una scuola a Palazzo Doria e tennero corsi estivi presso l'Accademia Musicale Chigiana di Siena.
In Italia, dove le forme di danza esterne al linguaggio accademico sono spesso ignorate o sminuite, i coniugi Sakharoff rappresentarono una valida alternativa di ricerca corporea nell'immediato dopoguerra, quando la danza cercava una nuova identità e ambiva ad essere nuovamente riconosciuta come forma d'arte a pieno titolo. [DIZIONARIO DANZA E BALLETTO JAKA BOOK] SUi TORNA