A Moment for the Bauhaus Ballet

It’s been just over a century since the Bauhaus Ballet, more commonly known as the Triadic Ballet, was first developed by Oskar Schlemmer. In 1916, the notion of avant-garde was also in its infancy, thus the two came of age together. The ballet toured all during the 1920s, helping to spread the philosophy of the German art school — that is, extreme minimalism and functionality — throughout Europe and the world.

Schlemmer believed the human body to be an artistic medium, which he choreographed through rigid, abstracted, stylized movements. He structured the ballet — with music composed by Paul Hindemith — to similarly exacting standards: three acts, three participants (two male, one female), twelve scenes, and eighteen costumes. Each of the three acts had a different color and corresponding mood, changing from cheerful and child-like to solemn and mystical.

Naturally, costume design was an essential component of the Triadic Ballet. In fact, Schlemmer built the performance around the costumes, which he called “figurines.” Based purely on boldness of shape and functionality, they resembled the output of the other disciplines of the Bauhaus and were sometimes referred to as the ‘mechanical cabaret.’ The strictness of their design didn’t take away from the playfulness exhibited by anyone sporting a costume, particularly at any of the Bauhaus’ legendary costume parties.

Over 40 years after the Ballet disbanded, The Triadic Ballet was produced as a 30-minute color film by Bavaria Atelier, which offers a window on how it may have looked originally…

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