Pantomime in the 1920s: Jaap Kool

Pantomime: The History and Metamorphosis of a Theatrical Ideology: Table of Contents

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Jaap Kool

By 1924, expressionism in Germany began to wane as an artistic movement, giving way to the more sober, “objective” aesthetic philosophy of “Neue Sächlichkeit,” with its focus on defining a “reality” outside of that distorted by the self and subjectivity. But what was left of theatrical pantomime in Germany remained attached to expressionism, presumably because the phenomenon of acting without speaking struck nearly everyone as an inherently subjective experience, a deliberate attempt to plunge an audience into a hidden world of the subconscious. Even German silent film acting retained an affection for expressionist devices until the sound era, as can be seen in such films as Dupont’s Varieté (1925), Pabst’s Geheimnisse einer Seele (1926), Murnau’s Faust (1926), Lang’s Metropolis (1927), May’s Asphalt (1929), and Sternberg’s Der blaue Engel (1930). By the mid-1920s, however, new pantomimes for the German stage came almost entirely from the Dutch composer Jaap Kool (1891-1959). Educated in Germany, Paris, and Switzerland, including the famous Wickersdorf school in Saalfeld, Kool grew up in a liberal environment that welcomed experimental education and the radical social ideas associated with the body culture movement. At the Wickersdorf school, Kool became friends with Ernst Schertel (1884-1958), a member of the mystical-aristocratic “circle” around the poet Stefan George (1868-1933), and later the director of the Pantheon publishing house, one of the most ambitious producers of pornography in Germany in the late 1920s. Schertel introduced Kool to the concept of “trance” or hypnotic dancing, which eventually Schertel realized briefly through the formation in 1925 of the Stuttgart-based Traumbühne Schertel, a collaboration with the Ida Herion (1876-1959) modern dance company, although for Schertel, trance dancing was as much a matter of expressionist photography as of performance on stage. But due to a combination of familial and historical circumstances, Kool’s musical career did not get rolling until after World War I. New and strange forms of music excited him: jazz, African rhythms, Asian harmonics, popular dance forms like the tango and shimmy, and modernist tonal structures. After composing music for a 1918 Berlin stage production of Georg Kaiser’s Europa, he became the accompanist for the solo dancer Grit Hegesa (1891-1972), discussed earlier (cf. Toepfer 1997: 167-171). For her, he composed, 1919-1920, numerous dances and pieces specifically designated as “pantomimes,” about which information remains extremely scarce. He asserted that modern dance required new music to accompany it, and to this end his music for Hegesa included gongs, Javanese gamelans, glass-timbred instruments, the saxophone, and different kinds of drums. He also composed a Siamese Pantomime (1919) for dancer Lisa Kresse and a “human marionette” dance, Pritzelpuppe (1919), for Anita Berber. When Hegesa became a film star in 1920, Kool turned his attention to providing jazz and hybrid music for nightclub revues in Berlin; he also published several influential theoretical works on jazz, non-Western music, and hybrid forms of music (Wipplinger 2017: 84, 254). In 1922, he became friends with Karl Vollmoeller, the scenarist of Das Mirakel, who now was writing screenplays. Vollmoeller’s girlfriend was the Polish-born cabaret dancer and film actress Lena Amsel (1899-1929), and he invited Kool to compose music for a three-act “grotesque dance pantomime,” Die Schiessbude, that he had written for Amsel, although it is not clear when he wrote it, for his involvement with Amsel dated back to 1916, when he was still married to Maria Carmi. 

The action takes place in a fairground arcade or shooting gallery managed by a man and his wife. Among the attractions of the arcade is, in a room full of mechanical figures, a trio of life-size, wooden dolls, a Jockey, a Boxer, and a Dancer, as well as a “little ape woman” named Krukru, who is a kind of assistant to the owner. She chews on something while the owner repairs the leg of the wooden Dancer. It is evident (from fondling movements) that the owner nurtures an erotic attachment to the Dancer. His wife displays a business-oriented attitude toward the dolls, and she feels jealousy arising from her husband’s attachment to the Dancer doll. A rich African plantation owner, the Nabob, appears, accompanied by two elegant women, whom Krukru scares away. But then the Nabob returns alone and pays to try his luck in the shooting gallery. After shooting at pots, he offers to pay extra to shoot at the dolls concealed under a cloth. The owner intervenes to protect his creations, but his wife laughs at him and indicates that her husband is somewhat crazy. But when the Nabob offers to pay to touch the breast of the Dancer, the owner jumps on the Nabob, who manages to cast his attacker aside and tempt the wife to sell the doll to him. In the evening, the owner, bearing a “Chinese lamp,” a mask, and a gong, conducts a ritualistic oath-swearing scene, aided by Krukru. Through this mysterious ceremony, the owner is able to bring the dolls to life, but when he does so, he also activates the jealous rivalry between the Jockey and the Boxer for the affections of the Dancer. The owner indicates that when he strikes them with a whip, they will return to being lifeless wooden puppets, which is what happens. He then leaves the scene. But Krukru does not. She sees the opportunity to emulate her master by reenacting the magic ritual in a “comically caricatured” manner and succeeds in bringing the Jockey and the Boxer to life. However, she then drops the gong, which shatters and instantly brings the Dancer to life. The Dancer performs a “magical dance” that draws the Nabob and the wife from their hiding place. The Nabob repulses Krukru and commands the dolls to escape with him and the wife. When the owner arrives and sees the disaster, he and Krukru set off in pursuit. Act 2: the Nabob holds a banquet in his mansion with the Jockey and the Boxer as servants. The drunken Nabob commands the scantily clad Dancer to dance on top of the table and dismisses his guests so that he can be alone with her. The wife conspires with the Jockey and the Boxer to put the Nabob to sleep with alcohol, so that they can rob him. But the Nabob awakes and catches the Jockey, whom he condemns to death by hanging. The owner and Kruku discover the Jockey hanging from a gallows and carry him off. The following scene occurs in a casino. The Boxer, accompanied by the Dancer, wears a turban and the garments of an oriental prince, while the wife has also adorned herself luxuriously. They win an enormous sum at the gambling table and beginning quarreling over how to divide the winnings. The Boxer decides to take it all. The Nabob then appears. He offers to renounce prosecuting the Boxer for theft and to allow the Boxer to keep the winnings if he releases the Dancer to him. The Boxer agrees, but then he suddenly starts eating the money, “ecstatically,” and chokes to death. The owner and Krukru arrive to discover the corpse, which they carry away while at the same time the wife and the Dancer disappear with a Gigolo and the Nabob follows after them. Scene change: the dark underworld beneath the bridges of the Seine. The Dancer is now a depraved whore and the wife is her procuress. The owner appears, but the Dancer and the wife do not recognize him. The wife urges the Dancer to sell herself to the owner. Horrified, the owner nevertheless embraces the Dancer with love. He turns on his wife and strangles her, and action that so terrifies the Dancer that she hurls herself into the river. The owner attempts to retrieve her from the water. Act 3: back to the arcade. The owner prepares to unveil for the arcade audience a “great lyric scene with his beloved dolls,” but he has only a fragment from the shattered gong. In despair, he turns to a barrel organ and cranks it. The music brings the Dancer to life and she dances a few steps. The dance arouses the furious jealousy of the wife, who smashes the doll with a steel rod. The owner summons the police, but when the police examine the victim and discover that she is a doll, they laugh and depart. The scene then is as it was at the beginning of the piece. “The woman blows her trumpet. Carousel. Kruku leaps to her post, goes to her usual procedure at the organ. The arcade owner goes insane” (Vollmer 2011: 418-423; Kool 1929a). 

Die Schiessbude resembles somewhat the hallucinatory image of insanity in Caligari. But perhaps it is more insightful to see the piece as dramatizing male fixation on the erotic power of mechanized beings, robotic figures, who inspire greater love than any human female. By contrast, all the females—the wife, the Dancer, and Krukru—remain emotionally attached to human males. The owner’s relation to the doll technology is mysterious, “magical,” involving arcane technical procedures that elude complete comprehension by females, as is evident from Krukru’s bumbling and disastrous effort to imitate the “master.” The wife wishes to reduce the doll-robots to a commercial value that somehow prevents them from inflaming her jealousy and fear that the Dancer will replace her as an object of erotic desire. Yet she herself treats the Jockey and the Boxer as erotic companions. The dolls themselves feel no love for humans, although the Boxer and the Jockey are jealous rivals for the affection of the Dancer, who, however, follows the commands only of those who at the moment claim ownership of her. She is incapable of love, and betrays even the man who loves her, created her, brought her to life, prevented the Nabob from shooting her and then touching her breast, and killed the woman who prostituted her. The Dancer prefers to destroy herself by leaping into the river rather than return to the man who loves her. She is indifferent to the rivalry between the Boxer and the Jockey to possess her, for she does not accept that any doll can own her. The Boxer and the Jockey, attached to the wife, mistakenly assume that money is what gives them life and movement, so the Jockey steals it and the Boxer actually eats it, which only leads to their “deaths.” The Nabob repeatedly attempts to buy ownership of the Dancer, but this approach is no more successful than the arcade owner’s efforts to save her. She “lives” in a zone of life wherein she does not need to love or be loved, wherein desire is irrelevant, wherein obedience to a command gives all sense of purpose. Krukru remains faithful to the owner, yet she seeks to become more than what she is, to exceed the limits of her species, whatever it is, and indeed, her desire to emulate her master is what produces disaster, the collapse of distinction between human and robot, or rather, the subhuman or perhaps natural “error” that allows the dolls to transform from mechanical toys into another species able to live outside of the mysterious “oath” to which the owner has sworn them. The pantomime scenario embeds an amazingly complex set of relations between humans and technology, and the complexity intensifies when one considers that on stage humans perform the parts of the dolls and Krukru. All this thematic complexity fuels the added theme of insanity. The wife signals that her husband is crazy; the police laugh at him because of his love for a dead doll. But in the final scene, the spectator sees the arcade as it is at the beginning of the piece, as if all has returned to normal, the fairground crowded with visitors, Krukru at the organ, the wife heralding the performance of the “great lyrical scene of a man with his beloved dolls.” No one signals the owner is mad; he just “goes insane.” The implication is that the ultimate source of insanity is the “normal” condition of providing ostensibly innocent, “lyrical” fairground entertainment for the public: the arcade is merely a façade concealing manifold, unconscious, self-destructive anxieties regarding relations between humans and technology (cf. Vollmer 2011: 423-429). Kool employs various musical devices to simulate the fairground carousel and barrel organ, the “oriental” mood of the oath ritual, the lewd tango of the banquet dance scene, and the jazz inflected casino scene. The music, for a twenty-piece orchestra, often sounds more sardonic or “playful” than the action it accompanies, as if Kool believed that such a dark, “grotesque” story would be entertaining only if the music created even greater uncertainty about how to respond to the action. Kool’s music contains an element of parody that is absent from the scenario, which stresses the grotesque without the need to parody any conventions or institutions. In this respect, the scenario is more sophisticated than the music. 

            Die Schiessbude had its premiere at the Theater am Kurfürstendamm in Berlin in October 1922. But Lena Amsel did not perform in it; she was busy performing in Joe May’s epic, four-part film Tragödie der Liebe (1923). Instead, Katta Sterna played the Dancer, and her partner Ernst Matray directed the production, both of whom belonged to the Vollmoeller-Reinhardt circle, and they had collaborated on the production of Die grüne Flöte. Actor Kurt Gerron (1897-1944) played the Nabob, while Hilde Arendt, a performer of extreme obscurity, received high praise for her dance-like movements and “grotesque, comic-frightening” approach to the role of the little ape woman Krukru. Actors Hermann Vallentin (1872-1945) and Ilka Grüning (1876-1964), already quite active in films, played the roles of the owner and his wife. Matray himself played a “Negro,” and the soon to be prodigiously busy film actor Paul Henckels (1885-1967) appeared as “Kasperl” (the Jockey). Russian artist Xenia Boguslawaskaja (1892-1972) did the scenic design in a “futuristic-cubistic” manner, creating “splendidly the fantastic atmosphere of the pantomime” (Vollmer 2011: 429-430). Here pantomime performance entailed a combination of actors and dancers, directed by a dancer. Critical response to the production was uneven, with some reviewers skeptical toward the blend of dancers and actors or at least focused on the differences between them (Vollmer 2011: 429-432). The critic for the Berliner Tagblatt thought Kool’s music suffered from “excessive, shrill, whipping rhythms” that overemphasized mechanicalness. But dance critic Artur Michel (1883-1946), in the Vossische Zeitung, observed that the music created a “powerful sound realm” that “enveloped the rhythmically unbound flow of mimic scenes and dances”—that is, the pantomimic action and the music were in tension rather than in synchrony, always a virtue in dance from Michel’s perspective. He seems to have wished for more dance than pantomime, whereas the Berliner Tagblatt reviewer felt that such a mix of dancing, pantomime, scenic futurism, and expressionist music worked effectively only in relation to the grotesque. But Friedrich Victor, in Neue Zeit, asserted that the grotesquerie of the production possessed a significance “far higher and far deeper than many, indeed most, theater pieces,” whereas Franz Hessel (1880-1941), in Das Tagebuch (28 Oktober 1922: 1506-1507), saw the piece as “nothing but a divertissement” composed of eclectic aesthetic elements that created an almost incomprehensible “world” pieced together out of shattered fragments belonging to incompatible artistic goals. Yet he found the piece darkly exciting; he saw the Jockey as a postwar Pierrot, a “shadow Pierrot” hanging from a “shadow gallows,” while the arcade owner was like a blind Oedipus, led to despair by the music of an organ-grinder, which “many may find frivolous,” but he finds “delightful and heroic.” The reviewers, however, tend to focus on the peculiarity of pantomimic action and on discerning distinctions between dance and pantomime rather than on identifying the themes embedded in the action or on deciphering the representational value of the performance. They saw the production as a bizarre, “eccentric” project rather than a basis for a new direction in the theater

The Berlin production of Die Schiessbude, done in a commercial rather than subsidized theater, may have had an infectious impact on German theater; Kool’s publisher, Universal Edition in Vienna, claimed that by 1929, when it published the score, seven theaters had produced the work. In any case, Kool’s confidence in pantomime as an instrument for furthering his artistic ambitions expanded. In 1923, he began working with the socialist Volksbühne in Berlin, where he produced and arranged music for dance matinees. He also became director of the Vox record company (1923-1925), which specialized in popular and ethnic music. These opportunities strengthened his connections within the Berlin entertainment world. He collaborated with Max Terpis (aka Max Pfister), the newly appointed Swiss director of the Berlin State Opera ballet company, on the “grotesque ballet pantomime” Der Leierkasten, which premiered in September 1925. Terpis (1889-1958) originally studied architecture and came to dance only after encountering Laban in 1920. He had studied with Mary Wigman for only a year (1922) before opera director Hanns Niedecken-Gebhard (1889-1954) hired him to choreograph dances in Hannover. Even though Terpis had no ballet training whatsoever, in 1924, Max von Schillings (1868-1933), intendant for the Berlin State Opera, invited him to direct a ballet corps that somehow managed to have one hundred members. Schillings had the idea that Terpis would “reform” the ballet company, but instead the ballet company pushed Terpis’s life into a nightmare of fiendish political intrigues. His choreographies almost exclusively used the music of living composers, and he wrote the scenarios for his productions, including for Der Leierkasten. But while his productions granted his scenic designers opportunities for imaginative expressionism, his choreography, which he claimed followed an “architectural” approach, never seemed to awaken any excitement. His thinking about performance was simply too sober, too restrained, and too fixated on a theoretical distinction between “symmetry” and “asymmetry” in the construction of group movement. Consequently, it is quite difficult to find useful descriptions for any of his productions, including Der Leierkasten (Toepfer 1997: 297-299). His production of the piece featured several prominent dancers: Harald Kreutzberg, Melanie Lucia, Rolf Jahnke, Dorothea Albu, Liselotte Köster, Julian Algo, Walter Junk, and Terpis himself played the Hunchback, yet it, like his other productions, inspired such anemic commentary that one has to search long and deep to find it. Nevertheless, Der Leierkasten received further productions: Duisburg, Würzburg, Mainz, Saarbrücken, Leipzig, Breslau, Weimar, Plauen, Lübeck, Zürich, Darmstadt, Braunschweig. In Würzburg, the modern dancer Claire Eckstein (1904-1994), director of the opera ballet and also a Wigman student, staged the piece, in 1927, on a triple bill that included Paul Hindemith’s Der Dämon (1926) and Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Scheherazade (1888). Anne Grünert, a ballet director in Duisburg about whom almost nothing is known, also staged the work in 1927. Eckstein had what Terpis completely lacked—an extravagant sense of humor and a brilliant sense of the grotesque, which she perfected through the exaggeration of actions she saw performed in daily life. Her production also benefited from the constructivist stage design by her husband, the great modernist scenographer Wilhelm Reinking (1896-1985), whose fairground setting allowed for unusual physical actions performed on a swing, a slide, and miniature puppet theater (Reinking 1979: 64) [Figure 140]. 

Figure 140: Scene from Jaap Kool’s pantomime Der Leierkasten, directed by Claire Eckstein, Würzburg, 1927. Photo: Deutsches Tanzarchiv, Cologne. 

Yet another production took place in June 1928 at the Deutsches Nationaltheater in Weimar under the direction of Finnish-born ballet director, Sari Jankelow (1896-1972), a modern dance student of Maggie Gripenberg and Mary Wigman. Jankelow herself played the Young Girl. Der Leierkasten was the first half of a double bill that concluded with a “ballet for children,” the André Hellé-Claude Debussy Die Spielzeugschachtel (La Boite à joujoux [1913]), which featured a large ensemble consisting entirely of women and girls. Despite the lack of information concerning these productions or even its scenario, Der Leierkasten was important because it initiated the movement of German pantomime production from theatrical companies to ballet companies attached to state or municipal opera houses. Because directors of these ballet companies came from modern dance and lacked expertise in ballet, and because the dancers themselves often had a weak ballet education, pantomime seemed useful in displaying otherwise modest dance talents, despite the fact that the most successful pantomime productions, such as Das Mirakel, enjoying an enormously popular revival in 1925, were the work of actors rather than dancers. 

Kool kept busy with pantomime. He composed music for Ellen Petz’s ballet pantomime Die Elixere des Teufels, which had its premiere at the Dresden State Opera in December 1925. Petz (aka Ellen Cleve-Petz [1899-1970]) never published her scenario nor did Kool publish his score, so it is quite difficult to ascertain how Petz turned E.T.A. Hoffmann’s lengthy 1815 “horror novel” of the same name into a ten-scene pantomime. It is a doppelgänger story: a Capuchin monk, Medardus, receives custody of various relics deposited in the monastery where he has spent his life. These include a box containing seductive elixirs that supposedly tempted St. Anthony. But when a Count arrives at the monastery to inspect the relics and taste the elixirs, Medardus himself secretly imbibes them, and these release another personality within him, worldly, sinister, and devoted to sensuality. An aristocratic woman, Aurelie, becomes a resident in the monastery as a result of her family’s wish to keep her away from the Count, who, disguised as a monk, plots to rescue her from her imprisonment. Medardus sees the Count as a rival in his own passion for Aurelie, and he arranges for the Count to die accidentally. Aurelie leaves the monastery, and Medardus decides that he, too, wants to live outside the monastery. But the Count still lives as Medardus’s doppelgänger, a demonic replication of himself insofar as to Medardus the Count always appears as himself but to others he always appears as Medardus. The Count avenges his death by committing crimes for which Medardus is accused. Medardus/Count murders Aurelie’s stepmother and brother, but he escapes the city with the help of a strange hairdresser, Peter Schoenfeld, who also has a doppelgänger, Pietro Belcampo, but this double personality is amusing and affable, if quite disconcerting. When Medardus appears at the court of a Prince, Aurelie accuses him of the murder of her brother, which lands him in prison. But the Count appears and assumes responsibility for the crimes. Medardus poses as a Polish nobleman and continues his pursuit of Aurelie, to whom he becomes engaged. But on the day of the wedding, the elixir madness overwhelms him: he stabs Aurelie and helps the Count to escape. Peter/Pietro comes again to his aid and returns him to the monastery, where he seeks a life of repentance. But Aurelie has taken vows in the monastery; again Medardus must struggle against his lust for her. The doppelgänger then appears, stabs Aurelie to death, and disappears. However, it is not clear how Petz ended her telling of the tale. It was indeed a very complex task to transform this convoluted tale into a pantomime. Actors and dancers shared the chief roles: Felix Steinböck (1897-1974) was Medardus, but dancer Gino Neppach (1898-1953) was Count Viktorin; actor Erich Ponto (1884-1957) played Belcampo and Petz herself played Aurelie. A dancer, Susanne Dombois (1897-?), performed the role of a saint to whom Medardus prays, but production photos suggest that she did not dance, for she performed entirely on the narrow platform of an elaborate, expressionist baldachin. Actually none of Ursula Richter’s (1886-1946) photos show any dancing, but Petz nevertheless choreographed several scenes, while Dresden resident director Georg Kiesau (1881-1940) directed the production as a whole [Figure 93]. Adolf Mahnke (1891-1959) designed the fantastically expressionist set and Leonhard Fanto (1874-1940) designed the extravagant eighteenth century costumes. The production provided Petz with another opportunity to develop her taste for outré luxuriousness, but more importantly it showed an unprecedented level of public investment in “dark,” psychologically turbulent pantomime that starkly and perhaps deliberately contrasted with the pious religious spectacle of Das Mirakel. It is unfortunate that more information about this production is so hard to excavate, for it seems to represent an extraordinarily ambitious effort to explore the limits of pantomimic narrative complexity to a degree unseen since Viganò. Accessible critical response is not extensive. The Musikblätter des Anbruch (Vol. 8, No. 1 1926: 6) announced that Die Elixiere des Teufel was a “great success” in Dresden. In the same journal issue, the musicologist and choir director Richard Engländer (1889-1966) described the work as a “dance drama,” a “ballet pantomime,” and a pantomime, suffused with the “dramaturgical technology” of the cinema and the revue. He referred to dances “inserted” into the pantomime: a modernistic nocturnal dance of demons in the forest scene, a waltz of goblins, a flagellants dance (which involved a female solo voice and female choir). He also praised the actors Steinböck and Ponto for their “unheard of rhythmic-dancer-like instinct.” Kool’s rhythmically oriented music, which often used noise-making instruments, represented a “significant step forward” in uniting pantomime with “dance figuration” (74). But in Neue Musik-Zeitung (Vol. 47, No. 7 1926: 148), composer Heinrich Platzbecker (1860-1937) complained that Kool’s music relied too much on rhythm and novel rhythmic effects and on too many whole tone steps, producing music reminiscent of Meyerbeer’s in pomposity and clangor but without similar dramatic effect. The magical lighting effects, painterly scene design, and splendid costumes could not conceal the “emptiness” of the music. Petz embodied Aurelie with “great pliancy,” but she did not succeed in “solving the choreographic problem of pantomime,” which in this case was that the music failed to match the opulence and macabre mood on the stage. Kool had emphasized rhythm at “the cost of melody,” and this in turn sacrificed much of the romantic feeling in Hoffmann’s tale. Platzenbecker’s main point is that both dance and pantomime require strong melodic musical accompaniment and melodic motifs to avoid tiring the spectator, especially if the performance takes as its material intensely emotional, Gothic romantic scenes. 

Figure 141: Scenes from Die Elixir des Teufels, directed by Ellen Petz and Georg Kiesau, Dresden, 1925. Photos: Ursula Richter, from Deutsche Fotothek. 

For the January 25, 1926 opening of the Gloria Palast cinema in Berlin, which included the Berlin premiere of Murnau’s film Tartuffe (1925), Kool composed music for Frank Wedekind’s pantomime scenario Die Flöhe (1892), a performance of which preceded the screening of the film and involved the acting of one of the film’s stars, Lil Dagover (1887-1980), and a “sweet dance group of children.” In his review of the film, screenwriter and film critic Willy Haas (1891-1973) remarked that it was a “fine, eclectic, graceful ballet” which delighted the audience (Film-Kurier, Nr. 22, 26.1.1926). But the work seems not to have had a life beyond this festive occasion. Another pantomime by Kool, Das andere Leben, had a premiere in early 1926 at the Rostock Municipal Theater, but further information about this work remains inaccessible (Neue Musik-Zeitung Vol. 47, No. 15 1926: 331). In 1927, he composed music for a 1929 Leipzig production of Wedekind’s 1897 pantomime Die Kaiserin von Neufundland, for which Friedrich Hollaender had already written a score in 1924 for a Viennese production, revived in Munich in 1932 (Vollmer 2011: 186). Meanwhile, for Melos (Vol. 5, No. 1, October 1925: 8-14), Kool published an essay, “Musik zur Tanzpantomime,” in which he theorized general principles of composing music for ballet and pantomime. In relation to music, he argued, ballet and pantomime were interchangeable. It was a myth, he asserted, to assume that powerful music distracted from the visual aspect of performance: on the contrary, strong music helped the viewer to see more acutely. Strong music for pantomime came out of the scenic environment and the actions of the performers. Unlike opera, in which action and visual elements always remained subordinate to the music, pantomime subordinated musical structures to the action on the stage. Rhythmic structures were fundamental to ballet and pantomime performance, but in modern times, rhythmic innovation was necessary, and the rhythms found in Stravinsky, American jazz, and African music provided valuable inspiration. Composers must move away from stressing the first beat and take advantage of stressing the second and third beats (syncopation), for it was not necessary that performers move in synchrony with the music, only that the music inspire the performers to move with an expressive rhythm, even sometimes a counter-rhythm. Melody, however, was also important in building a “sculptural” dimension to movement: actors move according to phrases that arise out of a melodic impulse, and the composer has to think of melodies in a visceral way, as “waves” of corporeal origin that urge listeners to dance as much as rhythms. Counterpoint, the juxtaposing of one melody against another, was a matter to approach with caution, for it overemphasized harmony when dissonance and atonality were more effective in the theater. In anti-Wagnerian fashion, Kool concluded by claiming that because pantomime intensified both the seen and the heard, it, rather than opera, represented the art of the future.

Yet after the 1929 Leipzig production of the Wedekind pantomime, Kool stopped composing for pantomimes. Instead, between 1929 and 1933, he taught at the Wickersdorf School, of which he was director 1930-1932. He began composing music for Dutch films, such as the detective film Het mysterie van de Mondscheinsonate (1935). He lived for a while in Ascona, but returned to Germany to help the Wickersdorf School prevent the SS from turning it into a barracks (Dudek 2017: 191-192). In 1937, the Deutsches Nationaltheater in Weimar staged his dance pantomime Ständetänze on a triple bill that included Die heilige Fackel, a “dance legend” by the actress Elsa von Dohnányi-Galafres (1879-1977) and Puccini’s one-act opera Gianni Schicchi (1918). Ständetänze consisted of scenes depicting Flemish peasant life “according to paintings by Pieter Breughel” (ca. 1525-1569) and entailed a large cast of both actors and dancers playing such characters as the Farmer, the Farmer’s Wife, the Farmer’s Daughter, the Milkmaid, the Hunchback, the Bricklayer, and numerous other “peasant types” associated with Breughel’s paintings. Choreography and direction were the work of the completely obscure Martha Gäbler, who assumed the same responsibilities for Die heilige Fackel. The Nationaltheater website says that she had worked as a choreographer at the theater since 1920. Ständetänze was possibly the only work calling itself a pantomime produced in the Third Reich. The production impressed Nazi officials enough to commission Kool to write an operetta, Die Schweinewette, which had its premiere at the Nationaltheater in 1939. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Kool accepted an appointment from a pro-Nazi Dutch-German cultural society to direct the Kammeroper in The Hague (1940-1944). His unsavory relations with the Nazis brought him into severe disrepute after the war, and he sank into obscurity, managing a music store in The Hague until his death in 1959 (Amanda Pork 2017).

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