Once the glorious Italian ballet was dead and buried, there began in Europe stylisations of savage dances, elegant versions of exotic dances, modernizations of ancient dances. Parisian red pepper + panache + shield + lance + ecstasy in front of idols that have lost all meaning + undulations of Montmartre thighs = an erotic passeist anachronism for foreigners….
With Nijinsky the pure geometry of the dance, free of mimicry and without sexual stimulation, appears for the first time.
Isadora Duncan creates the free dance, with no preparatory mime, that ignores musculature and eurythmy in order to devote everything to emotional expression, to the aerial ardour of its steps. But fundamentally she merely proposes to intensify, enrich, and modulate in a hundred different ways the rhythm of a woman’s body that languidly rejects, languidly invokes, languidly accepts, and languidly regrets the masculine giver of erotic happiness.
Isadora Duncan, whom I often had the pleasure of admiring in her free improvisations among the veils of mother-of-pearl smoke of her atelier, used to dance freely, thoughtlessly, as if talking, desiring, loving, weeping, to any sort of little tune no matter how vulgar, like “Mariette, ma petite Mariette” strummed on a piano. But she never managed to project anything but the most complex feelings of desperate nostalgia, of spasmodic sensuality and cheerfulness, childishly feminine.
There are many points of contact between Isadora’s art and pictorial Impressionism, as there are between Nijinsky’s art and Cezanne’s constructions of volumes and forms.
So, naturally, under the influence of the Cubist researches and of Picasso especially, a dance of geometrised volumes was created, almost independent of the music. Dance became an autonomous art, the music’s equal. Dance no longer submitted to the music, it replaced it.
Valentine de Saint-Pont conceived an abstract, metaphysical dance that was supposed to embody pure thought without sentimentality or sexual excitement. Her metachorie consists of mimed and danced poetry. Unfortunately it is passeist poetry that navigates within the old Greek and medieval sensibility: abstractions danced but static, arid, cold, emotionless. Why deprive oneself of the vivifying element of mime? Why put on a Merovingian helmet and veil one’s eyes?
In a much more modern spirit Dalcroze has created a very interesting rhythmic gymnastics, which nevertheless limits its effects to muscular hygiene and the description of the work of the fields.
We Futurists prefer Louie Fuller and the “cakewalk” of the Negroes (utilisation of electric light and mechanisms).
One must go beyond muscular possibilities and aim in the dance for that ideal multiplied body of the motor that we have so long dreamed of. One must imitate the movements of machines with gestures; pay assiduous court to steering wheels, ordinary wheels, pistons, thereby preparing the fusion of man with the machine, to achieve the metallicity of the Futurist dance.
Music is fundamentally and incurably passeist, hence hard to employ in the Futurist dance. Noise, being the result of the rubbing together or the collision of solids, liquids, or gases in fast motion, has become by means of onomatopoeia one of the most dynamic elements of Futurist poetry. Noise is the language of the new human-mechanical life. The Futurist dance will therefore be accompanied by organized noises and by the orchestra of special effects [intonarumori] invented by Luigi Russolo.
In this Futurist epoch of ours, when more than twenty million men, form with their battle lines a fantastic Milky Way of exploding shrapnel stars that bind the earth together; when the Machine and the Great Explosives, cooperating with the war, have centupled the force of the races, obliging them to give all they have of boldness, instinct, and muscular resistance, the Futurist dance can have no other purpose than to immensity heroism, master of metals, and to fuse with the divine machines of speed and war.
I therefore extract the first three Futurist dances from the three mechanisms of war: shrapnel, the machine gun, and the airplane.
DANCE OF THE SHRAPNEL
I want to give the fusion of the mountain with the parabola of the shrapnel. The fusion of the carnal human song with the mechanical noise of shrapnel. To give the ideal synthesis of the war: a mountain soldier who carelessly sings beneath an uninterrupted vault of shrapnel.
Movement 1: With the feet mark the boom-boom of the projectile coming from the cannon’s mouth.
Movement 2: With arms spread apart describe at moderate speed the long whistling parabola of the shrapnel as it passes over the soldier’s head and explodes too high or behind him. The danseusewill hold up a sign printed in blue: Short to the right
Movement 3: With the hands (wearing very long silver thimbles) raised and open, as high as possible, give the proud, blessed, silvery explosion of the shrapnel in its paaaak. The danseuse will hold up a sign printed in blue: Long to the left. Then she will hold up another printed in silver: Don’t slip on the ice. Synovitis.
Movement 4: With the whole body vibrating, the hips weaving, and the arms making swimming motions, give the waves and flux and reflux and concentric or eccentric motions of echoes in ravines, in open fields and up the slopes of mountains. The danseuse will hold up a sign printed in black: Water duty; another in black: Mess duty; still another in black: The mules, the mail.
Movement 5: With little leaping handclaps and a pose of ecstatic suspension, express the indifferent and always idyllic calm of nature and the cheep-cheep-cheep ofthe birds. The danseuse will hold up a sign printed in disordered letters: 300 meters to camp. Then another in red: 15 degrees below zero. 800 meters red ferocious suave.
Movement 6: The slow, casual, thoughtless gait of the mountain soldiers who march under successive furious parabolas of shrapnel. The danseuse will light a cigarette while hidden voices sing one of the many war songs:
il comandante del sesto alpine incomincia a sbombardar ….
[the commander of the sixth alpines begins the bombardment ….]
Movement 7: The undulation with which the danseuse continues to express the war song will be interrupted by Movement 2 (whistling parabola of shrapnel).
Movement 8: The undulati on with whi ch the danseuse conti nues to express the war song wi II be i nterrupted by Movement 3 (explosi on of the shrapnel high up).
Movement 9: The undulation will be interrupted by Movement 4 (waves of echoes).
Movement 10: The undulation will be interrupted by Movement 5 (cheep-cheep-cheep of the birds in the placidity of nature).
DANCE OF THE MACHINE GUN
I want to give the Italian carnality of the shout Savoia! that rips itself apart and dies heroically in shreds against the mechanical geometrical inexorable rolling-mill of the machine-gun fire.
Movement 1: With the feet (arms stretched forward), give the mechanical hammering of the machine gun tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. The danseuse will show in a rapid gesture a sign printed in red: Enemy at 700 meters.
Movement 2: With the hands rounded like cups (one full of white roses, the other full of red roses), imitate fire as it pours steadily and violently out of the machine-gun barrels. The danseuse will have a large white orchid between her lips and will have a sign printed in red: Enemy at 500 meters.
Movement 3: With arms wide open describe the circling, sprinkling fan of projectiles.
Movement 4: Slow turn of the body, while the feet hammer on the wooden floor.
Movement 5: Accompany with violent forward thrusts of the body the cry Savoiaaaaa!
Movement 6: The danseuse, on hands and knees, will imitate the form of a machine gun, silver-black under its ribbon-belt of cartridges. Stretching her arms forward, she will feverishly shake the white and red orchid like a gun barrel in the act of firing.
DANCE OF THE AVIATRIX
The danseuse will dance on top of a large, violently coloured geographical map (four meters square) on which will be drawn in large, highly visible characters the mountains, woods, rivers, geometries of the countryside, the great traffic centres of the cities, the sea
The danseuse must form a continual palpitation of blue veils. On her chest, like a flower, a large celluloid propeller that because of its very nature will vibrate with every bodily movement Her face dead white under a white hat shaped like a monoplane.
Movement 1: Lying on her stomach on the carpet-map, the danseuse will simulate with jerks and weavings of her body the successive efforts of a plane trying to take off. Then she will come forward on hands and knees and suddenly jump to her feet, her arms wide, her body straight but shivering all over.
Movement 2: The danseuse, still straight, will shake a sign printed in red: 300 meters – 3 spins – climb. Then, right away, a second sign: 600 meters-avoid mountain.
Movement 3: The danseuse will heap up a lot of green cloth to simulate a green mountain, then will leap over it. She will reappear immediately, arms open, all vibrant.
Movement 4: The danseuse all vibrant, will wave in front of herself a great gilded cardboard sun and will run a very fast circle, pretending to follow it (frenzied, mechanical).
Movement 5: With organised noises imitate the rain and the sighing of the wind and, with continual interruptions of the electric light, imitate the lightning flashes. Meanwhile the danseuse will raise up a frame covered with red vellum paper in the form of a sunset cloud and will break through it in a graceful leap (grand and slow melancholy waves of sound).
Movement 6: The danseuse will wave in front of herself another frame covered with dark-blue vellum paper, in the form and colour of a starry night. She will step across it, breaking through. Then she will scatter golden stars on the ground around her (gay ironic thoughtless).