Performing with the Masquerade: Towards a Corporeal Reconstitution of Sophie Taeuber’s Dada Performances

Christel Stalpaert, Sophie Doutreligne


This contribution aims for a “corporeal reconstitution” (Irigaray) of Sophie Taeuber’s (1889-1943) dance performances at the Cabaret Voltaire and the Galerie Dada in 1916/17. This means that the movements from the static images informing the history of Dada art need to be re-imagined. It implies a rendering perceptible of Taeuber’s trained dancer’s body, its particular movements, and the quality of these movements. Through testimonies of contemporaries, it becomes clear that Taeuber not only dances in a costume or behind a mask but with the mask, the costume and sound poems. The reconstitution of the moving body with the mask thus points at a foregrounding of the masquerade to which she is convicted as a woman. Her mimetic strategy (Irigaray) or playful repetition of the masquerade entails a “radically new mode of relating” (Obler 2009, 223) between human and non-human materiality. Taeuber is not only moving in between puppet and puppeteer, movement and stasis, abstraction and expressivity, performer and mask, presence and absence, but also in between feminine and masculine. The hybrid movements in her mimetic strategy disrupt the binary nature of the oppositional pairs. In dancing the perpetual movement in between dualities, through a patchwork of genres and materials (her drawings, embroideries and tapestries are also driven by kinetic forces), Taeuber not only playfully rebels against patriarchal discourse, but also against the dehumanizing effects of World War One violently raging through Europe. 


dadaism; taeuber; performance; puppetry

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