The Green Table

Creation date : 1932
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Choreographed in 1932, between two conflicts, The Green Table is a sort of generic war, a set of circumstances that produce the same result no matter where or when they are played out. So Death bears the combined iconographic attributes.


Green table (The)

Chorégraphie Kurt Jooss
Interprétation Folkwangballet

The Green Table was created in 1932 for the "Concours international de chorégraphie" in Paris, in which Jooss had been invited to participate. The originality of the piece won him the first prize and marked an important step in his career.

Choreographed in 1932, between two great conflicts, The Green Table is a sort of generic war, a set of circumstances that produce the same result no matter where or when they are played out. So Death bears the combined iconographic attributes.

In 1932, looking out through the thickening hedges of Nazism, Jooss takes a less visionary path. The Green Table is concerned neither with the individual's struggles and redemption, nor with working out a nobler fate for mankind. Jooss dramatizes the way destructive impulses are released, and shows us the consequences. His moral position is unimpeachable, and he drives home his lesson in a series of stark images. Each scene works a variation on the same theme, like the 41 woodcuts in Hans Holbein's The Dance of Death (5). The idea is that Death becomes everyone's partner, effectively seducing them into his dance on the same terms by which they lived their lives. No decisive action, change, or resolution is suggested, and in framing the Dance of Death with the stalemated parentheses of a diplomatic conference, Jooss seems to say none can be expected. The expressionists found the Dance of Death.

Through archetypal characters Jooss revisualizes human life as a function of a larger cosmology, an enduring and spiritual sphere where perhaps even war and death can be seen in a more comprehensible scale. Undiluted essences of natural behavior, these characters are stripped of temporality and individual preference. Today, even as we feel detached from their obvious artificiality, we recognize ourselves in them, in some epic form. People will still be able to understand them in a hundred years.

He left Essen in Germany, where since 1927 he had directed the Volkwangschule's dance department and experimental dance group and, since 1930, the ballet company of the Opera as well. He founded the Ballet Jooss, a private company which toured Europe and performed his dances, including The Green Table.


Chorégraphie : Kurt Jooss
Interprétation : Folkwangballet
Musique : Fritz Alexander Cohen
Réalisation : Peter Wright, filmé en 1967
Production : BBC Worldwive limited

Updating: May 2014

Jooss, Kurt


On the brink of World War II, German choreographer Kurt Jooss arrived in New York with his company to perform. Before curtain, Jooss learned that some black audience members had been barred from their seats. Jooss told the theater administration that unless they amended their whites-only policy, there would be no show. The theater obliged and the show went on. It was this sense of injustice that fueled Jooss' artistry and led to a new form of dance theater, which paved the way for the work of Pina Bausch and choreographers working today, like Suzanne Linke and Mats Ek.

A natural leader and independent thinker, Jooss (1901–1979) helped develop what is now known as German Tanztheater, an expressive dance style that combined movement, text and drama. For Jooss, movement and words were inextricably linked; their connection was key to making performances as powerful an experience as life itself. Unlike expressionist choreographers of his time whose dances spoke to emotional themes, he sought to reveal the fallibility of the human condition. He created dances about urban alienation, social injustice and post-war trauma.

Born near Stuttgart, Germany, Jooss grew up studying piano, voice and drama but was drawn to dance from an early age. In 1919, he met Rudolf Laban, who was creating mass movement choirs danced by both professionals and amateurs, including Jooss. Although he had little dance training, he became Laban's student and choreographic assistant. That same year, Jooss presented his first evening of dance, Two Male Dancers, with fellow student Sigurd Leeder, who became his longtime collaborator. Soon after, Jooss started his own company and created stage works for trained dancers.

In 1927, he began his tenure as the first head of the dance department of the Folkwang School in Essen, Germany, which he co-founded that year. The school was innovative in that its three branches—theater, music and dance—created cross-disciplinary forms of study; it was based on Laban's theory that performers must be expressive in dance, sound and word. Jooss and Laban worked together to flesh out Laban's notation system for recording and classifying movement. Laban's movement categories (quick, sustained, strong, light, bound, free, central and peripheral) served as the foundation for technique classes.

Also crucial to Jooss' style and the Folkwang curriculum was a strong basis in ballet—which he had gained by studying in Paris in the '20s. This was considered treasonous to other German expressionists, like Mary Wigman, who believed ballet failed to express the full gamut of human emotion. But Jooss remained convinced that ballet's vocabulary could be combined with new movements to express contemporary ideas. In this respect, he was ahead of his time, comparable only to Ballets Russes choreographer Michel Fokine. And it's interesting to note that it's been ballet companies that have kept Jooss' major work, The Green Table (1932), alive.

He began creating The Green Table in 1929, when he assumed the role of ballet master of the Essen Opera House and formed a new company with dancers from the Folkwang School and the opera. He drew inspiration from the medieval artwork “Lubeck's Dance of Death” and Germany's collapsed economy. (A climate of resentment was growing among German citizens over the steep war reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles.) Jooss captured this zeitgeist in the ballet's opening tableau: Leaders in a war room freeze around a green conference table. They lunge at each other in time to a strident tango and declare war. In six subsequent scenes, soldiers, women, profiteers and patriots fall prey to war's horrors. Looming above all is the figure of Death. With music by F.A. Cohen, The Green Table was set in an abstract time and place, allowing Jooss to reveal without preaching or moralizing how politics begets war. Audiences were astounded, and the ballet won first prize at the 1932 Concours de Chorégraphie in Paris.

The terror depicted in The Green Table was not far from reality. In 1933,  the year Hitler became chancellor, three of Jooss' Jewish colleagues were fired from their jobs at the opera house, and Jooss was accused of harboring Jews. He and his dancers fled to England (where the company became known as the Ballet Jooss).

After WWII ended, Jooss returned to Germany and resumed his position as dance director of the Folkwang School, and he remained there until 1968. During this period, he added ballet to the curriculum and hosted like-minded teachers Antony Tudor, Alfredo Corvino and Pearl Lang to give classes and set choreography. He established a post-graduate program with a focus on performance and composition. It was in that program that Pina Bausch presented her first choreographic work. Today, the Folkwang University of the Arts continues to be a major center for dance education, and students from all over the world come to study the elements of Tanztheater.

In 1971, Jooss trained Joffrey dancer Christian Holder for a revival of The Green Table. When Jooss died eight years later, the Joffrey Ballet held an impromptu performance of the work. Holder, who danced that night, recalls Jooss' coaching. One cannot teach his work solely with ballet vocabulary, he says. The movement was ascribed to metaphor. “It was approached dramatically,” he adds. “It's not just écarté. You are reaching for the flag, clutching for your identity.” DT

Source : updating : January 2014



The Folkwang Tanzstudio (FTS) can look back on more than 80 varied years of company history. The company's prototype the „Folkwang-Tanztheater-Experimentalstudio“ was founded by Kurt Jooss in 1928. In the thirties it was regarded as the 'cradle' of German Expressive Dance and was to pave the way for German Dance throughout the world.

In September 1930 Kurt Jooss was entitled the Ballet Director of the Opera in Essen. The „Folkwang-Tanztheater-Studio“ became the permanent Dance Ensemble at the Opera house. It toured under the name „Folkwang Tanzbühne“. 1932 Kurt Jooss wins the first price in the international choreography competition in Paris with his legendary choreography „The Green Table“ and wins his worldwide fame.

In the Autumn of the same year the company left the Opera house and continued its work under the name „Ballets Jooss“. 1933 the work abruptly ends in Germany - Jooss refused to dismiss his Jewish colleagues and therefore had to leave Germany as quickly as possible. During the following years Jooss lives and works with his colleagues in Dartington Hall, England. The company „Ballets Jooss“ gave guest performances with great success worldwide- except in Germany.

1949 Jooss returned to Essen. 1951 the first performances of the new founded „Folkwang Tanztheater“ took place. Already after two years the company had to give up its work again due to funding problems.

1961 public funding - among other organisations from the Westgerman Broadcasting - allowed installing master classes for Dance. From the master classes developed the „Folkwang Ballett“. By invitation of Jooss the dancer and choreographer Jean Cébron came to Essen. His duets, which he choreographed for himself and Pina Bausch, but also his group works set up an experimental profile for the company. Guest-choreographers such as Anthony Tudor, Lucas Hoving and Gigi Caciuleanu worked with the master students. Also members of the master classes made first steps in the field of choreography.

After Kurt Jooss had retired in the year 1968, Pina Bausch became Director of the „Folkwang Ballett“. She had the company until 1973 when she got offered the Ballett Direction in Wuppertal.

From 1975 until 1977 the now named „Folkwang Tanzstudio“ was co-directed by Reinhild Hoffmann and Susanne Linke. After Reinhild Hoffmann changed to Ballet Bremen in 1978, Susanne Linke was the only person left responsible for the company. When she decided to dedicate herself to a solo carrier it is again Pina Bausch who took over the Artistic Direction in 1983.

These three choreographers and their work have decisively formed the profile of the Folkwang Tanzstudio and beyond it contributed to the Renaissance of Modern Dance in Germany. But also other choreographers have contributed to the company's character: Among others following choreographers have worked with the Folkwang Tanzstudio: Mitsura Sasaki, Carolyn Carlsson, Urs Dietrich, Mark Sieczkarek, Raffaella Giordano and Daniel Goldin.

From 1999 until 2008 the Folkwang Tanzstudio is co-directed by Pina Bausch and Henrietta Horn. The choreographic work of Henrietta Horn is the main focus of the company. Additionally, there are co-operations with international guest-choreographers to enrich the company's artistic experience and development. Numerous guest-performances at home and abroad more over help the cultural exchange.

In October 2008 Rodolpho Leoni, Professor of Contemporary Dance at Folkwang University, took over the artistic direction of the FTS together with Pina Bausch. Following the death of Pina Bausch in June 2009, the ensemble has been under the joint artistic direction of Lutz Förster and Rodolpho Leoni since July 2009.

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Updating : January 2014