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19 March 2013

Lucy Kieselhausen

Austrian dancer Lucy Kieselhausen (1900 – 1926 or 1927) had a successful career on the German stages and appeared in three silent films. Only in her twenties, she died by a tragic accident in her bathroom.

Lucy Kieselhausen
German postcard, no. K 113. Photo: Alex Binder.

Luxuriously Decorative Hothouse Costumes
Lucy (or Lucie) Kieselhausen was born in Vienna, Austria in 1900. She was a dance student of Grete Wiesenthal. This Viennese dancer was, from 1907 to about 1920, the great incarnation of the waltz spirit so closely identified with the city. Around 1915, Lucy became a successful dancer herself. She became celebrated on the German stages as a performer of waltzes. In his study Empire of Ecstasy, Karl Toepfer writes: “She, too, had evolved out of ballet culture, but her embodiment of the waltz was virtually opposite that of Wiesenthal. She favored luxuriously decorative hothouse costumes and the utmost refinement of movement. For her the waltz was not a lyrical expansion of space into the freedom of nature but an almost perfumed distillation of the stirrings within an opulent boudoir, with its scenography of exquisite privileges and voluptuous secrets. An adroit sense of irony shaded her movements with abruptly ‘bizarre and jerky’ rhythms". In 1918, she made her film debut in Tausend und eine Frau. Aus dem Tagebuch eines Junggesellen/A thousand and one women. From the diary of a bachelor (1918, Iva Raffay) starring Erich Kaiser-Titz. This film was produced by Hella Moja-Film GmbH, the production company of silent film star Hella Moja. The following year, Kieselhausen appeared with Bruno Decarli in Die siebente Großmacht/The seventh superpower (1919, Willy Grunwald).

Lucy Kieselhausen
German Postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 107. Photo: Alex Binder. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Lucy Kieselhausen
German Postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 109, 1915. Photo: Alex Binder. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Lucy Kieselhausen
German Postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 111, 1915. Photo: Alex Binder. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Expressionist Film
In 1922 Lucy Kieselhausen studied at the legendary dance school of Rudolf von Laban. Her teacher there was Laban’s assistant, the dancer and choreographer Hertha Feist. Kieselhausen herself choreographed the dance drama Salambo (1923), which she based on the novel by Gustave Flaubert and was set to music by Heinz Tiessen. She also wrote the book Die Tänze der Lucy Kieselhausen for Wiener Werkstätte, a production community of visual artists in Vienna, Austria bringing together architects, artists and designers. Her third and last film was the German Expressionist film Erdgeist/Earth Spirit (1923, Leopold Jessner). This is an early and excellent silent film adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s famous play. Danish silent film diva Asta Nielsen stars as Lulu, a femme fatale leading an amoral life in a world full of lust and greed. Wedekind followed his 1895 play up with 1904's Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box). The plays also formed the basis for the better-known film Die Büchse der Pandora/Pandora's Box (1929, G.W. Pabst) starring Louise Brooks, and Alban Berg’s opera Lulu (1937). Kieselhausen only played a supporting part in Erdgeist. Her main focus were her solo dances. In 1926 or 1927(sources differ), Kieselhausen suddenly died by a tragic accident in Berlin, Germany. She was killed in a fire caused by a petrol explosion in her bathroom. A sudden end to a promising career.

Lucy Kieselhausen
German postcard by Kunstverlag Juno, Charlottenburg, no. 115. Photo: Atelier Eberth.

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Karl Toepfer (Empire of Ecstasy) Wikipedia (German and English), and IMDb.

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