The Artur Michel Papers primarily document the professional concerns of the German-born dance critic and scholar, who immigrated to the United States after the Nazi rise to power. Michel settled in New York, where he became a reviewer for the German-language newspaper Aufbau, wrote articles that appeared in Dance Magazine and other publications, and completed a comprehensive, unpublished book on the history of theatrical dance, Der Tanz auf der Bühne: Geschichte des Theatertanzes seit der Renaissance.
Biographical/historical: German-born dance critic and historian Artur Ferdinand Michel (1883-1946) was a journalist and scholar who immigrated to the United States after the Nazi rise to power, settling in New York, where he became a reviewer for the German-language newspaper Aufbau and wrote articles that appeared in Dance Magazine and other publications. Born in Barmen, Germany, Michel attended universities in Tübingen and Berlin, and received his doctorate from the Universität Jena. He originally studied language and literature, but later became interested in theater and dance. Michel pursued a career in journalism, working for two newspapers, Magdeburgische Zeitung (1913-1915) and Deutsche allgemeine Zeitung (1920-1922), primarily as an art, book, and theater reviewer, but after becoming an editor and critic for Berlin's Vossische Zeitung (1922-1934), he extended his coverage to dance as well, documenting the vibrant German dance scene. According to his curriculum vitae, Michel estimated that he had published more than one thousand articles in newspapers, periodicals, and books by the early 1940s. In addition to his newspaper work and interest in contemporary dance, Michel traveled extensively in Europe between 1920 and 1936, studying art, folk dance, and ballet history in France, Italy, and Austria. He also lived and worked for almost a year in Portugal and Spain, filing a series of cultural reports for German newspapers from 1927-1928.
Michel sought to leave Germany during the mid-1930s, and with the assistance of relatives in New York, he had obtained a landing permit for Cuba by late 1938, intending to stay in Havana until he could be admitted to the United States under its immigration quota. Michel arrived in New York in June 1941 and soon found work writing dance and theater reviews for Aufbau, which served the city's German Jewish population. Through his position on the newspaper, and as a result of reconnecting with fellow émigrés, such as Hanya Holm, he was able to familiarize himself with many developments in American dance. In late 1942, the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars awarded Michel a twelve-month fellowship to complete work on a book, Der Tanz auf der Bühne: Geschichte des Theatertanzes seit der Renaissance (History of the Theatre Dance from the Renaissance to the Present Day), that he had begun in Germany. He hoped that the book (which he envisioned as a text book of sorts) would help him to secure lecture work and a teaching position. Although he initially was unsuccessful in finding a publisher for the finished work, Michel, who had been instrumental in organizing an American effort to honor Mary Wigman on her sixtieth birthday, seemed well on his way to establishing himself within the American dance community before his sudden death in 1946.
Content: The Artur Michel Papers primarily document the professional concerns of the dance critic and scholar after he settled in New York. Michel's activities in his new home centered on his efforts to complete, translate, and publish a comprehensive book on the history of theatrical dance, Der Tanz auf der Bühne: Geschichte des Theatertanzes seit der Renaissance. Two bound copies of the finished German manuscript of this unpublished work, as well as an English translation of some sections, are available in the collection. In addition to research materials Michel gathered in writing his book and other publications, the collection includes correspondence, photographs, clippings, programs, publicity materials, and original writings that document a broad spectrum of the rich German dance scene during the 1920s and early 1930s, a period in which Michel worked as a journalist in Berlin. Notable correspondents from this time include La Argentina, Yvonne Georgi, Valeska Gert, Raden Mas Jodjana, Harald Kreutzberg, Lizzie Maudrick, Niddy Impekoven, Rudolf von Laban, Gret Palucca, Oskar Schlemmer, Mia Slavenska, and Mary Wigman. Michel's work as a reviewer for the New York-based, German-language newspaper, Aufbau, also gained him access to many figures in contemporary American dance, including Hanya Holm, Doris Humphrey, and Helen Tamiris. Although the collection contains no material that deals directly with Michel's experiences under the Nazi regime, researchers studying Jewish refugees from Germany or the German émigré community in New York may be interested in his immigration documents, correspondence with the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, and Aufbau-related materials. Other research interests of Michel's that are well represented in the collection include ballet history (particularly in Italy and the Romantic era), folk dance (especially in Austria, Germany, and Spain), and social dance forms.