Mary Wigman was the leading figure in Ausdruckstanz, an expressionist style of German choreography that revolutionised dance at the turn of the 20th century, dismantling ballet’s technical perfection and idealised stories. Wigman’s approach, honed over years of working alongside the famous teacher and theorist Rudolf Laban, constructed a vocabulary of movement capable of conveying the dancer’s emotional impulses. Starting with her debut piece Hexentanz (1914), she strove for a sense of pure austerity: the stage is often bare, inhabited only by a barefooted dancer in a simple costume. In the only footage that remains from a 1930 performance of her iconic dance, Wigman seems to be in a trance; a witch focused on mustering her deep-rooted powers. Moving to the rhythm of intermittent percussion music, she is sitting on the ground, hands gripping something invisible. Her face is covered by a mask, and the curves of her body by a long brocade tunic. In addition to celebrating the body’s potential, Wigman’s performances became tools for addressing urgent issues of modern life, such as the social role of women or the policies of German nationalism. Like many dancers of her generation, Wigman told stories centred on an independent female figure who is aware of her own unsettling power.