Emmy Hennings with Dada-doll, 1917
Photo from Hans Richter, Dada and Anti-Art, (Thames and Hudson, 1965)
Emmy Hennings (1885-1948) was a performer and poet, and wife of the Dadaist Hugo Ball. Despite her critical role in the founding of the Cabaret Voltaire which launched the Dada movement, and her centrality in its performances (particularly as its only female member), it is difficult to locate information on her that does not correspond directly to her relationship with Ball.
Thomas F. Rugh describes her as “a primary contributor to the sensual display of bombast at the cabaret”, personifying the spirit of the Dada movement with which she was so intimately involved as “impulsive, enigmatic, creative, and at odds with her materialistic culture”.
The Zürcher Post wrote of her on 7 May, 1916: “The star of the cabaret however, is Mrs. Emmy Hennings. The star of who knows how many nights and poems. Just as she stood before the billowing yellow curtain of a Berlin cabaret, her arms rounded up over her hips, rich like a blooming bush, so today she is lending her body with an ever-brave front to the same songs, that body of hers which has since been ravaged but little by pain”.
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