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Das Warten: Mathilde Thiele, A Life in Dance and War

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

Frau Mathilde Thiele was born in 1907 and lived in Germany during World War I and World War II. I tell some of her stories as a dancer during World War II as she told them to me over a period of many years. I value her narratives as oral history, and she gave me permission to write them. I also read my manuscript to her as it grew, bit by bit.

She was one of my primary teachers at the Mary Wigman School in 1965-66. Late in her life, she lived not far from me in Western NY. I took the time to write down her stories because I thought they should not be lost. She left me her paintings, books, and stories, and I loved her dearly. The PDF here is my best effort to tell her stories, which I heard repeated over a period of about 20 years. It includes the dinner she and Palucca had with Hitler at his 1936 olympics, and their fears about him at the time.

The article has several photographs of Thiele's role in a dance by Dore Hoyer on a theme from World War I. I trust it will be of value to some who are interested in this period of dance history.

Below is a photograph of Hoyer's work, and Thiele is in the front. The pascifist-feminist aesthetic of Kollwitz was influential in the aesthetic concerns of early modern dancers in Germany, though never so apparent as in Hoyer's dance named after her. Expressionist dancer Mathilde (Til) Thiele was a central figure in Tanz für Käthe Kollwitz. She was thirty nine years old at that time, attesting Hoyer's interest to work with older dancers who could bring maturity to her work. The group members were close to each other in dance as in life because of shared experiences of war and privation. Hoyer later committed suicide and left Til her final letter. Thiele lived the latter part of her life as a committed Sufi, as I also witness in my article. This writing teaches me that there are many stories that could be told about any of us, not just one.

A photograph of Mathilde Thiele in Dore Hoyer's Tanz für Käthe Kollwitz

Dear reader, please have a little patience with the placement of photographs, they take a lot of space, so if you see blank space, please keep scrolling down to the next text.

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