Dorothee Günther

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Anna-Katharine Dorothea Günther (born October 8, 1896 in Gelsenkirchen , † September 18, 1975 in Cologne ), German gymnastics and dance teacher and specialist author, founded the Günther School in Munich together with Carl Orff .


Dorothee Günther was a woman with many artistic interests and talent. Among other things, she studied graphics, art history and anatomy at the Dessau School of Applied Arts and worked as an assistant director at the Staatliches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg in 1916/17.

The parents were displeased with the daughter's artistic inclinations, because she was supposed to be completing a commercial apprenticeship so that she could later help in her parents' business. But Dorothee Günther decided to go her own way. Motivated by disappointing impressions of stunted mobility that she noticed during her drawing studies in the nude hall, she began to focus on the question of a movement education following the natural flow of movement. She made herself familiar with the systems of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze , Rudolf von Laban and Beth Mensendieck , as well as with breathing exercises and speaking techniques. Günther received her diploma as a gymnastics teacher in Wilhelmshöhe in 1919 from Hedwig Hagemann (Bund für Körperbildung e.V. School Mensendieck - Movement Art Ellen Petz). From then on she earned her living with lectures and guest courses in the Mensendieck training centers in Berlin, Wroclaw, Hamburg and Munich. She found meaningful fulfillment and an ideal way of life in her absolute devotion to her work.

In 1924, Dorothee Günther and Carl Orff founded the Günther School in Munich (1924–1944), initially the “Federation for Applied and Free Movement e. V. "named. In autumn 1924, classes began in a backyard building at Luisenstrasse 21 in Munich. Dorothee Günther's call as a lecturer was followed by numerous pupils and the school expanded rapidly. Finally, a school building of their own at Kaulbachstrasse 16 by the Englischer Garten could be rented. The Orff Center Munich has been located in the same building since 1988.

The concept of the state-recognized Günther School in Munich is one of the first and therefore pioneering, “integrative”, artistic-pedagogical school and training concepts.

The teacher training subjects included gymnastics, music-rhythmic physical education, dance physical education and modern artistic dance as well as singing, breathing and voice theory, anatomy, physiology, therapeutic exercises and massage, pedagogy, psychology, various history subjects and movement drawing. In addition to the basis of functional and hygienic body formation, Günther saw the training goal in overcoming the "creative inhibition". The learner's growing ability for spontaneous movement and music improvisation was used as a yardstick for this. In the creative and free atmosphere of the Günther School in Munich, Carl Orff finally succeeded in developing the Orff school system (1930 to 1935).

Attached to the Günther School was the Kammertanzbühne, known as the Günther Munich Dance Group since 1930. The dance group was under the overall direction of Dorothee Günther, the choreographic direction of Maja Lex and the musical direction of Gunild Keetman . Dance and music were developed in a simultaneous, mutually dependent creative process. In addition to some choreographies, such as for the 1936 Olympic Games Festival in Berlin, she published numerous contributions and articles during the Günther School and in the post-war period, for example for the Brockhaus.

In 1948 Dorothee Günther left Germany and went to Rome, where she lived with Maja Lex in the house of Myriam Blanc. She lived in Italy for over 20 years until she moved to Cologne in 1969, already seriously ill. There she was accepted by Maja Lex, who had been teaching at the German Sport University in Cologne since the mid-1950s . Dorothee Günther died shortly before her 79th birthday.

Dorothee Günther's role as headmistress during the National Socialist era

The role played by the Günther School in Munich and Dorothee Günther as head of the school during the Nazi era will require a detailed analysis over the next few years, which must be placed in the overall context of the art and cultural history of that time. It should also be interesting to see what consequences can be derived from this for culture and art professionals today - after all, teaching institutes as well as well-known athletes, dancers, visual artists and others are always part of the public in their country and thus opinion leaders.

With regard to the Günther School in Munich, the first steps towards such an analysis resulted from a conference on the history of the school in 1998 in the Orff Center in Munich, in which former Günther pupils had their say as contemporary witnesses. The conference participants discussed questions about teaching under the Nazi regime and the apparent contradictions between Günther's individualistic educational concept and the collectivist ideology of National Socialism, as well as the style of music created by Carl Off and Gunild Keetman and the regime’s concept of music. The participants also asked how far teachers and students had adapted to the regime, if they wanted to maintain their independence.

The results of this conference are documented in the Orff Center in Munich and are partly presented in: Michael Kugler (ed.): Elementarer Tanz - Elementar Musik: Die Günther School Munich 1924 to 1944. Mainz u. a. 2002

In this context, a personal statement by Dorothee Günther on the history of the Orff school, her role as headmistress and thus her connection to the National Socialist regime should be interesting:

... In the politically critical winter of 1932-33, the Schulwerk work [Orff-Schulwerk] was already a household name in the circles of experimental modern music and dance education and in those of "New Music". The Munich Circle for New Music, the circle of singing communities around Jöde and Das Musikheim Frankfurt / 0 were unquestionably positive towards her . under Georg Götzsch and individual pedagogical academies - just like the German University for Physical Education in Berlin admitted to this music education in connection with movement education.

Nevertheless, as early as the winter of 1932/33 the “ Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur ” in Munich told me that after the expected “takeover” my school would get a provisional director because the “communist tendencies” within the music education of the Günther School would not are portable. Orff's name was mentioned as suspect. My statement that neither I nor my teachers, and especially Carl Orff, are neither politically bound nor oriented in any way and that there is no question of communist tendencies, was only answered with the statement that “noble communism” is the worst! At the same time, the “ Völkischer Beobachter ” began a campaign against us as a party newspaper. A school performance in the Goethesaal in Munich was commented on "that it was incomprehensible that German girls would spend expensive school fees to learn the communist recorder and how to play negro drums." And much more ... In the spring of 1933 Fritz Jöde visited me ( Singgemeinschaften) and informed me that he had heard that my school should be closed and that Orff in particular was at risk.

Since the further recognition of the Günther School by the Reich Ministry in Berlin, which was very positive about my school, could not be guaranteed without party affiliation, I made short work of it and joined the party in May 1933, thus securing the school and my employees an undisturbed continued work, as far as the gradually increasingly restrictive school regulations still allowed.

In any case, the Orff Schulwerk courses continued in many places and increased in scope, but they were carried out under the heading “Music and Movement” and the Orff Schulwerk courses were often not mentioned at all or only in parenthesis; only the school brochure of the Günther School and its letterhead continued to name it. The lessons and the courses continued in the old sense, as did the dance orchestra.

A large Schulwerk orchestra under the direction of Gunild Keetman was engaged by Prof. Carl Diem for the Olympic Festival during the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and accompanied the dances I designed and rehearsed for 3,000 children and 1,500 young girls, the so-called Olympic rounds . The international success was so resounding and every evening so great that the antipodes of the matter were first taken off the sails and the accusation that the Günther School's music and dance was un-German was first taken back and the Dance group was declared as "eligible". Just like the school now received a state grant, which was supplemented by the city of Munich with a municipal grant. On this occasion, however, the city councilor Reinhard of the city of Munich explained to me that this subsidy would be higher if I would part with the unwanted employee Orff and give my school and the dance group a "normal German" music education and music practice.

When I made it clear that the school could be closed for me, but that I could not be expected to deny or abandon my artistic convictions and my employees - and, as in the case of Orff - co-founder of the school, it followed briefly thereupon the withdrawal of the “eligible” for the dance group and was replaced by “undesirable” for “kdP”.

From then on, however, Carl Orff left more and more of the school lessons to his assistant Dr. Wilhelm Twittenhoff and Hans Bergese and of course still, like Gunild Keetman since 1928. He himself was only available to the Günther School in an advisory capacity and as a member of the examination committee.

In July 1944, the “Gauleiter” of the city of Munich confiscated the school house for his own purposes and lessons had to be suspended. When I defended myself against it, the school was rigorously banned for Bavaria. Since it was Germany's largest such school, the Reich Ministry tried to find other rooms for me and to "transplant" me, initially to Neu-Strelitz / Mecklenburg on an interim basis. From January 1945 I was supposed to go to Prague. When I expressed my grave concerns about this plan, a decree was issued. But since in January 1945 my confiscated schoolhouse in Munich, which still contained all teaching materials, instruments, costumes and the whole archive and so on, burned down completely due to the effects of the war, I was able to avoid this decree, but after the war the school for lack of funds not reopen.

The continued work on the school work, which was resumed after 1945 and was carried out solely by Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, can only be represented by them themselves; I could and can only represent them until the end of Günther School. I can only personally vouch for the correctness of what has been said here, as all possible documents including the Günther School were destroyed. signed Dorothee Günther resident: Roma / Italia, Via Aurelia Antica 18o


Iris Haarland: Maja Lex . In: Info-Brief 2000, pages 14–15, Ed .: Elementarer Tanz e. V. - Also in: Karoline von Steinaecker: air jumps - beginnings of modern body therapies , page 161,168f. Munich-Jena 2000

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Death certificate no. 863 from September 23, 1975, registry office Cologne South. In: LAV NRW R civil status register. Retrieved May 4, 2018 .
  2. Dorothee Günther: "As the founder and director of the Günther School in Munich (1924-1945), I announce the following about the" History of the Orff School Works "". Rome without date, document: Documentation material from Iris Haarland, Wissenschaftliche Werkstatt, Elementarer Tanz e. V.


  • Dorothee Günther: The dance as a movement phenomenon . Reinbek 1962
  • Michael Kugler (ed.): Elementary Dance - Elementary Music: The Günther School Munich 1924 to 1944. Mainz a. a. 2002.
  • Maja Lex, Graziela Padilla: Elementary Dance (Volume 1 to 3) . Wilhelmshaven 1988
  • Herrmann Regner, Minna Lange-Ronnefeld: Gunild Keetman . Mainz 2004
  • Karoline v. Steinaecker: Jumps in the air - the beginnings of modern body therapies . Munich-Jena 2000
  • Ilse Loesch: With body and soul - experienced past of expressive dance. Berlin 1990

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