was a performer and poet. She was also the wife of celebrated Dada
Dada or Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature—poetry, art manifestoes, art theory—theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a...
ist Hugo Ball
Hugo Ball was a German author, poet and one of the leading Dada artists.Hugo Ball was born in Pirmasens, Germany and was raised in a middle-class Catholic family. He studied sociology and philosophy at the universities of Munich and Heidelberg...
. Despite her own achievements, it is difficult to come by information about Hennings that is not directly related to her relationship with Hugo Ball.
Life and work
Hennings was born in Flensburg
Flensburg is an independent town in the north of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Flensburg is the centre of the region of Southern Schleswig...
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...
. She was a performer at the Cabaret Simplizissimus in Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...
, when she met Ball in 1913. At the time, Hennings was already a published poet, whose works had appeared in left-wing publications called Pan
and Die Aktion
. In 1913 she also published a short poetry collection called Ether Poems
, or Äthergedichte
in German. Later, Hennings was a collaborator to the magazine Revolutions
, which was founded by Ball and Hans Leybold
Hans Leybold was a German poet and nihilist, whose small body of work was a major inspiration behind much of the Dada movement, in particular the works of his close friend Hugo Ball...
Hennings and Ball moved to Zurich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...
in 1915, where they took part of the founding of the Cabaret Voltaire
Cabaret Voltaire was the name of a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland. It was founded by Hugo Ball, with his companion Emmy Hennings on February 5, 1916 as a cabaret for artistic and political purposes. Other founding members were Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, and Jean Arp...
, which marked the beginning of the Dada movement. Hennings was a regular performer at the Cabaret Voltaire. Her performances included a role in Das Leben des Menschen
(the Life of a Man), in which she appeared with Ball. This was the German premiere of the play by Leonid Andreev. Hennings also performed in a piece written by Ball, called Krippenspiel
. After the Cabaret Voltaire ended, Hennings and Ball toured, performing mostly in hotels. Hennings sang, did puppetry, and danced to music composed by Ball. She also recited her own poetry. In 1916 Ball and Hennings created Arabella, their own ensemble troupe, where Hennings performed under the name Dagny. Hennings married Ball on 21 February 1920. Although they had no children together, Hennings had a daughter, Annemarie, from a previous relationship. Hennings, who outlived Ball by two decades, died in Magliaso
Magliaso is a municipality in the district of Lugano in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland.-History:Magliaso is first mentioned in 769 as de Maliacis. In 854 it was mentioned as de vico Maliaci....
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....
Role as Artist
In The Magic Bishop: Hugo Ball, Dada Poet
, author Erdmute Wenzel White writes that Hennings “was admired by expressionists as the incarnation of the cabaret artist of her time... The shining star of the Voltaire, according to the Zuricher Post
(Zurich Post), her role in Dada has not been adequately acknowledged.” (p. 11).
White also cites a poem by Johannes Becher which he uses as evidence that Emmy served as a muse for other artists of the time:
"(It was in Munich, at the Café Stefanie,
Where I recited for you, Emmy, poems
That I dared tell only you,"
The following poem is an example of Hennings' poetry:
Dir ist als ob ich schon gezeichnet wäre
Und auf der Totenliste stünde.
Es hält mich ab von mancher Sünde.
Wie langsam ich am Leben zehre.
Und ängstlich sind oft meine Schritte,
Mein Herz hat einen kranken Schlag
Und schwächer wird's mit jedem Tag.
Ein Todesengel steht in meines Zimmers Mitte.
Doch tanz ich bis zur Atemnot.
Bald werde ich im Grabe liegen
Und niemand wird sich an mich schmiegen.
Ach, küssen will ich bis zum Tod.
To you it's as if I was already
Marked and waiting on Death's list.
It keeps me safe from many sins.
How slowly life drains out of me.
My steps are often steeped in gloom,
My heart beats in a sickly way
And it gets weaker every day.
A death angel stands in the middle of my room.
Yet I dance till I'm out of breath.
Soon lying in the grave I'll be
And no one will snuggle up to me.
Oh, give me kisses up till death.
- Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary, by Hugo Ball
- The Magic Bishop: Hugo Ball, Dada Poet by Erdmute Wenzel White