Jazz, Gigolos, and ‘Eintänzer’: Dance and Masculinity during the Weimar Republic

Mihaela Petrescu (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York)

The crisis of masculinity during the Weimar Republic has been the object of several critical investigations, which have identified various strategies for surviving it among which are the cold persona and the radar type (H. Lethen) as well as reclaiming mastery over technology (R. McCormick).

This presentation seeks a tonic new approach to this crisis and it accesses the Weimar era through the figure of the ‘Eintänzer‘. Best described in English as a dancer-for-hire or dime-a-dance man, the ‘Eintänzer’ lies at the crossroads between dance instructor and male prostitute, and moves with ease between the erotic yet safe microcosm of dance, and the problematic realm of sex trade.

I investigate self-testimonial reportages by Billy Wilder and Heinz Malten and show how the ‘Eintänzer’ emerges as an artisan of mobility. I argue that the dime-a-dance man thrives on movement: movement between social roles, interpersonal movement, and geographical movement. The dancer-for-hire is consistently shown to deflect sexual affiliations with his clients and to fashion himself as a rigorous dance professional/ performer who delivers fantasies of an intact masculinity for the duration of a dance. The ‘Eintänzer’ does not succumb to the moral, social, and economic mire of the time, in other words, he is not a victim of the ‘male humiliation’ that characterized the Weimar period (R. McCormick). Instead, his performativity and versatile mobility make him a survivor. The position of the ‘Eintänzer’ between his client’s expectations of sexual services and his constant self-distancing from such services casts him as a moral survivor. His discipline and hard work ensure that he is socially and economically a survivor. The story of the ‘Eintänzer’ in Weimar times is thus a story of a successful masculinity.

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