Vintage Photos of Performance Artist Emmy Hennings (1885-1948)

Emmy Hennings (born Emma Maria Cordsen, 1885 – 1948) was a performer and poet. She was also the wife of celebrated Dadaist Hugo Ball.

Hennings and Ball moved to Zurich in 1915, where they took part in the founding of the Cabaret Voltaire, 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.

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.

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, lived in Magliaso, Switzerland from 1942 to 1948. She died at a clinic in Sorengo, Switzerland.

Emmy Hennings been almost completely erased from the history of the Dada movement. This was due to her own inner conflict, her extreme practice of Catholicism contrasting with her debauched bohemian lifestyle but also because of her constant rewriting of her story and that of Hugo Ball during the latter part of her life. Dada artists and historians thus preferred to eclipse the role Emmy Hennings and turned her into a naive eccentric adorned by a childish bob haircut (source).

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Emmy Hennings and her dada puppets, 1916 via

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Emmy Hennings, 1910-1913 via

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Emmy Hennings with her friends for Revolution Ball of “Action”, 1915 via

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Emmy Hennings, 1915 via

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Emmy Hennings, 1917-1918

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