Gert, Valeska (1892–1978) By Elswit, Kate
Valeska Gert was a dancer, actress, and cabaret artist best known for her radical solo performances during the Weimar Republic. She attracted attention for her physical stage choices and presence (both of which were often discussed in terms of the grotesque) and for her commitment to making work that staged contemporary issues without mystifying them, as she claimed many of her contemporaries did. She also acted in many plays and films by well-known modernist directors. During the Nazi years, Gert left Germany and, among other activities, ran the Beggar Bar in New York City, one of the more successful exile cabarets and the second of the seven venues she opened during her career. After her return to Germany in 1949, her work changed substantially, both stylistically and in terms of medium, as her aggressive performance style softened and she relied increasingly on spoken text. In the decades after her death, she became an icon of rebellious and experimental performance for younger artists across Europe.