Skating toward Americanization

The Transformation of Katarina Witt throughout the 1980s

in German Politics and Society
Wesley Lim Australian National University

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At the 1987 World Figure Skating Championship, Katarina Witt skated to instrumental music from West Side Story playing the role of Maria. But how could her performance to Broadway show tunes be in line with sed ideology? Through histoire croisée—establishing multiple intersections with different cultures and tracing their continuing effects—this article examines how Witt's, her coach Jutta Müller's and choreographer Rudy Suchy's privileged exposure to Western culture through dance, music, film, experiences abroad, and other skaters’ choreography and costuming inspired reappropriated manifestations through an East German lens into the packaging of Witt's skating programs in the 1980s. Using television broadcasts, I analyze the gradual to overt Americanization of her programs as her government loosened its grips by granting her more artistic freedom.

Contributor Notes

Wesley Lim is a Lecturer in German Studies at the Australian National University. He received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in German Literary and Cultural Studies in 2012. His research focuses on representations of and discourses on dance in German and Austrian literature and film. He also examines screendance and figure skating studies. His articles have appeared in publications such as Kulturpoetik, the Journal of Austrian Studies, Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, Dance Chronicle, Dance Research Journal, and Studies in European Cinema.

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