Scene4 Magazine-inSight

August 2009

Scene4 Magazine Arts and Media: Pina Bausch

I do all my things to not talk

I loved her. This beautiful, but also obsessive, exhausting, troubling, strange, wistful, elusive, occasionally infuriating and magnetic woman represented everything I embrace in art and took it into her own dimension, many, many steps further.

No matter how you felt about her, you couldn't ignore her presence in the contemporary world of dance, the "theatre poet" as she was called by some, or the "pornographer of pain" as she was rejected by others.

Born in Solingen, Germany in 1940 she studied in Essen at the famous Folkwang School, where she graduated in 1959 and at the age of 18, she became a special student at Juilliard in New York.

Antony Tudor, who was her teacher, recruited her for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. She also appeared with the American modern-dance troupe of Paul Sanasardo and Donya Feuer, and in the New American Ballet.

In 1962, Pina Bausch returned to West Germany to join Jooss' new Essen Folkwang Ballet. An anti-Nazi, Jooss had left Germany in 1933, but he returned after World War II to head the Folkwang dance department again.

Her choreographic career began in 1968 with "Fragmente", followed by "Im Wind der Zeit" (In the Wind of Time), which later won first prize at the Second International Choreographic Competition in Cologne. From 1969-73 she was artistic director, choreographer and dancer in the Folkwang Dance Studio (1971 "Aktionen für Tänzer", 1972 "Thannhäuser", "Bacchanals").  

In 1973 Pina Bausch was appointed director of the "Ballett der Wuppertaler Bühnen" (Ballet of the Wuppertal Stages), later renamed "Tanztheater Wuppertal" (Wuppertal Dance Theatre),and since 1983 she was also the artistic director of the Folkwang Dance Studio.

She changed dance forever by becoming the symbol of a whole era of intuitive, nonlinear, multidisciplinary modernism that's called Tanztheater (dance-theater) or Neo-Expressionism.

Neo-Expressionism had developed in the late 1970s as a reaction against Conceptual art and Minimalism. During the 1980s, it became the dominant style of avant-garde art primarily in the United States, Germany, and Italy. Although the Neo-Expressionists tended to draw their influence from many sources, the late aggressive paintings of Pablo Picasso were a major inspiration. It also is rooted in the German Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism movements of the earlier 20th century.

"I'm not a big talker," Pina Bausch said at a 2004 press conference.
"I do all my things to not talk."

She established a method of creating dances that was widely copied. She would begin rehearsals by asking specific questions of the dancers: about memories, about their daily lives. She would ask them to act out the recollections and create mini-dramas from their responses.

"I don't know where the beginning or the end is," she said in an interview with The New York Times. "You have to digest. I don't know what will come out."

Bausch believed passionately in choreography but her works were not primarily about dance. She wove her material out of movement, speech, theatrical imagery and music, often starting out with no more than a feeling and developed her vision into a combination of movement of shocking visceral intensity with stage visions of often hallucinogenic strangeness.

What else can I say? I thought I could fill pages and pages about her, but my mind wanders and I find myself sitting at my desk looking at photographs of her various performances. I write one sentence, " She has changed the theater with her notion of time and space" and stare at it. What else can I say with the voice inside me repeating over and over agin, that there will never be a new performance again.

A lot of her work is saved in archives and the "Tanztheater Wuppertal" will continue to perform her work, but how much longer? Many of her productions have been recorded for video, but that's not the same as seeing them live. And it won't be the same without her in the wings.

One of her trademarks was the way she asked her dancers to express not just the purity of their bodily movements, but their inner vulnerabilities, sometimes anger.

Maybe it is anger I feel. Anger that she left so soon.  And a big sadness.
I will miss her.

Andrea Kapsaski



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©2009 Andrea Kapsaski
©2009 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Scene4 Magazine: Andrea Kapsaski
Andrea Kapsaski is a writer and producer
and a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

August 2009

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