Pina Bausch & the Tanztheater Wuppertal
Masurca Fogo - Sadler's Wells
Pina Baush, the German choreographer, is at Sadler’s
Wells from 31 January 2002 with her company(www.sadlerswells.com).
I got my ‘hottest ticket’ (for the premiere, of
course!!) of the dance year: more than two months ago the
season was completely sold out . January has been - apart
from the sales the most exciting month for me in a long time,
not to mention Pavarotti’s “sold out” performance
of “Tosca”, with people spending thousands
to see his farewell from Convent Garden. Then last week I
really enjoyed “Don Giovanni” with Bryn
Terfel, conducted by the great Colin Davis, directed by Francesca
Zambello, also another “SOLD OUT” at the ROH.
that I have seen her Marsuca Fogo, I understand why
Pina Bausch is called “The Queen of European Dance Theatre”.
This marvellously choreographed piece, created for Lisboa
Expo 98, premiered on 4 April 1998. It was then taken around
the world and is now in London for only four performances
really a cause for celebration. Marsuca Fogo is the
result of the Tanztheater’s long period of living and
researching in Lisboa. Pina and the company enjoyed many things
while they were there, including meeting the musical group
‘Madre de Deus’, much loved by Wim Wenders and
Antonio Tabucchi, the bullfighting, Capo Verde, and, of course,
the DIVINE Amalia Rodrigues with her Fado. The joyful celebration
of all these, and of Portuguese life in general, was a real
inspiration to Bausch and the company.
was in London in 1999 for the first time in 17 years and generated
hysteria. She is one of the world’s most influential
choreographers and she is based at Wuppertal Opera, in the German
city in which Pina and her company Tanztheater Wuppertal are
to be found since 1973. While some Wuppertalians didn’t
care much for her work at first, Pina has gained their admiration.
And is greatly loved by many people such as Susan Sontag,
Robert Wilson, Peter Brook, Robert Lepage and other luminaries
of the intelligentsia who, by starting their pilgrimages to
Wuppertal, have put the city on the map. Before it became
home to the Tanztheater, it was just another provincial industrial
city in Germany. Thanks to Pina, the city is now famous!
was born Philippine Bausch on 27 July 1940 in Solingen, a
city in the industrial Ruhr (a great coal-mining area of Germany),
not far from Wuppertal. She studied at Folkwang School at
the age of 14 with Kurt Jooss, (she is now their director)
and the Julliard School of Music, N.Y. At the Folkwang, her
choreography tutor was one of the founding fathers of German
Expressionist dance or ausdruckstanz, a style that
combines movement and music with elements of drama. At the
Julliard, her tutor was Antony Tudor. She soon joined the
American Ballet, which was directed by Tudor at the Metropolitan
Opera. In 1962 she went back to Germany and worked as a soloist
with Kurt Jooss at the Folkwang Ballet, where, in 1968, she
choreographed her first piece, Fragment, with music
by Bartok. She became director when Jooss retired in 1969.
In 1971 she was invited to create a piece for the Wuppertal
Ballet and two years later she founded Tanztheatre Wuppertal,
of which she is also director. (www.pina-bausch.de)
a choreographer, Pina Bausch is one of the best of the 20th
century, greatly expanding the possibilities of modern dance
with her creativity and invention. Her style has influenced
William Forsythe and Maguy Marin. “She has basically
re-invented dance” says William Forsythe. “She
is one of the greatest innovators of the past 50 years. Pina
needs to examine the world this way. She is a category of
dance until herself. Dance-theatre didn’t really exist
before she invented it”. Her friend, the American choreographer
Paul Sanasardo, says of her, “Pina’s accomplishment
is enormous and it is amazing that she has managed to do it
all in Wuppertal. I mean who ever heard of Wuppertal before
Pina, except as some little industrial city in Germany? It’s
hard to believe she pulled that together away from the traditional
metropolitan centres of London or New York”. She is
shy and reticent and looks fragile, an almost sepulchral figure,
always dressed in dark tones, always sucking on a Camel cigarette
and drinking a cup of coffee, speaking in a low, halting,
gentle voice. She uses the word ‘vielleicht’
- ‘maybe’ - again and again. Despite this subdued
demeanour, she nevertheless controls every aspect of Tanztheater
Wuppertal. The company’s manager says “no decision
is made without her involvement, from the temperature of the
heating system to the colours we use on the poster."
parents, August and Anita Bausch, proprietors of a small hotel
and restaurant, were absorbed by the family business; Roland,
her brother and her sister (also called Anita), are both a
decade older. Pina says, “My parents didn’t have
much time for me, so I was always around the restaurant very
late. You have no family life. I was always up till midnight
or one o’clock, sitting under a table somewhere.”
From an early age she was constantly dancing. People from
the local theatre sometimes came to the restaurant and, as
Bausch re-calls, “they saw me always hopping about and
doing handstands. So they took me to the children’s
ballet. All children had to lie on their stomachs and put
their legs behind their heads. And it was so easy for me to
do that. The teacher said: ’Du bist ein schlangenmensch’
which means something like “You are a snake-person or
a contortionist.” Then, at the Folkwang Ballet in Essen,
she was exposed to a variety of artistic disciplines. She
says, “At this time at the Folkwang, all the arts were
together. It was not just the performing arts like music or
acting or mime or dance, but there were also painters, sculptors,
designers, and photographers. If you just went to a little
ballet school, the experience would have been entirely different.
came NY she won a scholarship from the German academic exchange
service to continue her dance studies. She remembers in disbelief,
“I was just 18 when I stepped on that ship, I couldn’t
speak any English.” Donya Feuer took Bausch under her
wing and became a life-long friend. She remembers, “She
was very shy and cried a lot. Everything was so foreign to
her. We would have to walk her to the subway every evening
until she felt secure. But once we saw what a gifted person
she was, we did everything we could so she could be at ease.”
Her Juillard teachers were impressed by her grace and radiance
as a dancer as were Martha Graham, disciples Louis Horst and
Mary Hinkson, Jose Limon. She also worked with Paul Taylor
at the New American Ballet.
was with Paul Sanasardo that Bausch did her most interesting
work at that time in NY. In 1961 they collaborated on a piece
called “Phases of Madness”, a series of
consecutive solos danced to a score by Edgar Varese, and on
a second evening-length ballet entitled “In View
of God”. Sanasardo remembers her magnetic quality
in these pieces: “Pina had a great gift. She was an
extremely beautiful dancer. Tudor had staged this piece at
Juillard in which Pina danced a section called “500
Arabesques”, and she did it on point and it was
wonderful. She was very lyrical and she also had a tremendous
in NY “Pina became extraordinarily thin” says
Sanasardo. “We were very concerned because we had great
difficulty getting her to eat. It was confusing because we
were all young and Pina didn’t speak very much English.
We were not sure if something was bothering her. And when
we tried to talk to her, she would just say, “No, I’m
fine, I am fine”. In the end a safe passage back to
Germany was organised for her.” Kurt Jooss had told
her to put on some weight or get out of the company she got
better quickly, and became one of the principal soloists while
assisting Jooss on many pieces, after recovering from this
eating disorder. When Jooss left after a decade Bausch took
over as artistic director for Folkwang Tanzstudio and began
choreographing pieces on her own: Fragment in 1968,
music of Bela Bartok; Im Wind der Zeit, 1969; Actionen
fur Tanzer, 1971. She says, “I never thought of
being a choreographer, the only reason I made those pieces
was because I wanted to express myself differently and I wanted
to dance. She also adds, about forging her own style: “I
didn’t want to imitate anybody, any movement I knew,
I didn’t want to use.
Then in 1973 she was offered the post of director of the Ballet
der Wupperthaler Buhnen. She was seduced by the possibility
of building up her own company with a total freedom. The first
production was Frizt. Of this piece, the dancer Endicott
says, “There was hardly any music. It was like a suffocating
atmosphere”. Then came many other productions: the dance
operas Iphigenie auf Tauris and Orpheus und Eurydike
1975; Fruhlingsopfer, based on Stravinsky’s
work, which climaxed with the classic Bausch version of The
Rite Of Spring; Seven Deadly Sins, the Brecht/Weill
opera. In 1977 came Blaubart Bluebeard, followed by
an adaptation of Macbeth, He Takes Her By the Hand and
Leads Her into the Castle, the Others Follow. Next was
Café Muller, Kontakthof Contact Yard”, Arias, and
Legend Of Chastity.
All this work was created through her collaboration with
the Dutch set-and-costume designer Rolf Borzik, who was also
her romantic partner. But just when they were achieving international
recognition, Borzik was diagnosed with leukaemia. His death
in January 1980 was too much for Pina and threw the future
of the company into doubt. She says, “I was so scared
I wouldn’t be able to continue. It was so important
for me to do a piece right away, so that I wouldn’t
even have the chance to worry.” 1980 A Piece by Pina
Bausch, deals with nostalgia and childhood games.
While touring in Chile in the summer of 1980, she met a Chilean
poet and professor of aesthetics and literature at the University
of Chile, Ronald Kay. He says, “Rolf Borzik died in
January, and I met her at the end of July, so you can imagine
that it was a very hard time for her. Borzik and Pina lived
together, he was the stage designer of the company and his
collaboration was essential to what became the Tanztheater.
She lost a companion and a co-worker. In that sense she was
a widow twice over.” There was an immediate affinity
and a relationship soon followed. He says “I met Pina
without having seen any of her work. I didn’t even know
who she was. But we began talking and we continued talking
and we are still talking.” They got together in 1981
and shortly afterwards Pina gave birth to her only child Rolf-Salomen,
named after Borzik. Since then Bausch’s work has become
more joyous and celebratory; the comic work Danzon, created
in 1995, around a Cuban dance, features Bausch on stage for
the first time in over a decade. Viktor, an ode to
the city of Rome, performed at Sadler’s Wells in 1999,
signified a change and a necessary evolution of her work.
She produced no more pieces of violence and darkness after
her son’s birth.
Now, talking of Rome, Pina was also an actress in Federico
Fellini’s E la nave va 1982 (And the Ship Goes
On), playing the memorable part of the blind Duchess. Bausch
is very much loved by the Italians film directors Bellocchio
and Bertolucci. She also made her own surreal film Die
Klage der Kaiserin (The Lament of the Empress) filmed
She also began a film with Pedro Almodovar, who, as one of
her admirers, had followed her work for many years, and was
the inspiration for his Hable con Ella, a prologue
and epilogue about her work. The film began with images of
Marzuca Fogo filmed in Palermo, Italy at the Massimo Theatre
during its performance there in November 2000, and closed
with Café Muller, in which Pina appears between the
black tables of a coffee bar, lifeless like a ghost, with
closed eyes. Both Pedro and Pina love Palermo, in fact Pina
has a work inspired by the city call Palermo Palermo. During
this Italian tour, she appeared in Rome at the Teatro Argentina
with the piece O Dido, inspired by the city of Rome.
Her work is really a geographical tour of the world; the cities
she visited became the setting for her choreographed works.
So the Tanztheater Wuppertal Company make their base for a
period of time in the chosen cities, where they discover the
instruments, music, poetry and the people in their search
for ideas and inspiration for choreography. As I watched Marzuca
Fogo (Portugal and colonies), I recognised my own travels.
Living as I have done, in Italy, Brazil and England, I see
my own journeys in her pieces. In one particular vignette,
a dancer went to the front row of the audience and, by the
manner in which she shook hands with three different people,
I was reminded not only of politicians the world over, but
also of Queen Elizabeth and her particular manner of “shaking
hands”. “Nice to meet you”, said the dancer,
“Where do you come from?” (‘Verr do you
kom from? Goodbye!’). And when all three people whose
hands have been shaken reply, “London”, the dancer
repeats the word “London” with different intonation.
Really, very funny.
The vignettes are about the ups and downs of love an international
problem. One of these featured what looked like long transparent
tunnel held by the dancers, into which they poured water and
then threw themselves into it an proceeded to have a lot of
fun swimming up and down. And then a remarkably lifelike walrus
that had previously been on the stage, or rather, on the beach,
returns barking loudly all the time - amazing! A real chicken
came on twice for her vignette…. When I was queuing
for the ladies’ room in the interval, one young woman
remarked how well behaved the chicken was! I said “that
of course she was well behaved, with all the watermelon that
she was pecking on stage - the chicken have though she was
part of a ‘happening’.” Pina always uses
animals in her pieces; Arias, for example, features
of the vignettes that make up Marzuca Fogo concern
orgasms because of the sexual culture of Brazil I feel she
must have been inspired by it!!
But, ironically, orgasms are reduced to the positive “Yes!
Yes!” and the negative “No! No!” and the
metaphysical “ Oh my God!”. There is also a vignette
dedicated to the favelas, Samba music and dance. In
this vignette, the dancers come on stage with pieces of wood
which they put together to build a fragile house into which
they all go; the audience look through the window and sees
Regina Advento, the Brazilian dancer, takes part here in a
It reminded me of the shantytowns of Brazil. Miraculously,
the house remains standing throughout the exuberant performance.
You would think with all the movement it would fall down.
It was a brilliant presentation with brilliant Samba dancing.
After the dance, the performers each take a piece of the house,
as the temporary structure disappears, as if it had never
stage, with its all white beach setting, is backed by rise
of black rocks, which the dancers keep ascending and descending,
with Regina Advento continually going up and down with coloured
plastic buckets in her hands and on her head: fantastic equilibrium.
And the absurdity that I love so much: an hysterical couple
with mounds of food share an apple and dentures at the table,
reminding me of my mother, with her dentures being taken out
at the table after her stroke.
dancer is held high by the others, and says into a microphone,
“Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!” The female dancers are all barefoot
or in high heels and glamorous dresses, seductive and menacing;
in general here, it is the men who get humiliated. Huge images
of a couple dancing a dance from Capo Verde are projected
onto the backdrop of the stage, making the actual dancers
look like miniatures against a ‘screen’. Our eyes
are drawn to the projected images rather than the actual dancers.
the last part of Marzuca Fogo, a roaring ocean fills
the ‘screens’, so that walls, ceiling, floor,
seem to be engulfed. The beach is actually portrayed by water
shown on film footage, and you can hear the sound of the ocean.
It feels as if the ocean has crashed up onto the stage. The
last twenty minutes are extraordinary, with the beach scene
and the water crashing against the rocks, with a background
of the divine Amalia Rodrigues singing Naufragio. (She
was the Queen of Fado for 60 years, Fado is the soul of decorum,
and the fate of Portugal; since the mid-19th century
its form has remained constant: a Portuguese guitar, pear-shaped,
with 12 strings, and used for delicate improvisation, plus
a Spanish guitar accompany the singer.) Listening to Amalia
Rodrigues singing Naufragio, feeling that the sea was
all around me, I was moved to tears. The filmed images engulf
the stage, there are waves everywhere and the dancers seem
to lie inside the waves. Peter Pabst designed this extraordinary
set. The music of Marzuca Fogo comes from Duke Ellington,
with tango by Gidon Kremer. When Amalia Rodrigues’s
song had finished, the water continued crashing against k.d.
lang’s The Air That I Breathe.
trademark vignettes unfold in my head. Her travelogue pieces
and her theatre are hypnotic. In all her work there is no
narrative but a series of collages: very surrealistic, such
as the woman sitting in a bathtub of bubbles washing the plates
and passing them to another dancer.
devoted fans of Pina Bausch like the fanatical followers of
Wagner’s Ring travel the world to catch her show.
Apparently there is also a “Supporters of Pina Bausch
Tanztheater” group at the Sadler’s Wells who are
involved in fund-raising, and has the support of the German
Ambassador. Then there is the Pina Bausch Circle made up of
such people as Laivi von Ploetz, Monica Bahadur, Debora Bull,
Stephen Daldry, Ian Hay Davison, Bryan Ferry, Antony Gormley,
Michael Morris, Miranda Richardson, Alan Rickman and Sadi
Ulrich. At the Sadler’s Wells Premiere on 31 January,
the Circle gave a cocktail party in the foyer, at which I
spotted Fiona Shaw and Richard Wilson.
In October 1998, Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal,
celebrated their twenty-five years of creativity with a festival.
Many artists from all over the world participated, including
Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anne-Teresa de Keersmaeker, William Forsythe
and Caetano Veloso. (When Caetano Veloso gave the Omaggio
a Federico e Giulietta concert and made the accompanying
CD, dedicated to Federico Fellini, he made a tribute to Pina
Bausch, who appeared in Fellini’s film E la nave
va. Caetano says, “Like Fellini. I am in love with
Pina”. So he sings “Dama das Camelias” in
this tribute to Fellini and dedicates it to Pina Bausch. How
sweet of him!) (She used the same piece of music in her piece
Cravo Nelken, from a recording by the Fireband of Rio
is really an achievement - Pina Bausch is loved all over the
world. Her last new pieces were Wiesenland, inspired
this time by Budapest (2000), and by Brazil in Agua
(2001). She is creating a new piece, known by one of her frequently
used titles, A Work by Pina Bausch. She says, “It
is difficult. At this point, I don’t know anything,
I just can hope. I feel my way and try not to be afraid. It
is not just that the dancers don’t know where we are
going, it is that I don’t know where we are going also.
It is not just that they have to trust me, I have to trust
As the house-lights came on at the end of the interval and
at the end of the performance of Masurca Fogo, I noticed
that Pina herself and the non-dancing members of her company
had been seated in the stalls, following the performance.
As soon as the performance finished, they all went backstage.
I think by following the performance with the audience they
can gauge what the audience likes and their reactions. Furthermore,
they can see the rest of the company from a different point
of view seeing things from the other side of the footlights
as it were!
entire company went on stage to acknowledge the standing ovation.
Pina looked incredibly beautiful and serene.
Bye, bye ‘cool’ woman!!!!