Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal to run at Edinburgh Festival

This article is from 2010.

Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal to run at Edinburgh Festival

The legacy of the German choreographer at the 2010 International Festival

The death of Pina Bausch has left a gaping void in European dance. Kelly Apter introduces her final work for the EIF and discusses the German innovator’s legacy with those who were both influenced and moved by her

On January 2010, a new work by the German modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch was due to premiere in the Chilean capital, Santiago. Seven months later, it was to receive its first UK airing at the Edinburgh International Festival. Sadly, the work was never made. Its creator, one of the most influential and innovative forces the dance world has ever known, had yet to create a single step when she died in June 2009 at the age of 68.

Years of heavy smoking finally caught up with Bausch and, just five days after diagnosis, her shortlived battle against lung cancer was over. Bausch’s memory lives on in the vast body of work she leaves behind, and in her loyal dancers at the Tanztheater Wuppertal, who continue to perform and tour without their leader.

Despite Jonathan Mills, artistic director of the Edinburgh International Festival, being happy to receive a new Bausch work sight unseen, Bausch herself was less sure. ‘But darling, it may not be good,’ she had warned him, suggesting an alternative – Água – in case it wasn’t. Which means that, although saddened by her death, Mills was not left with a hole in his 2010 programme; on the contrary, he has a work approved by Bausch herself.

Created in Brazil in 2001, Água was inspired by the people Bausch met during her time in the South American country. It is a work filled with playfulness and colour, backed with film footage created by her long-time collaborator Peter Pabst. As its UK premiere draws close, we speak to four dance-makers and Mills himself about Bausch’s legacy and why she will never be forgotten.

Janet Smith - Artistic director of Scottish Dance Theatre
‘Pina Bausch is probably the most significant choreographer of our times. For three decades her radical work and company have influenced not only dance-makers and students from all over the world, but also made big waves in opera, theatre and film. Watching her company for the first time, I was struck by the experience of the performers, their maturity and eloquence. Their investment and dedication in the creative process, reaching into themselves to discover the truth in the work and their willingness to expose a raw nerve: this process and its outcome is part of Pina’s legacy.

‘Her work has not always been an easy watch for me; I have sometimes found it indulgent and in need of editing. Other times it has been amazingly evocative, surprising and powerful. She was a brave, provocative, authentic voice.’

Ashley Page - Artistic director of Scottish Ballet
‘Last summer saw the death of two iconic figures from the dance world, Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham, robbing us of the promise of future creations from these two giants of the artform. Although the work they made was very different (probably the classic examples of European and American modern dance), they both pushed the boundaries of what had gone before and explored and developed their ideas in a very pure way, producing many masterpieces which we will treasure for years to come.

‘Collaboration with artists from other disciplines was high on their agendas, and this has certainly been a strong influence on my own work. While Merce operated in a predominantly ‘abstract’ world of very American energy, Pina’s work was perhaps the defining example of European ‘dance theatre’, collaborating with her fabulous dancers over (in some cases) their entire careers to produce a body of work which was beautiful, challenging, poetic and provocative and which has hugely influenced succeeding generations of choreographers and theatre directors.

‘Pina and Merce were the antithesis of each other in terms of style and content, but the broad range of works they created has enriched us beyond measure and transcends such defining terminology.’

Deborah Colker - Artistic director of Companhia de Dança
‘Pina is the choreographer who dances pain with poetry, expressiveness and creativity. It doesn’t matter if you call it theatre or dance: it is Pina Bausch. The movement and the body express a feeling, and that feeling tells a story.’

Liv Lorent - Artistic director of balletLORENT
‘For me, Pina Bausch has created some of the most visually striking and personally resonant images I have ever seen in dance. Both live and on film, they remain embedded in my memory.’

Jonathan Mills - Director of Edinburgh International Festival
‘The sheer body of work she produced and the corpus of influence she had was extraordinary, but for me, it was her humour. People tend to take Pina very seriously; she didn’t. There was this incredible whimsy and lightness of touch. She never proselytised, there was no sermonising in her, and yet when she wanted to make a point, my god did she pack a punch. But she did it with this extraordinary wit.

‘She was so driven and so manic in some of her behaviour and yet so fragile and so poised on other levels. I asked her to come to a festival of mine in Australia and she initially said yes, then she changed her mind. I found out why. She couldn’t go that long without a cigarette. I even found a way of getting her to Australia through four-hour hops, which she agreed to, and then disagreed, saying “I can’t even do four hours without a cigarette”.

‘So my abiding memory of Pina will be of this chain-smoking little sparrow, who would get up to show somebody a dance step and go from being almost expressionless to a completely changed lifeforce. It wasn’t done well – you couldn’t say she was a great dancer – but the intensity of her intentions was simply extraordinary.’

Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, 0131 473 2000, 27–29 Aug, 7.30pm, £8–£28.50.

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