Stanford University

News Service



Diane Manuel, News Service (650) 725-1945; e-mail:

German choreographer Pina Bausch to perform Oct. 18


Will she fill Roble Dance Studio with 10,000 pink plastic carnations, or import police dogs from greater Palo Alto?

Those are among the questions campus aficionados of choreographer Pina Bausch are asking as opening night of the Autumn Quarter series of the Presidential Lectures and Symposia in the Humanities and Arts approaches.

When Bausch conducts a rehearsal of her dance troupe at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, and follows the performance with an onstage interview, the outcome is difficult to predict ­ except that it will be controversial and provocative.

"Lounging about in the coal mine, a man plays piano," the German critic Christoph Neidhart wrote about a 1986 opening night in the German weekly Die Weltwoche. "An old man walks by. Two waiters trip on the stage and prevent each other from falling. The old man falls and is left alone. The hole becomes his grave.

"This is a scene from Pina Bausch's new dance piece Viktor, a piece that I found deeply unsettling."

As one of Germany's most influential post-World War II choreographers, Bausch is known for questioning her dancers about their emotions and personal relationships and incorporating their feelings in her work. Sharp bending and turning, sudden neck movements, caresses, ear tweaks and pinches, rather than formalized balletic movements, mark many a Bausch production.

"In the beginning I had dancers who were busy with the way they looked and were afraid of losing something onstage," Bausch told a New York Times writer in 1985. "Then I found dancers who had less to lose and they were not afraid to go somewhere further.

"I love these dancers very much. I think they are beautiful. I don't mean outside beauty, I try to show how beautiful they are inside."

Based in the small industrial German city of Wuppertal, the Pina Bausch Tanztheater (dance theater) Wuppertal is known worldwide for its innovative blending of dance, theater, music and visual arts in a format that often includes speaking, singing, chanting and props.

Menacing German shepherds circle the stage in Carnations, and sheep roam quietly throughout Viktor. Productions of Le Sacre du Printemps require a stage filled with dirt or sod, and dancers in Arien (Arias) perform in three inches of water in a plastic basin.

"It is almost impossible not to have a strong response to Pina Bausch's works," Stanford music bibliographer Mimi Tashiro writes on the website that advertises the Oct. 18 performance[]. "From the beginning and even today, reception has been divided and controversial. While some see Bausch as the most influential creative force in postwar world theater, inspiring two generations of choreographers, dance theater makers and opera directors . . . there are [critics] who regard Bausch as the queen of 'angst theater,' and her works as 'depressing, self-indulgent ramblings of interest only to anthropologically minded theater scholars.'"

Born in 1940 in Solingen, Germany, Bausch studied in Essen at the Folkwang School, birthplace of the Jooss Ballet founded by expressionist choreographer Kurt Jooss. Bausch graduated in 1959 and studied at Juilliard in New York for two years with Antony Tudor, the British choreographer who recruited her for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. In 1962 she returned to Germany to join Jooss' Essen Folkwang Ballet.

"I wanted to be a dancer, not a choreographer," Bausch has told the New York Times about her earliest productions. "When I did my first piece, maybe I felt frustrated. So I did something I wanted to dance.

"I just know, when I did my first piece, I could not copy ­ out of respect. When I'm creating now, I don't want to see anything. The impulse is what is life."

Since her early days in Wuppertal, Bausch has created more than 30 full-length works, including Ich Bring Dich um die Ecke (I'll Do You In), Fürchtet Euch nicht! (Don't Be Afraid), Nelken (Carnations), Nur Du (Only You) and Kontakthof (Difficult Place).

"Some hallmarks of Bausch's mature style have been the absence of a sustainable plot, or conventional sense of progression, or revelation of characters," Tashiro writes on the Stanford website. "Her pieces are built on brief episodes of dialogue and action that are often centered on a surreal situation, prop or costume. In Viktor, a female dancer pounds a steak and then stuffs it along with her foot into a toe shoe, and performs bourrées."

Bausch also has been criticized for her frequent depictions of violence, particularly against women.

But in Bluebeard, a rendition of the traditional wife-killer tale, Bausch has defended her vision, arguing that "I'm so afraid of violence, that I am able to face it."

Bausch's troupe made its New York debut in 1984 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and that same year opened the Los Angeles Olympic Art Festival.

The Oct. 18 rehearsal and interview in Roble Dance Studio are open to the public, although some seats will be reserved for invited guests. All who attend are invited to a reception that will follow the interview.


By Diane Manuel

© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300. Terms of Use  |  Copyright Complaints