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Why Pina Was an Inspiration Like No Other
In 1984, New York was introduced to a choreographer who would influence generations of dance artists: Pina Bausch. Tanztheater Wuppertal stunned audiences at Brooklyn Academy of Music in performances of Bausch's now-iconic Café Müller and The Rite of Spring.
Since that groundbreaking premiere, Bausch has been revered as a genius, a trailblazer, a game changer in the dance world. And starting this Thursday, Bausch devotees will make a pilgrimage back to Brooklyn Academy of Music where Tanztheater Wuppertal reprises its historic debut program. To celebrate the occasion, BAM shared some archival photos of the choreographer and her work with Dance Magazine, and we reached out to several of today's choreographers and dancers about how Bausch inspired their own life's work.
Poster signed by the company for the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch self-titled production during BAM Spring Series, 1984
"As a young choreographer in 1984, I saw Café Müller on my first visit to BAM. I was intoxicated by Bausch's use of dance in relation to costume, sexuality, relationship, scenario and character. This work was a revelation—a decidedly European perspective on dance, from an entirely different family tree than the downtown dance scene of the time." —Annie-B Parsons, co-director of Big Dance Theater
Dominique Mercy in Palermo Palermo at BAM. Photo by Martha Swope, courtesy BAM.
"When I began choreographing, Café Müller and Rite of Spring acted as encyclopedias while I researched my own movement. She encouraged me to not shy away from repetition. And I love that she used formal wear in her works! That she would put a dancer in an evening gown, then mess it all up by having the dancer move through water or a dirt floor, is just jaw dropping." —Maya Taylor, New Orleans based choreographer
Scene from Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Danzón at BAM Next Wave Festival, 1999. Photo by Dan Rest, Courtesy BAM.
"Pina's commitment inspires me. Her courage to be and do 'Pina', to create and share a kind of work that had not been done before, has forever inspired me to listen to my own intuition. I had the pleasure of meeting her twice, sharing my work with her in studio. These moments were, to say the least, very moving." —Aszure Barton, artistic director of Aszure Barton & Artists
Former BAM president and executive producer Harvey Lichtenstein and Pina Bausch, 1985. Photo by Johan Elbers, courtesy BAM
"I was stunned by Cafe Müller when it first came to BAM—it has lived in my mind ever since as mental furniture and recurring inspiration. Dance has never stopped feeling its impact." —Susan Marshall, artistic director of Susan Marshall & Company
Ruth Amarante in Basuch's Masurca Fogo during BAM Next Wave Festival, 2001. Photo by Michael Rayner, courtesy BAM
"Pina could relay experience without being heavy handed, there is a universalism in her work that I strive for. I'm inspired by her ability to tie humor so closely to sadness and darkness. I've only seen it on film, but Rite of Spring just totally blew my mind! It still lives in me as a choreographer. I also value how long her dancers worked with her, my dream is to provide that kind of career for artists I work with; I love seeing the diversity of age. And being a woman choreographer, seeing Pina's career makes me feel like, 'Yeah, I can do this!' " —Andrea Miller, artistic director of Gallim Dance
Azusa Seyama in Bausch's Vollmond at BAM Next Wave Festival, 2010. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy BAM
"Pina stripped away anything that causes a pattern—gender, race, sexuality, age—leaving it at its most raw essential. Within my work with the Graham Company, I relate to the naturalistic vibe that both Martha and Pina create, putting water, dirt, rocks on stage. In my own work, I seem to always have women in dresses—maybe an unconscious connection to Pina!" —Natasha Diamond-Walker, soloist with Martha Graham Company and freelance actor/model/choreographer
Nazareth Panadero (center) in Bausch's Kontakthof during BAM Next Wave Festival, 2014. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy BAM.
"I got to see Pina's work live while living in Germany. 1980 was always one of my favorites—it was life! Beauty, humor, profanity residing in the same moment, as it does. She inspired me to make works grounded in humanity, not needing to focus only on harmony. To look for new ideas. To not find a formula. To remember how funny life is, and how the foibles in all of us make us beautiful beings." —Helen Pickett, choreographer
My dance coach wants my word that I'll keep competing under his school's name for the next year and not audition. I'm 18 years old and already doing lead roles and winning medals. I love his teaching, but shouldn't I be ready to go out and get a job?
—Gil, Las Vegas, NV
How do we make ballet, a traditionally homogeneous art form, relevant to and reflective of an increasingly diverse and globalized era? While established companies are shifting slowly, Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference, though less than 2 years old, has something of a head start. The guiding force of the company, which is based in Germany, is bringing differences together in the same room and, ultimately, on the same stage.
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.
Black History Month offers a time to reflect on the artists who have shaped the dance field as we know it today. But equally important is celebrating the black artists who represent the next generation. These seven up-and-comers are making waves across all kinds of styles and across the country:
When a new director began transforming Atlanta Ballet a couple of years ago, longtime dancer Alessa Rogers decided to finally explore her dream of dancing in Europe. "I always had this wanderlust," she says. She wasn't set on a particular city or company, but thought learning French would be fun. She began her research that September, making note of repertoire and the number of dancers as well as which companies employed foreign, non–European Union dancers. "I saw that Ballet du Rhin was looking for dancers," says Rogers. "They also had a new director coming in, so I thought it could be an opportunity." After sending a video, Rogers traveled during her layoff week to take company class. She was offered a job on the spot.
Uprooting and moving out of the country, far away from your support system, language and customs, is not something to take lightly. While it can push you as an artist and be an exciting opportunity for personal growth, working as a dancer in a foreign country comes with its challenges. Lots of research and an adventurous spirit are required.
Justin Lynch is surprisingly nonchalant about the struggles of being a full-time lawyer and a professional dancer. "All dancers in New York City are experts at juggling multiple endeavors," he says. "What I'm doing is no different from what any other dancer does—it's just that what I'm juggling is different."
While we agree that freelance dancers are pro multitaskers, we don't really buy Lynch's claim that what he does isn't extraordinary. In fact, we're pretty mind-boggled by the career he's built for himself.
At the annual Gala de Danza in Los Cabos, Mexico, the lineup of performers is usually pretty typical gala fare: You can expect celebrity performers like Lil Buck, reality stars like Ballet West's Beckanne Sisk and "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist Tate McRae, plus principals from top companies like New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht.
What's absolutely not typical? The venue.
At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.
We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.