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
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.