Pina Bausch Dancers After Her Death

July 4, 2009

I am at the Spoleto Festival in Italy, and just saw the Pina Bausch company perform Bamboo Blues–only a few days after she suddenly passed away. This was a generale rehearsal, which in Europe is the final dress rehearsal that is open to the public. They were so gorgeous, as usual, and this piece in particular requires them to be joyous and seductive both with each other and with the audience. They completely pulled it off and enchanted the audience at the Teatro Nuovo. When it came time for a curtain call, they first held hands, then they drew closer, holding each other by the waist, and came forward all together.  Their faces were shed of all that playful, seductive glory, and now they were sad and brave, each in a different way. You could see that now they were thinking about Pina Bausch, and how she was no longer with them. There was a slow standing ovation, happening first in the private boxes (of which there are many), and then spreading to the downstairs, section. The dancers slowly came on again, almost like a processional. Even after three or four bows, as they realized how the audience was totally with them, they did not crack a smile, but kept their thoughts on the tragic sudden death.  It was very moving and the audience kept clapping for at least 10 minutes after they left the stage for the final time.

Janet Panetta, who is a ballet mistress for the company, told me that they had just performed Nefes, a darker piece, in Poland, where, for the curtain call, they left a space in the center for Pina.

One of the dancers, Shantala Shivalingappa, told me, “What has saved us is to be all together.”