Pina Bausch (1940–2009)
One of the giants of contemporary dance, Pina Bausch has influenced artists the world over. Her astonishing imagination, insights into human behavior, and innovative choreography have attracted audiences beyond the dance field.
Bausch understood the depths of despair as well as the laughter of absurdity. In the early years her men and women were locked in combat in a way that was riveting. In the last decade or so, she left the most aggressive aspects behind and surged ahead into delight and wonder. But always, her women wore glamorous gowns and long hair, the better to contrast with brash partnering or splashing water.
Her collaborations with designer Peter Pabst (and before him Rolf Borzik) meant every piece came with a monumental visual metaphor, be it water, a mountain of carnations, or a giant wall that collapses before the dancing begins. The choreography was always vigorous and highly individual. If she repeated phrases and interactions many times, it was because her work is partly about obsession.
Born in Germany, Bausch studied with Kurt Jooss in Essen’s Folkwang School, a link to prewar Ausdruckstanz. At 18 she came to the United States to attend Juilliard, where she met and danced with Paul Taylor, the Paul Sanasardo and Donya Feuer Dance Company, and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Hungry to see dance, she would sneak into City Center at intermissions when New York City Ballet was performing. She once said about that period, “In these two years I have found myself.”
Returning to Germany in 1962, she danced with and then directed Jooss’ Folkwang-Ballett, and in 1973 she became director of Tanztheater Wuppertal. She created 40 full-length pieces and won many accolades, including a Dance Magazine Award in 2008. She also appeared in films by Fellini and Pedro Almodóvar.
Today’s vast landscape of dance and performance would be unimaginable without her.
In these pages last November she was quoted on her recent change of approach. “Now, since the world has so much violence, I feel shy to do something like that on the stage. So many people are full of fear, I feel like we need more strength and to believe that maybe it can be better … to not give up.” —Wendy Perron
Photo by Jochen Viehoff
Keith V. Goodman (1955–2009)
Portland dancer, choreographer, and teacher Keith V. Goodman died of a heart attack at the end of a performance on June 27. A highly respected member of the city’s downtown dance community, he was also a beloved teacher who empowered countless children at Buckman Magnet School for the Arts.
Goodman was trained by Liz Lerman and Jan Van Dyke at Washington’s Dance Project and by various Caribbean artists. A founder of Conduit Studio Theater and director of Dance Gatherer, he danced the way he lived—with generosity, sweetness, and power. —Martha Ullman West
Michael Jackson (1958–2009)
For tributes, see page 16.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Louise Nadeau is an unforgettable ballerina, with stunning line and breathtaking emotional range. Artistic director Peter Boal called her performances “off the scale.” He also said, “Certain dancers live onstage in the moment: Nureyev was one, Louise is another.”
Nadeau performed leading roles in more than 80 ballets during her time at PNB, mostly under Kent Stowell and Francia Russell’s direction. Her unabashed willingness to inhabit a role drew audiences into her performances. “So much of telling a story is in the details,” says Nadeau, 45. “You can’t always be a locomotive barreling down the tracks. You need those highs and lows and not be afraid of making a fool out of yourself.”
Nadeau’s June 7 farewell celebrated her 19-year career with the company, 17 years as a principal. Her debut in Forsythe’s Urlicht was a transcendent moment—the result of working “together one last time in a way that both of us treasure,” says partner Olivier Wevers.
Nadeau’s sublime performance quality is admired by younger company members. “She has the dream facility, with extensions and feet you’d die for,” says Jessika Anspach. “But Louise also brings depth to every role, unveiling each layer like a rose blooming.”
Summing up, Nadeau says: “I have ended my career happily, knowing that I was truthful in my work. For 40 years, I’ve been on hyper drive.”
What’s next? Nadeau, who has a 12-year-old daughter, will be pursuing her newest passion—landscape photography. “I still need beauty in my life.” —Gigi Berardi
On May 9, during the last weekend of the San Francisco Ballet season, Tina LeBlanc starred in a gala that concluded one of the more fulfilling performing careers in recent dance history. After a 17-year tenure in the Bay City and a decade with the Joffrey Ballet, LeBlanc departed the stage with a series of pas de deux that paired her with partners past and present—Gonzalo Garcia, Griff Braun, Davit Karapetyan, and Ruben Martin. They performed in dances by Balanchine, Tomasson, and Lubovitch, repertory she did so much to exalt during her reign in San Francisco. Filmed tributes from colleagues and a recorded interview with the ballerina spiced the dance numbers. A standing ovation, a carpet of flowers from her associates, and greetings from her two sons sent LeBlanc sailing into the next phase of her career. No surprise at the response: The public always found her one of the easiest ballerinas to love.
LeBlanc’s artistry energized many evenings of her farewell season. An injury had sidelined her during much of the 2008 New Works Festival, which may have led to the urgency of her performances in her announced farewell year. Lodged deepest in this observer’s memory was LeBlanc’s rhythmically dazzling and sublimely musical showing in Rubies.
Now, at 43, LeBlanc has joined the faculty of the SFB School. Whether the caliber of unpretentious artistry exemplified by this dancer can be transmitted to a younger generation remains to be seen.
“It took a week to get back to real life after the gala,” says LeBlanc. “Actually, I have been teaching since I was a kid. What’s new here is working with the same group of girls and watching their progress. The challenge for me is to inspire them to keep their energy level up.”
LeBlanc praises the barre work of her students (ages 11–17), but she sees where they can be better. “The problem,” she says, “is getting these girls to connect everything, to instill a sense of movement. They must learn that the arms and head are as much a part of dancing as the feet.” —Allan Ulrich
“Not so hard on that hip isolation,” said Eduardo Vilaro as he coached his Chicago-based Luna Negra Dance Theater this past summer. “It’s subtle. Let’s get rid of seeing transitions.” Vilaro, newly appointed artistic director of New York’s Ballet Hispanico, hopes his transition will be equally seamless, opening the door between the two companies. “It’s the only way I could agree to do this,” he explains, citing plans to share choreographers, exchange ideas, and be collaborative incubators for new work. He wants to expose audiences to authentic Latin culture and develop new opportunities for Latino artists.
“I see myself doing more with education,” the choreographer says of his difficult decision. “Ballet Hispanico has a school and a big education component.” As a dancer under Ballet Hispanico’s founding artistic director Tina Ramirez from 1988–1996, he acknowledges that “Ballet Hispanico was a place for me to explore my identity not only as a Latino, but as an American.” Born in Havana, Cuba, Vilaro grew up in the Bronx after his family immigrated to New York. He trained at The Ailey School and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and received a BFA in Dance from Adelphi University. He spent the next nine years as principal dancer with Ballet Hispanico, where he also taught and implemented Ramirez’s educational outreach programming. Moving to Chicago, Vilaro founded Luna Negra in 1999. As both choreographer and artistic director, he has pioneered new work that explores the plurality of Hispanic cultures and history.
Ramirez, who is stepping down after nearly 40 years, advises, “He has to keep marching forward in a new way. Eduardo is charming and he has the brains to do it!” —Lynn Colburn Shapiro
Principal Julie Kent and associate artistic director Victor Barbee of ABT welcomed their second child, Josephine Violet Barbee, on June 15.