Magazine article The Spectator

Dance Unconditional Love

Magazine article The Spectator

Dance Unconditional Love

Article excerpt

Not many dance-makers have had their art celebrated in major, award-winning feature films. Pina Bausch has. Wim Wenders's 2011 Pina and Rainer Hoffmann's/Anna Linsel's 2010 Dancing Dreams offered unique insights into her creative genius, facilitating the posthumous popularisation of a dancespecific phenomenon. Yet no film, no documentary and certainly none of the countless writings that popped up after the choreographer's untimely death has managed to draw an exhaustive picture of Bausch or dispel the vagueness that surrounds what her Tanztheater was and still is about.

Three years after her demise, Bausch and her work remain shrouded in mystery, resisting and eluding scholarly labelling or convenient pigeonholing. Central to such elusiveness is the fact that her approach to Tanztheater - which she is traditionally, though erroneously, believed to have invented - was tightly woven with her complex, multifaceted, contradictory and ever-changing persona. Pina the dancer was different from Pina the dance-maker, who, in turn, was different from Pina the director, Pina the actress, Pina the manager; her Tanztheater mirrored all that.

Born in Solingen in 1940, Philippina Bausch grew up amid the ruins and new beginnings of postwar Germany. Possessed of a voracious cultural curiosity, she trained and worked with artists as diverse as Kurt Jooss, the quintessential exponent of German Expressionist dance, Paul Taylor, one of the forerunners of American New Dance, and British-born Antony Tudor, one of the fathers of modern ballet. Her creativity also drew upon sources and influences outside dance's constraining boundaries; her performance-making always contained a mosaic of ideas and explanations, which she handpicked and collated with unparalleled artistic wit and scholarly insight.

It was her powerfully dramatic 1975 version of Rite of Spring - the stage was covered in soil and the dancers were allowed to display the fatigue and difficulties of performing on an uneven surface - that propelled her to the centre of the international dance scene. Her Rite of Spring was not just a new version of the famously controversial 1913 ballet, though. It was also the manifesto for a new choreographic era, as Bausch reinvented dance from scratch, by questioning, challenging, appropriating and revisiting ideas, precepts, conventions and long-held beliefs. …

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