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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 16 JULY 2009 — The dance world in Europe mourns the untimely death of Pina Bausch, the dancer and choreographer of genius, who died in Wuppertal on June 30th, at the age of 68. Admitted to hospital suffering from bronchitis and extreme exhaustion, the "Dame de Wuppertal" was diagnosed with generalized cancer and died five days later. Barely two weeks previously, she was working on her new creation based on the company’s stay in Chile.

One of the world’s most avant-garde artists — who revolutionized dance, moving it into the realm of dance-theatre — she was simultaneously revered and reviled by audiences, especially during the 1980s when her work, after the death of her designer Rolf Borzik (also her companion and father of her son), became more and more violent and anguished, an echo of the absurdity of life which remained henceforth present in her work. Bausch’s creations became known for their reflections on the ugly and lonely side of modern life, and her women were often portrayed as down-trodden, frustrated and depressed creatures. Not only movement, but songs, words, snatches of poetry and dialogues among themselves as well as with the audience accompanied by a pell-mell of music, sounds, silence and vociferations abounded in her shows.

				 a piece by Pina Bausch
Tanztheater Wuppertal in Nefés by Pina Bausch
Photo: Laurent Philippe

But together with this, and most particularly in the last ten years, there was increasingly choreography of a breathtaking, liquid and inventive beauty. Alongside the most mundane, her creations were packed with moments of intense, lyrical grace where one could feel the meaning behind a movement and see into the very soul of the interpreter. She reached into the subconscious with a language beyond words in a way that no choreographer, before or since, has been able to do.

Pina Bausch: Vollmond
Photo: Laurent Philippe

Bausch founded Tanztheater Wuppertal in 1973, creating two of her outstanding, neo-classical productions, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, within the next two years. The stunning lighting effects and daring staging as well as the general décor and costumes were by Borzik, whose innovative and beautiful designs began a tradition at Wuppertal continued by Peter Pabst. Both works have now joined the repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet, where Bausch, a chain-smoker, was given permission to smoke in the studios during rehearsals.

Pina Bausch: Orpheus and Eurydice
Yann Bridard as Orpheus
Photo: Ursula Kaufmann

Since Gérard Violette programmed Barbe - Bleue at the Théâtre de la Ville in 1979, she and her company have appeared regularly in Paris, bringing over thirty different works, including Café Muller, Bandonéon and Walzer, as well as the spectacular Nelken, when the stage was strewn with some 800 pink carnations, and Wiesenland, where Bakst constructed a mossy green cliff with waterfalls running down.

Pina Bausch: Wiesenland
Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal
Photo:  Laurent Philippe

The Paris Theatre will host the troupe from11 - 28 November as planned, celebrating its "love affair" with her with a series of exhibitions, films and conferences with members of the company and the general public, and the productions of Vollmond and Masurca Fogo will be danced for the first time without the slight, quiet presence of their choreographer in the wings, her light blue gaze already in another world. For she was always there, dressed in black, in clothes too large for her slender frame, and with her long dark hair drawn back from her pale oval face and attached peremptorily at the nape of her neck.

Pina Bausch: 27 July 1940 – 30 June 2009
Photo courtesy of Corbis

Our thoughts go to those close to her, to the devoted Dominque Mercy , too shocked for comment, the man by her side since their meeting in Saratoga at the beginning of the extraordinary Wuppertal adventure, and to all her exceptional dancers and interpreters, bereft of their queen.

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for

External Links

Official Artist Website of Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal

Pina Bausch Awarded the Goethe Prize in Frankfurt

Related Cultuerkiosque Archives

Dance Review: Wiesenland - Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal

Interview: Working With Pina Bausch

Pina Bausch's Orpheus Charms the Underworld of the Paris Opera Ballet

Istanbul in Paris: "Nefés" by Pina Bausch

Pina Bausch Agrees to Film of Orpheus and Eurydice

Death, Art and Money

Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave

Six Feet Under

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