Pina Bausch, Director or Choreographer? Essay
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The answer is both, but also an example of what one motivated woman can do to bring about change. It is this ability to challenge the status quo, almost to the point of obsession, that has probably led to the common feminist label, rather than the actual work concerned. Feminists aren’t usually considered to be beautiful, nor are they usually numbered among the quieter members of society, yet in a rare interview of 2002, Valerie Lawson described Bausch as :- a beautiful woman.
She is also obsessive, exhausting, elusive, occasionally infuriating and magnetic.
Lynn Houston writing in January 2000 about Tina Bausch said :- Bausch brings a critical consciousness to choreography and to representations of the body, a consciousness which she then places in dialogue with the history of ballet. Her work is a postmodern art. The same writer describes Bausch’s ballet as causing those who expect traditional ballet to leave the auditorium. German born Bausch, whose full given name is Phillipine, had been brought up as if she were an only child , for her siblings were all much older.
She seems to have been a quiet , shy child who would later say “I was afraid to speak.
Dancing gave me a voice. ” as quoted by Nora Pierce on the Women of Action Web page dedicated to her. Again when she was asked in 2002 by Valerie Lawson how she had felt during her first ever dance class she had responded:- `I loved to dance because I was scared to speak. When I was moving, I could feel. ’ She began to study dance in Essen at the age of 15 where her teachers included renowned expressionist choreographer Kurt Joos, according to a report by Mino Tashiro in 1999. Joos offered not just dance, but lessons in, but also lessons in costume design, pantomime, graphic arts photography and sculpture.
Bausch graduated with distinction and then traveled to New York, despite speaking nothing but German, where she worked in ballet while studying at the Juilliard School. She returned to Germany in 1962, where again he worked as a dancer, but turned to choreography in frustration at the kind of work she was expected to perform, in 1968 choreographing for herself Fragmente (Fragment), using music by Hungarian Bela Bartok, and the following year prize winning Im Wind der Zeit (In the Wind of Time). Her newfound passion for choreography came at a perfect time.
Like others of her generation, both dancers and choreographers, she felt hemmed in by the narrow movement vocabularies of traditionalists such as Martha Graham and Lester Horton and the general emphasis in ballet upon narrative. She claims that she chose choreography because she wanted something to dance according to Tashiro. The Women of Action Network web page ‘Pina Bausch’ includes the following quotation:- I didn’t want to imitate anybody. Any movement I knew, I didn’t want to use. In 1972 she was offered the post of director of the Wuppertal Opera Ballet.
She was reluctant at first, only agreeing when allowed to bring in dancers of her own choice from the Folkwang-Tanzstudio, one of the few places where training for dance other than traditional ballet took place. Soon after she became the director the company was retitled the Wuppertaler Tanztheater, and later took the name Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. As director Bausch was able to participate in the revival of modern dance in postwar Germany. This movement had its roots in Ausdrucktanz, or “expressive dance,” but had been suppressed and isolated during the Nazi years, while traditional ballet had flourished.
She began to broaden the scope of the Opera Ballet, Even prior to arriving in Wuppertal, she had begun to go beyond the usual confines of the vocabulary of modern dance with pieces such as the1972 Aktionen fur Tanzer (Actions for Dancers). Her versions of Gluck’s operas, ‘Iphigenie auf Tauris’ in 1974 and, the year following, of ‘Orpheus und Eurydike’ are “dance-operas” that give comment on the emotional implications of the stories rather than merely illustrating them. With these works however she found herself to have achieved all she could within the usual bounds of choreographed dance.
This being so in 1976-78 her style becomes noticeably changed. She had for instance dancers singing the music in ‘Ich Bring Dich um die Ecke’ (I’ll Do You In) Works based upon Weill-Brecht pieces balance ballet, circus tricks, speech, song, gymnastics, amazing visual images, and monumental sets, a combination of theatre, the visual arts and show business in general, while at the same time engaging in social criticism and realism. They were in the form of fragmentary revues, only choreographed in part.
There was a crisis at this point in her career when some members of the company felt uncomfortable with the new style because it incorporated things other than pure dance, which sometimes had only a relatively minor supporting role. Bausch worked instead with a smaller number of those who accepted the kind of style that was emerging. So what style is it? The hallmarks of Bausch’s mature style are the absence of any sustainable plot lines. There is no sense of progression, nor revelation of characters.
Instead her pieces are created as brief episodes which include dialogue as well as action and which often have at their core a surreal situation. Repetition plays an important part of the structure which is used in order to stop the action, so that the audience can consider whatever is presented more than once and from varied perspectives. In an interview with Jochen Schmidt, quoted by Tashiro Basch said “I’m not interested in how people move, but what moves them. ” which are perhaps rather strange words for a dancer and choreographer to come out with.
Even her dancers are different from the usual. Although all are trained physically they include the short, the tall, the fat, the thin, the young and the old in order to reflect society as it really is – not just a world of princesses, ghosts and fairy tales . There are several recurring themes in her many works – loneliness, alienation, search for self identity and male female interaction, but the theme that has caused the most comment is that of violence, especially that directed against women. Does this make her a feminist?
Bausch is clear that she does not advocate violence, but feels that it must be revealed in order that audience be aware of suffering and the anger engendered. According to Tashiro she has often been described as a feminist, but refuses such labeling. Whether or not the label is a true one objective observers must decide. German critic Manuel Brug, as quoted by Valerie Lawson in 2002, believes her philosophy to be not so much feminism as “the interpretation of the soul and the battle of the sexes”. Despite a career full of success Bausch, now in her 60’s. feels she has more to do.
In an interview with Guardian reporter Akram Khan in 2003 she said :- I would establish a dance award that would be as prestigious as the many film awards. There’s such a lack of connection between the film world and the theatre, especially dance in theatre. Choreographers are doing as equally powerful work as film directors but it isn’t acknowledged in the same way. References Electronic Sources Houston, L. The Truth About Pina Bausch: Nature and Fantasy in Carnations, Post Modern Culture, Volume 10, Number 2, January 2000, 9th April 2009 http://muse. jhu. edu/login? uri=/journals/pmc/v010/10. 2. r_houston.
html Khan,A. What I’d Do If I had the Money, The Guardian, 23rd February 2003, 9th April 2009 http://browse. guardian. co. uk/search? search=Tina+Bausch Lawson,V. Pina, Queen of the Deep, Ballet Magazine, February 2002, 9th April 2009, http://www. ballet. co. uk/magazines/yr_02/feb02/interview_bausch. htm Pierce, N. , Pina Bausch, Women of Action Network, 9th April 2009, http://www. woa. tv/articles/ae_bauschp. html Tashiro, M. Pina Bausch, Essen to New York and Back, Stanford Presidential Lectures in the Humanities and Arts, 1999, 9th April 2009 http://prelectur. stanford. edu/lecturers/bausch/life. html