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Pina Bausch dies at 68

Pina Bausch died Tuesday, five short days following her cancer diagnosis. German choreographer bad-ass, founder of the groundbreaking company Tanztheater, and one the most beloved dance innovators of my generation, Pina Bausch’s death is a shock.


Although best known to the general non-danceaphila audience by Pedro Almadovar’s use of her work in the beautiful film, Talk To Her, for any dance lover and for anyone in the dance theater community, attending the next Pina Bausch show (for us New Yorkers, at BAM) was a ritual (and scene) not to be missed.  Even after her style became so parroted that it lost some of its freshness, there was a singularly raw, sexy, beautiful, quirky, and exhuberant energy to her shows.  She stretched her gorgeous dancers out on rocks and blanketed them with floral projections then had them recreate a 1930’s barbershop which got interrupted by an enormous whale flopping on stage.  It was all dance, and it all made sense in a way that you could only shake your head admiringly at, and, of course, leap to your feet when she came out, dressed in military boots, fishnets and multi-colored hair to take her choreographer bow.


All art forms are noble and dharmic in their own way, but there is something particularly about dance that is so non-verbally resonant that I view choreographers as patron Buddhist saints. (If there were such a thing).  The level of expression that a body moving can evoke is so often beyond language, and the “listening” that the audience does when watching dance is profound.  Although more heavily supported in Europe, there is little chance that a dancer or choreographer will every become rich or more than niche famous.  More than any type of artist, their primary motivation to make work is simply to create those moments of synesthetic connectivity, of wordless communion, and to create gut-level reminders of our shared humanity.

Thank you Pina, for giving me so many of those memorable reminders over my adult years.  You will be missed.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm

it looks a little bit like thriller (or else all dance looks the same to me, since that is probably my only other reference point)

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Julia May

posted June 30, 2009 at 3:45 pm

There’s a little bit of thriller-ish stuff in the beginning – she’s a poppy choreographer, but after that it’s quite different. I will say it is hard to watch dance made for stage on video. However, you only have one other reference point, and that is Michael Jackson’s Thriller, to compare? Really?

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Your Name

posted June 30, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Pina Bausch was to dance what:
“Chavela Vargas” is to music
“Gabriel Garcia Marquez” is to litrature
“Frida Khalo” was to painting.
“Pedro Almadovar” is to film.
Her work was filled with life and the expression of every nuance of feeling and thought. Nothing was kept secret everthing was revealed with the understanding that everything in life should be experienced fully. Her dance moved toward the light and toward the dark. Uncompromising and beautiful.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 4:31 pm

O, I will miss her amazing choreography so much! I almost cried this morning, to realize I’ll never see her yearly production at BAM ever again. Her work is hard to describe but easy to love. She seemed to love it.
Even folks who have no knowledge of dance or dance reference points could enjoy the fresh moments of physical wonder, humor, and wit that her work embodied. I agree, watching filmed dance and thinking you saw a performance is like reading recipes and thinking you ate, but I wish there were some way for others to enjoy her work. I wonder if her company will perform one more time?
It’s one of those things I just wanted to share with everyone I knew. But dance is among the most impermanent of arts, dancers among the most impermanent of artists (no one is a dancer in their early 20s for long, alas), and even choreographers get the impermanence axe sooner than I would like.
R.I.P. Pina, and thanks for the beauty, the laughs, and the love.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Well, of course i have seen other dance performances. . .but i am not sure that i could refer to them or their choreographers. Except for people I know personally.

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