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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.