German choreography legend Pina Bausch dies

1st July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The famed choreographer has been called “visionary” and “revolutionary” by her peers.

Berlin -- The grande dame of modern dance choreography, Pina Bausch of Germany, died on Tuesday aged 68, the theatre in the western city of Wuppertal where she was director for over 35 years said.

"An unexpected death carried her away five days after being diagnosed with cancer," the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch said. "Only the Sunday before last she was on the stage with her company at the Wuppertal Opera House."

"It's unbelievable: first Michael Jackson and now Pina, it's a big hole in the universe," US choreographer Carolyn Carlson told AFP in a telephone interview.

"She was the biggest choreographer in the world," Carlson said. "Pina was a visionary. She made a revolution, she was a revolutionary. She was absolutely unique."

Josephine Bausch was born in the western town of Solingen on July 27, 1940, the daughter of the owners of a modest restaurant-cum-hotel.

In 1955 she began her dance studies at the Folkwang School in Essen, where her professor was Kurt Jooss, a founding father of "Ausdruckstanz" or expressive dance combining movement, music and elements of dramatic art.

Graduating in 1958, Bausch won a scholarship and headed to the United States -- "not speaking a word of English", she said.

Once there, she studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York under prestigious teachers such as Anthony Tudor, Jose Limon and Mary Hinkson.

She danced for the Dance Company Paul Sanasardo and Donya Feuer, the New American Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera in New York before returning in 1962 to Germany.

In the late 1960s Bausch began to choreograph her own works -- creations so cutting edge that baffled audiences would walk out.

But as her highly personal style with often-exaggerated forms of expression and scenery developed, she won a growing and enthusiastic fan base and would soon make an indelible mark on the modern dance scene worldwide.

The visual expressions of the dancers would often be in contrast to their movements, with fear, panic and the battle of the sexes among her favourite themes.

In 1973 she became director of the newly founded Tanztheater Wuppertal, where she would stay for the rest of her life.

She received a host of prizes throughout her career, including a Golden Lion lifetime achievement award at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and nomination to the French Legion d'Honneur in 2003.

Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar paid tribute to her, saying "Pina let me show her magic at the end of 'Talk to Her'."

"With a perennial cigarette in her hand, and her indescribable smile, Pina Bausch established a turning point in contemporary dance for the last quarter of the last century," he said in a statement.

Thin and always dressed in black, with her jet black hair tied back in a ponytail, she divided audiences to the end, however, with her performances often attracting cheers and boos in equal measure.

Later this month she had been due to present a performance of the "The Seven Deadly Sins" by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht at the Chekhov International Theatre Festival in Moscow.

Gerard Violette, former head of the Theatre de la Ville in Paris that became something of a second home to Bausch, described her as "one of the greatest artists of the last 50 years."

"Pina Bausch began by creating cruel, radical works. Then, though she never changed her mind about solitude and the difficulty of communicating, the love she received from audiences finally brought her pleasure in bringing pleasure," Violette said.

France's Angelin Preljocaj, considered one of the most important choreographers of today, told AFP that Bausch "was someone who had a boundless creative vitality that nurtured the history of dance these last years".

The director of dance at the Paris Opera hailed Bausch for her "extraordinary power of observation".

"She created a world," said Brigitte Lefevre. "All who worked with her could never be the same afterwards."

Simon Sturdee/AFP/Expatica

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