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Pina Bausch, 1940-2009

Posted on Jun 30, 2009
Flickr / ho visto nina volare's

The renowned German choreographer Pina Bausch has died. The death of the artist, a revolutionary figure in dance, comes as a great loss to both the world of dance and the international arts community. “Pina Bausch continually pushed the boundaries of what we call dance,” said John Neumeier, director of the Hamburg Ballet. “I simply cannot imagine a successor. ... ”


German choreographer Pina Bausch, whose work is credited with revolutionizing the language of modern dance, died on Tuesday after being diagnosed with cancer only days earlier. She was 68 years old.

Bausch, artistic director of the Wuppertal Dance Theater, earned world renown for her avant-garde performances and choreographies mixing dance, sound and fragmented narrative.

“Just the Sunday before last, she was standing on stage with her company in the Wuppertal Opera house,” the dance-theater company, which she had led since 1973, said on its website.

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Here’s a video of one of her famous choreographies, “Cafe Muller.” She rarely performed on stage, but can be seen here dancing in the white dress.


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By AeonFluxxus, July 4, 2009 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment
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Pina Bausch had some beautiful work to her credit especially with Tanztheater Wuppertal. Some Americans even had the pleasure to see her work (I did with my partner in San Francisco—Berkeley to be precise). She should be missed.  It is odd that she died days after cancer diagnosis; but probably not as odd as we think just not what we are told—I’m sure many people never get told they have cancer and end up dying of so-called “natural causes.”  She was 68—neither extremely old but not terribly young. Again, she will be missed.

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By Ed Harges, July 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

She was truly a giant. The only American whose creations can begin to compare with Bausch’s boundary-defying work is Martha Clark.

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By CJ, June 30, 2009 at 6:42 pm Link to this comment

I’m pleased to see this obit. Even if not myself knowledgeable of dance, especially not of Modern Dance. I’m taking the word of those who wrote this and of those interviewed. (A little weird she died only days after being diagnosed with cancer. Weird enough to wonder of actual cause of death given that the worst cancers are at least treatable enough a person lives for months or even a few years after diagnosis.)

Sounds and looks as though she really was “revolutionary,” while I’ve still no use for the phrase, “avant garde,” as applied to any kind of art. (Strictly political terminology not applicable to aesthetic endeavor per se.) No political, let alone social, revolution appears historically ever to have resulted after people viewed some art, however revolutionary the FORM. But maybe later. And only true since onset of Modernism. Meaning also post-Modernism which remains modernist despite differencing from Modernism when any actual distinction is seriously minimal. So reliant is post-Modernism on vast Modernist Movement over at least a century, if not much longer. One could easily argue both Manet and Degas were strict modernists. While certainly not—in ways, shapes or FORMS—Impressionists. (I’m with Habermas on the matter of Modernism vs. post-Modernism. And with Hauser who wrote that there never was such a thing as an artist “ahead of his (or her) time.” Artists are summers up, not traders in futures. Albeit Picasso’s forms appeared later in fashion and other kinds of designs. But that’s different.)

I’d not heard of “Pausch” (sic) until now. She reminds some of Isadora Duncan.

I’m glad to hear of her now, if too late. As I’m always glad to hear of artists who mostly slave away in obscurity, or known only to insiders (and largely forever unknown to Americans if from places other than states). Clearly her art was rigorous (intellectually and emotionally), which is hallmark of Modernism at its best. It was never easy making art for arts sake. No God to favor and then seek to please. Not really any “higher calling.” Dostoevsky’s career was nothing less than embodiment of difficulty, after time when art served purposes.

Contrast with passing of Michael Jackson is impossible to avoid. We won’t be hearing of Bausch’s passing in big media. Not enough pop fans. No Queen of Pop. Thus not much hyperbole. Not opportunity to boost ratings, as CNN’s been shabbily cynically doing for days in process of exploiting Jackson’s (apparently not so surprising) passing. Not even MSNBC has stooped so low as CNN did just today.

Luckily, really, for Bausch who in death is not being reduced to ground Pina.

Very good to read here of someone who was real-deal cultural revolutionary, if still not “avant garde.” (The high-brow can be even more silly than the more pop-front with use of such pretentious phrases.)

Aware as I am that Brecht thought radically differently of what art might accomplish. And he did bridge gap between high-brow and pop. Which a few have accomplished very well. I’m not in any position to argue with such a master, though would anyway. While I keep hoping he maybe was right. Just not so far.

I hope TD will continue to post of passings of artists who made their bones. If we know them already, then very good. If we don’t, then even better as we might learn of them. Even if too late. If lifetime work really is art, it will live on indefinitely. If not really, then not for long. Serious biz is toughest biz. Nothin’ Romantic about it.

(Great photo of photo of a dancer, incidentally.)

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