The dance must go on

Dalia Basiouny
6 Min Read

In spite of the sudden loss of international dance choreographer and innovator Pina Bausch this summer, the Tanztheater Wuppertal company is bravely resuming the scheduled tour. Bausch’s company is staging two of her most acclaimed performances at the Cairo Opera House on Oct. 3 and 4, with the support of Goethe Institute in Egypt.

Tanztheater Wuppertal, the company that Bausch managed for 36 years, became known in the dance world as a hub for creativity and innovation. Through her work in the Northern German town of Wuppertal, Bausch developed a unique imprint that changed the course of dance history.

Simultaneously breaking restraining shackles imposed by classical dance and freeing her work from the egocentricity that governs modern dance, Bausch found a distinctive way to express the frailty of the human condition, regarding people as social beings with a soul in search for connection to others.

The grand dame of modern dance broke many new grounds. Connecting dance to theater, hence the title of her company Tanztheater (Dance Theater), she was able to create a new genre that revolutionized both theater and dance.

Her indelible mark is clearly manifested through the new theatrical language she found. By giving her actors/dancers the space to express deeper emotions, transcending both the limitations of the body and limitations of the language, Bausch created a unique physical and verbal expression that influenced generations of directors and choreographers all over the world.

In spite of her long touring history and her international collaborations across the globe, this is the first time Bausch’s work is presented in an Arab or African country. She looked forward to this visit, and planned to create a piece inspired by her visit and collaborations in Egypt. Unfortunately, this work never saw the light.

Thankfully, Egyptian audiences will be able to see two pieces she selected specially for this tour: “Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) and the first act of “Bamboo Blues.

First performed in 1975, “Le Sacre due Pintemps is one of Bausch’s early influential pieces. Performed to the music of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, the choreography of the performance is connected to traditional step sequences, but the unique staging that covers the theater in turf changes the meaning of every movement. Each step the dancers take is a physical struggle with the heaviness of Earth.

The title evokes the rites of spring celebrations when the northern hemisphere is basked in the life-giving force of the sun; when the energy of renewal awakens in humans, beasts and plants. Instead of emphasizing the expected fertility rites and May Day festivities, Bausch rendered this piece a metaphor of human life with its unremitting struggle; a search for happiness against all odds.

“Bamboo Blues, on the other hand, was created at a later stage of the artist’s career. It was first performed 32 years following the conception of “Le Sacre du Printemps.

“Bamboo Blues – which serves as an illustration for the evolvement of Bausch’s art – grew out of her collaboration with and visit to India. The performance records her impressions and the emotional impact India had left on her and her troupe. Yet regardless of how far Bausch travels, the search for happiness and connection remains her foremost occupation.

Peter Pabst, the set designer and artistic consultant of Tanztheater Wuppertal, has collaborated with Bausch since 1980. He has partly led the group with other artistic directors since her passing.

Regarding the direction the company is taking after the loss of its dynamo, Pabst told Daily News Egypt, “The loss is so immense, we are still in shock trying to understand what happened and to figure out our next steps. Luckily, many funding bodies assured us that they will continue to support the future of Tanztheater Wuppertal.

Dominique Mercy, the theater’s artistic director, restated the importance of this funding as a crucial way to preserve the dance performances and to keep the legacy of Bausch alive. Because of the support the city of Wuppertal and other funders has given them, 40 out of the 43 performance Bausch has created and choreographed are still intact, with full costumes and sets, ready to be performed.

Though Egyptian audiences would miss the brilliant presence of Pina Bausch herself, Bapist assures that her spirit remains with her group; her creativity, energy, and art are evident in every piece she choreographed.

It’s unclear yet if Tanztheater will attempt to create new works after the demise of their main creative force. But her company is adamant on keeping her legacy alive, vivid and actively defying gravity.

True, Pina Bausch is gone, but Tanztheater Wuppertal is confident that the dance will go on.

“Le Sacre du Printemps and “Bamboo Blues will be performed Oct. 3 and 4 at the Cairo Opera House’s Main Hall, 8 pm.

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