Go With Grace, Pina Bausch (1940 -2009)

Photographer unknown.

Pina Bausch died on Tuesday, aged 68, less than a week after being diagnosed with cancer. Dozens of eloquent and heartfelt obituaries honoring the Queen of Tantztheater and her incalculable influence on modern dance are going up all over the web. Mark Brown’s eulogy over at The Scotsman contains some especially incisive remarks:

She was one of a select few modern artists – such as James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Ingmar Bergman and Samuel Beckett – whose work can be truly described, in the most profound sense, as transcendental.

Bausch’s immense influence extended – and will continue to extend – far beyond her fellow dance and theatre makers, into film making and the visual arts. She was described so often as a “revolutionary artist” that the term became almost a platitude. Yet there is no other phrase which quite captures the impact of her deeply intelligent, humane, fearless and iconoclastic aesthetic.

Hell to the yes. It’s very rare to find an artist (in any medium) who strikes such a perfect balance of craft, grit, and grace; laughter, tears and squirminess. That “Pornography of Pain” label bestowed derisively upon Bausch by the New Yorker years ago may have stuck, but considering the emotional commitment and complexity of her work, it just doesn’t ring true.

Photo via the AFP.

Obviously, I’m no expert, but based purely off my own intuitive response to her stage and screen work, I’d call Bausch’s vision one of compassionate absurdity. Life and death, male and female, joy and grief, discipline and abandon are all presented with courageous honesty. She didn’t just break down boundaries between the mediums of theater, dance and film; she challenged our perceptions of performance itself.  Stanford lecturer Janice Ross nails it:

In a Pina Bausch dance, the invisible divide between the real person and the stage character seems to collapse so that one often has the sense of watching barely mediated real life events. This isn’t art rendered as life so much as living rendered as art.

I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a shame that Bausch died when she was still so actively, splendidly creative. What a tremendous gift that she was ever here at all. In her honor, I’ve added “Revolutionary” to the list of Coilhouse category tags. Long may her dance live on.

Funereal excerpt from Wuppertal’s Die Klage der Kaiserin.

Several more clips after the jump.

Wuppertal Tanztheater performing The Rite of Spring.

Vollmond performed at the Hong Kong Modern Dance Festival.

Confrontation and genderfuckery in Nelken.

Clips from Cafe Muller.

3 Responses to “Go With Grace, Pina Bausch (1940 -2009)”

  1. SA Says:

    I’m stunned that there are no comments. I loved Pina Bausch’s work, especially how she pushed the boundary between theatre and dance, and dared to use humor, character, costuming, props, dialogue, and sets in new ways for dance. I loved that she was interested in relationships rather than sticking to grand, high-minded mythology or obscure meditations on mood. I loved that her work included sex and violence and shame and the mundane anguish of daily life.

  2. whittles Says:

    Thanks for this. What a loss.

  3. o Says:

    I can’t comment, this is so sad