Dancers revive spirit of Bausch

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Dancers revive spirit of Bausch

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The Tanztheater Wuppertal performs a scene from “Le Sacre du Printemps,” or “The Rite of Spring.”

The world dance community was shocked on June 30 last year when Pina Bausch, the influential choreographer who invented the neo-expressionist form of German dance, passed away only five days after being diagnosed with cancer.

Yet even after her death the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, her dance company, has continued its world tour, and has committed to give the performances that were booked before her death at least until the end of next year.

Seoul is among the dozen destinations lined up for 2010.

From March 18 to 21, the German dance troupe from a small city east of Dusseldorf will stage Bausch’s creations from the 1970s that led her to the pinnacle of her career as a dancer and choreographer - “Cafe Muller” and “Le Sacre du Printemps” - at the LG Arts Center in the Korean capital.

According to the center, Bausch was supposed to dance her trademark Cafe Muller at the event, a treat that is now sadly impossible. “Bausch and another dancer used to alternate performing the work, and the other dancer will be performing this time,” said Kim Jean, a spokeswoman for LG Arts Center. “Although the audience may never see Bausch again on a Seoul stage, it will be a monumental occasion since no one can guarantee Korean audiences will be able to see these two important legacies of Bausch again.” The last time the great dancer performed here was in 2008.

Bausch helped create a powerful form of dance that influenced generations of contemporary choreographers through overt combination of theatricality and visually arresting movements. It’s called “tanztheater,” or “dance theater,” in German.

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The late Pina Bausch dances in “Cafe Muller.”Provided by LG Arts Center

Cafe Muller is a 35-minute modern work that sets tense dramatic and repetitive actions by three dancers, at an apparently deserted cafe with scattered tables and chairs, to five gloomy arias from Henry Purcell’s “Fairy Queen.” Elements of the piece reflect Bausch’s childhood, growing up in her parents’ cafe.

The work became known to many in the larger world with Bausch’s appearance in Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar-winning 2002 film “Talk to Her,” which pays homage to the choreographer.

Le Sacre du Printemps, also known by its English title, “The Rite of Spring,” will be performed in Korea for the first time in three decades. Bausch danced this piece here in February 1979, during her troupe’s Seoul debut. Korean viewers were overwhelmed by the work’s mixture of intense eroticism and panic, said Kim.

The work is based on a traditional ballet originally choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, with music by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, in the early 1900s. Even before Bausch developed her version in the mid-’70s, a dozen choreographers had already come up with their own interpretations, most centered around primitivism and shamanism. The piece has always been controversial in some circles for its brutal, non-Christian elements, depicting a pagan ritual preceding the sacrifice of a young girl to the God of Spring in order to gain his benevolence.

But Bausch went even further, casting over 30 female and male dancers as symbols of life and death, order and chaos and the standoff between the sexes. They gather, scatter, roll and bounce around the girl to be sacrificed.

Since Bausch’s death, her long-time colleagues Dominique Mercy and Robert Sturm have taken over the artistic direction of the Tanztheater. Asked if the dance group is preparing any new pieces, Kim said people from the troupe are still hesitant about openly discussing future plans.

After dancing in Seoul, the group is scheduled to head to London, Munich, Tokyo, Istanbul, Athens and Amsterdam.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]
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