Pina Bausch

Philippine "Pina" Bausch[1][2][3][4][lower-alpha 1] (27 July 1940 – 30 June 2009) was a German dancer and choreographer who, with a blend of movement, sound, and prominent stage sets, and with performers during the development of a piece (a style now known as Tanztheater), became an influence in the field of modern dance from the 1970s on.[5] She created the company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, which performs internationally.

Pina Bausch
Pina Bausch (center) and Dominique Mercy (second from left) at the end of Wiesenland in 2009 in Paris.
Born(1940-07-27)27 July 1940
Solingen, Germany
Died30 June 2009(2009-06-30) (aged 68)
Other namesPhilippine Bausch
OccupationModern dance choreographer, folk dance choreographer, dancer
OrganizationTanztheater Wuppertal
Known forContemporary dance and choreography

Early life

Bausch was born in Solingen, the daughter of August and Anita Bausch, who owned a restaurant with guest rooms which is where she was born. The restaurant provided Pina with a venue to start performing at a very young age. She would perform for all of the guests in the hotel and occasionally go into their rooms and dance while they are trying to read the newspaper. It was then that her parents saw her potential.[6]


Pina was accepted into Kurt Jooss's the Folkwangschule at age of 14.

After graduation in 1959, Bausch left Germany with a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service to continue her studies at the Juilliard School in New York City in 1960,[7] where her teachers included Antony Tudor, José Limón, Alfredo Corvino,[8] and Paul Taylor. Bausch was soon performing with Tudor at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, and with Paul Taylor at New American Ballet. When, in 1960, Taylor was invited to premiere a new work named Tablet in Spoleto, Italy, he took Bausch with him. In New York Bausch also performed with the Paul Sanasardo and Donya Feuer Dance Company and collaborated on two pieces with them in 1961.[9] It was in New York City that Pina stated, "New York is like a jungle but at the same time it gives you a feeling of total freedom. In these two years, I have found myself."

In 1962, Bausch joined Jooss' new Folkwang-Ballett (Folkwang Ballet) as a soloist and assisted Jooss on many of the pieces. In 1968, she choreographed her first piece, Fragmente (Fragments), to music by Béla Bartók.[10] In 1969, she succeeded Jooss as artistic director of the company.[7]

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

In 1973, Bausch started as artistic director of the Wuppertal Opera ballet, as the Tanztheater Wuppertal, run as an independent company. The company has a large repertoire of original pieces, and regularly tours throughout the world from its home base of the Opernhaus Wuppertal. It was renamed later: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.

Her best-known dance-theatre works include the melancholic Café Müller (1985), in which dancers stumble around the stage crashing into tables and chairs. Bausch had most of the dancers perform this piece with their eyes closed. The thrilling Frühlingsopfer (The Rite of Spring) (1975) required the stage to be completely covered with soil.[11] She stated: "It is almost unimportant whether a work finds an understanding audience. One has to do it because one believes that it is the right thing to do. We are not only here to please, we cannot help challenging the spectator."

One of the themes in her work was relationships. She had a very specific process in which she went about creating emotions. "Improvisation and the memory of [the dancer's] own experiences ... she asks questions—about parents, childhood, feelings in specific situations, the use of objects, dislikes, injuries, aspirations. From the answers develop gestures, sentences, dialogues, little scenes." The dancer is free to choose any expressive mode, whether it is verbal or physical when answering these questions. It is with this freedom that the dancer feels secure in going deep within themselves. When talking about her process she stated, "There is no book. There is no set. There is no music. There is only life and us. It's absolutely frightening to do a work when you have nothing to hold on to." She stated, "In the end, it's composition. What you do with things. There's nothing there to start with. There are only answers: sentences, little scenes someone's shown you. It's all separate to start with. Then at a certain point I'll take something which I think is right and join it to something else. This with that, that with something else. One thing with various other things. And by the time I've found the next thing is right, then the little thing I had is already a lot bigger."

Male-female interaction is a theme found throughout her work, which has been an inspiration for—and reached a wider audience through—the movie Talk to Her, directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Her pieces are constructed of short units of dialogue and action, often of a surreal nature. Repetition is an important structuring device. She stated: "Repetition is not repetition, ... The same action makes you feel something completely different by the end." Her large multi-media productions often involve elaborate sets and eclectic music. In Vollmond, half of the stage is taken up by a giant, rocky hill, and the score includes everything from Portuguese music to k.d. lang.[12]

In 1983, she played the role of La Principessa Lherimia in Federico Fellini's film And the Ship Sails On.[13] The Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch made its American debut in Los Angeles as the opening performance of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival.

In 2009, Bausch started to collaborate with film director Wim Wenders on a 3D documentary, Pina. The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2011.

Personal life

Bausch was married to Dutch-born Rolf Borzik, a set and costume designer who died of leukaemia in 1980.[14] Later that year, she met Ronald Kay, and in 1981 they had a son, Rolf-Salomon T.[15]

Awards and honours

Among the honours awarded to Bausch are the UK's Laurence Olivier Award and Japan's Kyoto Prize. She was awarded the Deutscher Tanzpreis in 1995. In 1999, she was the recipient of the Europe Theatre Prize.[16] In 2008, the city of Frankfurt am Main awarded her its prestigious Goethe Prize. She was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009.[17]

Works by Bausch were staged in June and July 2012 as a highlight of the Cultural Olympiad preceding the Olympic Games 2012 in London. The works were created when Bausch was invited to visit and stay in 10 global locations – in India, Brazil, Palermo, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Budapest, Istanbul, Santiago, Rome, and Japan – between 1986 and 2009. Seven of the works have not been seen in the UK.[18]


Bausch died on 30 June 2009 in Wuppertal, North Rhine Westphalia, Germany at the age of 68[19] of an unstated form of cancer attributable to smoking,[20] five days after diagnosis[5] and two days before shooting was scheduled to begin for the long-planned Wim Wenders documentary. She is survived by her son Salomon.

The same year, choreographer and experimental theatre-maker Dimitris Papaioannou created a piece called Nowhere to inaugurate the renovated Main Stage of the Greek National Theatre in Athens. The show's central and most prolific scene was dedicated to the memory of Pina Bausch and involved performers linking arms and stripping naked a man and woman.[21]

Wenders' documentary, Pina, was released in late 2011 in the United States, and is dedicated to her memory.

Influence on other artists

Bausch's style has influenced performers such as David Bowie, who designed part of his 1987 Glass Spider Tour with Bausch in mind. For the tour, Bowie "wanted to bridge together some kind of symbolist theatre and modern dance" and used Bausch's early work as a guideline.[22]

Promotional trailers for the third season of American Horror Story: Coven included a clip for the episode "Detention" and were likely influenced by Bausch's work Blaubart. Stills from the performance and the episode show a group of women seemingly defying gravity as they cling to the walls high above the ground, toes pointed down and hands pressed above them. The photo of Bausch's performance was previously released on Reddit as well as Twitter with the implication that it was from a Russian mental institution, but its source was quickly identified.[23]


The following table shows works since 1973. Several of Pina Bausch's works were announced as Tanzabend because she chose a title late in the development of a work.[24] The typical subtitle from 1978 was Stück von Pina Bausch (A piece by Pina Bausch). The translations are given as on the website of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Some of the German titles are ambiguous. "Kontakthof" is composed of Kontakt ("contact") and Hof ("court, courtyard"), resulting in "courtyard of contact," which is also a technical term for an area in some brothels where the first contact with prostitutes is possible. "Ich bring dich um die Ecke," literally "I'll take you around the corner," can mean "I'll accompany you around the corner" but also colloquially "I'll kill you." "Ahnen" can mean "ancestors," but also (as a verb) "to foresee", "bode", "suspect."

The details about the music for the works until 1986 follow a book by Raimund Hoghe who was dramaturg in Wuppertal.[25]

Year Title Subtitle Translation Music Notes
1973 FritzTanzabendby Gustav Mahler and Wolfgang Hufschmidt
Iphigenie auf TaurisTanzoperIphigenia in TaurisGluck's opera Iphigenie auf Tauris
1974 Zwei KrawattenTwo tiesChoreography of a revue
Ich bring' dich um die EckeSchlagerballettI'll do you inDance music after old Schlagerambiguous title
AdagioFünf Lieder von Gustav MahlerAdagio / Five songs by Gustav MahlerMahler's Five songs
1975 Orpheus und EurydikeTanzoperGluck's opera Orpheus und Eurydike
FrühlingsopferWind von West
Der zweite Frühling
Le Sacre du Printmps
The Rite of SpringStravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring
1976Die sieben TodsündenDie sieben Todsünden der Kleinbürger
Fürchtet Euch nicht
The Seven Deadly SinsThe Seven Deadly Sins, music: Kurt Weill, libretto: Bertolt BrechtBallet with pantomime, dance and singing (soprano and male quartet)
1977 BlaubartBeim Anhören einer Tonbandaufnahme von Béla Bartóks Oper Herzog Blaubarts Burg, Stück von Pina BauschBluebeard / while listening to a taped recording of Béla Bartók's opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle, a piece by Pina BauschBartók's opera Bluebeard's Castle
Komm tanz mit mirStück unter Verwendung von alten VolksliedernCome dance with me, piece using old folk songsold folk songs
Renate wandert ausOperette von Pina BauschRenate emigratesSchlager, Songs, Evergreens
1978 Er nimmt sie an der Hand und führt sie in sein Schloss, die anderen folgen ...Stück von Pina BauschHe takes her by the hand and leads her into the castle, the others follow ...Schauspielhaus Bochum
Café MüllerStück von Pina Bauschby Henry Purcell
KontakthofCourt of contactSchlager of the 1930s, a.o.ambiguous title
1979 ArienStück von Pina BauschAriasby Beethoven, Comedian Harmonists, Mozart, old Italian arias, sung by Benjamino Gigli, a.o.
KeuschheitslegendeStück von Pina BauschLegend of chastityby Nino Rota, Robin/Styne, George Gershwin, Georg Boulanger, Peter Kreuder, Barnabas von Geczy, a.o.
1980 1980 – Ein Stück von Pina Bausch1980 A piece by Pina BauschOld English folk songs, Shakespeare songs, Comedian Harmonists, Judy Garland, a.o.
BandoneonStück von Pina BauschTangoes, sung a.o. by Carlos Gardel
1982 WalzerStück von Pina BauschWaltzby Edith Piaf, Tino Rossi, a.o.
NelkenStück von Pina BauschCarnationsby Franz Schubert, George Gershwin, Sophie Tucker, a.o.New version in 1983 at the Theaterfestival München
1984 Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehörtStück von Pina BauschOn the mountain a cry was heardby Heinrich Schütz, Henry Purcell, Felix Mendelssohn, Irish pipe music, Billie Holiday, Tommy Dorsey, Fred Astaire, a.o.
1985 Two Cigarettes in the DarkStück von Pina Bauschby Monteverdi, Brahms, Beethoven, Bach, Hugo Wolf, Purcell, Ben Webster, Alberta Hunter, Minnelieder, a.o.
1986 ViktorStück von Pina BauschFolk music from Lombardy, Tuscany, Southern Italy, Sardinia and Bolivia, medieval dance music, Russian Waltz, music from New Orleans, dance music of the 1930s, music by Tchaikovsky, Buxtehude, Dvořák and Khachaturian, a.o.
1987 AhnenSuspectingambiguous title
1989 Palermo Palermo
1991 Tanzabend IIDance Evening II
1993 Das Stück mit dem SchiffThe Piece with the Ship
1994 Ein TrauerspielA Tragedy
1995 Danzón
1996 Nur DuOnly you
1997 Der FensterputzerThe window washer
1998 Masurca Fogo
1999 O Dido
2000 WiesenlandMeadowland
Kontakthof – Mit Damen und Herren ab 65Kontakthof – with men and women of age 65 and up
2001 ÁguaPortuguese for "Water"
2002 Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgenFor the children of yesterday, today, and tomorrow
2003 NefésTurkish for "Breath"
2004 Ten Chi
2005 Rough Cut
2006 VollmondFull Moon
2007 Bamboo Blues
2008 Sweet Mambo
Kontakthof – Mit Teenagern ab 14Kontakthof, with teenagers 14 years and up[26]
2009 ... como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si ...... like the moss on the stone ...[27]


  • 1980 Die Generalprobe. Documentary. Dir.: Werner Schroeter
  • 1983 What Are Pina Bausch and Her Dancers Doing in Wuppertal?. Documentary. Dir.: Klaus Wildenhahn
  • 1983 Plaisir du théâtre. TV mini-series documentary. Dir.: Georges Bensoussan
  • 1983 And the Ship Sails On. Drama. Dir.: Federico Fellini
  • 1983 Un jour Pina m'a demandé. TV documentary. Dir.: Chantal Akerman
  • 1990 The Complaint of an Empress. Dir.: Pina Bausch
  • 1990 3res 14torze 16tze. TV series. Episode dated 26 January 1990. Dir.: Cristina Ferrer
  • 1998 Lissabon Wuppertal Lisboa. TV documentary. Dir.: Fernando Lopes
  • 2002 Talk to Her. Drama. Dir.: Pedro Almodóvar
  • 2002 Pina Bausch – A Portrait by Peter Lindbergh based on 'Der Fensterputzer'. TV short. Dir.: Peter Lindbergh
  • 2004 La mandrágora. TV series. Dir.: Miguel Sarmiento
  • 2006 Pina Bausch. TV documentary. Dir.: Anne Linsel
  • 2010 Dancing Dreams. Documentary. Dir.: Rainer Hoffmann, Anne Linsel
  • 2011 Pina – Dance Dance Otherwise We Are Lost. Documentary. Dir.: Wim Wenders
  • 2011 Understanding Pina: The Legacy of Pina Bausch. Documentary. Dir.: Kathy Sullivan and Howard Silver


  1. Some sources erroneously spell her name "Philippina".


  1. Schmidt, J.; Weigelt, G. (1992). Tanztheater in Deutschland (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Propyläen Verlag. p. 38. ISBN 978-3-549-05206-8. OCLC 31968991. Retrieved 5 April 2019. »Ich mach ja immer, immer wieder mach ich ganz verzweifelte Anstrengungen zu tanzen«, sagt Pina Bausch. Auf die alte, traditionelle Weise ... Freunde der Familien nahmen die kleine Philippine mit ins Kinderballett. »Ich bin da mitgegangen ...
  2. Schmidt, Jochen (1998). "Tanzen gegen die Angst": Pina Bausch. ETB / ETB (in German). Düsseldorf: Econ & List Taschenbuch Verlag. p. 27. ISBN 978-3-612-26513-5. OCLC 41184006. Retrieved 5 April 2019. Geben wir es ruhig zu: das Bild der kleinen Philippine Bausch, wie sie – fünfjährig, sechsjährig? - inmitten anderer Kinder am Boden liegt, das Bein in den Nacken gelegt, vor Stolz errötend ob des zweifelhaften Kompliments der Lehrerin, hat ...
  3. Issel, U.; Laue-Bothen, C. (2004). Harenberg, Das Buch der 1000 Frauen: Ideen, Ideale und Errungenschaften in Biografien, Bildern und Dokumenten (in German). Mannheim: Meyers Lexikonverlag. p. 105. ISBN 978-3-411-76099-2. OCLC 57729579. Retrieved 5 April 2019. Pina. eigtl. Philippine Bausch, dt. Tänzerin und Choreografin •27.7.1940 Solingen Pina Bausch ist die Begründerin des ...
  4. Bremser, M.; Sanders, L. (2005). Fifty Contemporary Choreographers. Routledge Key Guides. Taylor & Francis. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-134-85018-1. Retrieved 5 April 2019. Born Philippine Bausch in Solingen. Germany, 27 July 1940. Studied with Kurt Jooss at the Folkwang ...
  5. Itzkoff, Dave (30 June 2009). "Pina Bausch Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  6. "Pina Bausch: Dancer and choreographer whose seminal work gave an unsettling view of the human condition". The Independent. London. 3 July 2009.
  7. Hoghe 1986, p. 157.
  8. Lille, Dawn (2010). Equipoise:The Life and Work of Alfredo Corvino. New York, NY: Rosen. p. 120. ISBN 978-1-4358-9124-1.
  9. Luke Jennings (1 July 2009), Obituary: Pina Bausch, The Guardian.
  10. Tashiro 1999.
  11. Chris Wiegand (30 June 2009), Pina Bausch, German choreographer and dancer, dies, The Guardian
  12. The Air That I Breathe Masurca Fogo, 1998
  13. "Cast overview". International Movie Database. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  14. "Rolf Borzik"
  15. "What Moves Me" Pina Bausch Foundation. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  16. VII Europe Theatre Prize / Reasons Europe Theatre Prize
  17. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  18. Mark Brown (9 March 2011), Pina Bausch dance cycle to be staged as part of 2012 Cultural Olympiad, The Guardian.
  19. Haithman, Diane (1 July 2009). "Pina Bausch dies at 68; innovative German choreographer". Los Angeles Times.
  22. Pareles, Jon (2 August 1987), "Bowie Creates a Spectacle", The New York Times, retrieved 28 May 2013
  23. Remling, Amanda (28 August 2013). "American Horror Story Season 3 Spoilers". International Business Times. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  24. Hoghe 1986, p. 8.
  25. Hoghe 1986, pp. 157–159.
  26. Fest mit Pina – Internationales Tanzfestival 2008 – Programm, 25 September 2008
  27. Ulrich Fischer: Kontraste prägen Pina Bauschs neues Tanzstück Archived 8 September 2012 at, dpa / Rhein-Zeitung, 13 June 2009
    Tanztheater Pina Bausch startet zu Gastspielreise nach Chile, News Adhoc, 16 December 2009


  • Climenhaga, Royd (2008). Pina Bausch. Routledge Performance Practitioners. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-18757-7.
  • Climenhaga, Royd, ed. (2012). The Pina Bausch Sourcebook: The Making of Tanztheater. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-61801-4.
  • Hoghe, Raimund (1986). Pina Bausch / Theatergeschichten (in German). Suhrkamp.
  • Servos, Norbert (2008). Pina Bausch: Dance Theatre. K. Kieser. ISBN 978-3-935456-22-7.
Online sources
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