What was it that attracted people to the Tanztheater of Pina Bausch (and her colleagues like Johann Kresnik in Bremen, Gerhard Bohner in Darmstadt, Reinhild Hoffmann und Susanne Linke in Bochum and a little later Sasha Waltz in Berlin – not to mention smaller cities like Freiburg, Heidelberg, Bielefeld and Muenster)? I think, first of all, that Tanztheater dealt with the problems of the young generation that had grown up in Germany after the war. It was a protest against the establishment generation, its parents who had been responsible for Germany’s decline under the Nazis. That meant clearing away all convention, all assumptions on which society rested. Theatrewise it meant tearing down the frontiers between the separate departments of drama, opera and ballet, with the dancers beginning to speak and to sing and to tell stories of their growing up and their problems with puberty, about their most private and actual conflicts and the difficulty of accepting themselves. These were the top topics of what they called their pieces instead of – as formerly – plays, operas and ballets. There was constantly the crossing of borders and a stylistic melange from all sorts of sources. Pina often arranged her dancers in revue formations or let them tell or bawl out in songs reminiscing about the past or telling of their hopes for the future. And while classic enchainements were generally (though not completely) banned like devil’s work, imports and adaptations from other areas like sport, acrobatics, cabaret, musicals and the movies, also from other ethnic cultures, became commonplace.
The best article on Pina Bausch in English I have found so far, and well worth a read. *
* The article originally appeared in DanceView. A Quarterly Review of Dance, Vol. 26, No. 4 Autumn 2009.