Marion Meyer’s book PINA BAUSCH : THE BIOGRAPHY is the first biography of the legendary dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch to be published in English.
Pina (short for Phillipina) Bausch ranks among the most influential performers and choreographers of the twentieth century, regarded as a leading influence in the field of modern dance from the 1970s until her death in 2009.
Born in Solingen Bausch’s parents were hotel owners and her career began at a very young age performing for the hotel visitors. At age 15, Bausch was accepted into the Folkwangschule (Folkwang Academy directed by the highly influential Kurt Jooss. Bausch eventually joined Jooss’ Folkwang-Ballett (Folkwang Ballet) after a stint in America on a scholarship and ended up becoming artistic director in 1969.
In 1973, Bausch commenced as Artistic Director of the Wuppertal Opera Ballet, which later renamed as the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.
We also learn that Bausch was married to Dutch-born Rolf Borzik, a set and costume designer who tragically died of leukemia in 1980 ( this eventually led to the creation of the work of that title) .Later that year she met Ronald Kay, and in 1981 they had a son, Rolf-Salomon who is now involved in the running of the Foundation.
Based in Wuppertal in Germany, Bausch, leader of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch company, was famous for her unique, controversial and ground-breaking idiosyncratic style of work (defined as Tanztheater) blending movement, sound, and prominent stage sets, and with her elaborate collaboration with performers during the development of a piece.
Meyer’s book essentially comprises of a biography of Bausch, a close examination of her creative process, work ethic and relationships with her ensemble, the set and costume designers, composers as well as a fascinating set of interviews with some members of the company.
The publication is relatively small, of medium thickness and includes a table of contents at the front and at the back a brief index as well as a chronological list of all the works Bausch created. Both black and white and colour photos are scattered throughout the book.
There is a forward by Alistair Spaulding, the Artistic Director of Sadler’s Wells, the original publisher and the translator. Bausch was notably reluctant to discuss her work, however Mayer’s book includes several quotes from Bausch herself, as well as members of her Wuppertal company (Jo Ann Endicott, Lutz Forster, Dominique Mercy, Thusnelda Mercy and Jean-Laurent Sasportes).
The publication also features an analysis of Bausch’s legacy and the company’s future.
Meyer stresses Basuch’s intensity, strength and fragility; her pain and loneliness; and her obsessive, minute attention to detail. Mention is made of the wonderful 2011 Wim Wenders film Pina.
An interesting detail that the book reveals was that Bausch had links with Australia- there were a few tours by the Company here, briefly mentioned, but also there is particular mention of two Australian dancers and Bausch’s influence on them, notably Meryl Tankard and Jo Ann Endicott.
Endicott worked at one point as rehearsal director for the company in Wuppertal and is now involved with the Pina Bausch Foundation. Tankard has worked the Australian Ballet, at one point was Artistic Director of the Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre and is currently working freelance.
Written with great affection, Meyer’s exciting book is detailed yet accessible and her writing attempts to unearth the charisma and legends that have developed about Bausch’s life. The only problem with this book is that it left me wanting more..