Philippina “Pina” Bausch (27 July 1940 – 30 June 2009) was a German performer of modern dance, choreographer, dance teacher and ballet director. With her unique style, a blend of movements, sounds and prominent stage sets, and with her elaborate cooperation with performers during the composition of a piece (a style now known as Tanztheater), she became a leading influence since the 1970s in the world of modern dance. 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. 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.
Bausch began dancing at a young age. After graduation in 1959, Bausch was soon performing with Tudor at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, and with Paul Taylor at New American Ballet. Her first piece in choreographing was Fragment in 1968, to music by Béla Bartók. In 1972, Bausch started as artistic director of the Wuppertal Opera Ballet, which was later renamed as the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. The company has a large repertoire of original pieces, and regularly tours throughout the world. Her best-known dance-theatre works include the melancholic Café Müller (1978), in which dancers stumble around the stage crashing into tables and chairs, and a thrilling Rite of Spring (1975), which required the stage to be completely covered with soil.
In 1983, she played the role of La Principessa Lherimia in Federico Fellini’s film And the Ship Sails On. The Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch made its American debut in Los Angeles as the opening performance of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. Among the honors awarded to Bausch are the UK’s Laurence Olivier Award and Japan’s Kyoto Prize, while 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.
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. Works by Bausch will be 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.
Bausch died on 30 June 2009 in Wuppertal, North Rhine Westphalia, Germany at the age of 68 of an unstated form of cancer five days after diagnosis and two days before shooting was scheduled to begin for the long-planned Wim Wenders documentary. Wenders’ documentary, Pina, was released in late 2011 in the United States, and is dedicated to her memory.