Bausch to Return With Epic New Work


German choreographer Pina Bausch, one of the most influential figures in modern dance today, visited Westwood Wednesday to discuss her company’s first local engagement since its U.S. debut at the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal will appear in Los Angeles in three performances this fall of a newly commissioned full-evening work about life in the contemporary, multicultural American West.

Speaking at a press conference at the Armand Hammer Museum, Bausch described the process of creating the $1.2-million project that will premiere at Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, on Oct. 3 and then move to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Oct. 10-12, followed by performances in Tempe, Ariz. (Oct. 17) and Austin, Texas (Oct. 22).

Dressed in a black suit over a collarless black shirt, Bausch spoke of plans for her and her dancers to collect observations in Los Angeles and the other presenting cities that will be incorporated into the work.


“We will go with open eyes and open ears and our feelings,” she said, “and everyone will have different experiences that I hope we can bring into the rehearsals.” She characterized working in this manner as “an enormous process of learning. I don’t know where it will bring me.”

Her first work created outside of Europe, the new project will take shape first during the company’s three-week residency at UCLA (through Feb. 19), and will continue after the troupe returns to Wuppertal. Along with 30 dancers, her collaborators include set and costume designers Peter Pabst and Marion Cito.

Bausch described previous works that evolved in Rome, Palermo, Madrid and Vienna but said that “it’s completely different here, because the other towns were walking towns. You were always on the street, and here you are completely dependent on the car.”

To commission and present the work, six Western cultural organizations have combined financial and administrative forces: the UCLA Center for the Performing Arts, James A. Doolittle’s Southern California Theatre Assn., the Music Center of Los Angeles County, Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, the University of Texas Performing Arts Center and Arizona State University Public Events.

Born in 1940 in Solingen, Germany, Bausch studied dance at the famed Folkwang School under modern dance pioneer Kurt Jooss. Beginning in 1958, she continued her studies at the Juilliard School in New York and then danced with four American companies. Back in Germany, she began choreographing for the Folkwang Ballett in 1968 and founded the Tanztheater Wuppertal five years later.

Bausch has created more than 30 full-length works for the Wuppertal ensemble, in the process becoming famed for a controversial style that is intense, intuitive and informed by feminism. Her works have incorporated nudity, violence and polyglot movement influences that have greatly shaped current contemporary work in Europe. The company last appeared in the United States in 1994 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.