The Choreography Of Pina Bausch Essay Example

  • Category: Art,
  • Words: 735 Pages: 3
  • Published: 10 May 2021
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“I am not interested in how people move, but in what moves them.” This line was famously spoken by Pina Bausch, a German dancer (1940 – 2009), who rose to prominence for her provocative performances and emotion-driven choreography. Dances are more often narrative-driven, but Pina Bausch capitalized on capturing movements that represented emotional experiences and weaving together stronger visuals using costumes and set choices.

Most notably, Bausch’s chorographical works feature intense emotional performances from dancers that also evoke strong reactions from the audience. Bausch cited that she would ask her dancers questions such as: “Show me in movement the memory of the first time you laughed very hard,” or, “How do you behave when you’ve lost something?” These questions led her to create dance works based on core emotions, and the responses were incorporated as mini dance motifs. Personally, I find this approach very organic and authentic. Rather than creating movements that will fit into a specific story or narrative, the process is inverted. Instead, the choreography stems from within; we focus on creating movements representing how we feel in certain situations and interweave them together to make a larger story. 

Excerpts from her dance piece, “Kontakthof”, show how Bausch achieves emotion-driven choreography. “Kontakthof”, which translates to ‘contact yard’, is a depiction of male and female relationships. In the beginning, Bausch represents a budding relationship by integrating tender movements of embraces and playful touches between the dancers. The relationship devolves into something less affectionate when the male dancers begin to drag their chairs towards the female dancers on the opposite side. Both groups seem to be making erratic arm movements, and it isn’t until the male dancers have reached the female dancers that the jerky body movements resemble a physical fight characterizing aggression, violence, and the eventual fallout between the pairs of dancers. Overall, the movements Bausch chose to incorporate in “Kontakthof” make it more than just a simple story of a relationship, but rather a story of what it feels like to fall in and out of love.

In her version of the opera, “Bluebeard”, Bausch’s use of repetition also helps keep the emotions at the center of her work. The opening of the performance shows the main character, Bluebeard, playing and replaying certain parts of a song while also repeatedly engaging in what looks like an abusive sexual relationship with another female. These actions repeat for several minutes: each time the actions evoking a personal feeling of unease and a rising sense of disgust. Later on, Bluebeard is seen aggressively spinning a lifeless-looking woman, and Bausch’s repetition of the same movements from the beginning of the dance is brought back. As the audience, I feel even more provoked by the violent emotions depicted. Dances usually have certain repeated parts, but Bausch takes it to another level by repeating certain parts for extended periods. As the audience, you can’t help but simply watch and be forced to reckon with what Bausch is trying to convey. It’s all very clever: by using small repeating blocks of movements and reintroducing them throughout her piece, Bausch successfully evokes new and stronger emotions while creating different riffs of the same theme.  

In addition to her unique emotion-based process, Bausch blends her dances with theatre elements like costumes, set designs, and sounds. Although she did not create this particular style, Pina Bausch definitely helped shape Tanztheater, also known as “dance theater”. As someone who is a theatre kid at heart, I understand the difference a good set and costume can make in conveying the imagery you want. In “The Rite of Spring”, Bausch covers the stage with real soil, and the dancers are dressed in neutral tones, except for a red fabric that is used as the focal point of the performance. More “traditional” dance performances usually feature a plain backdrop, and dancers wear plain clothes. Bausch, on the other hand, includes set props and costumes that really add to visualizing her story. Her dance works almost look like scenes plucked from real life, which allows the audience to better relate and empathize with the performers. In addition to the visual additions, Bausch also had dancers making sounds like groans and gasps during “Bluebeard”. The sound effects from the dancers made the performance and emotions evoked all the more visceral, as there were strong audiovisuals paired during the performance.

Watching Pina Bausch’s dance works were in a way, very refreshing. Although I’m sure much of Bausch’s works were very provocative for the time, I appreciate her willingness to push the envelope and perform from the heart. Her artistry extended from the internal emotions that fueled her works to beyond. Pina Bausch’s style was created so that both the dancer and the audience could feel something – and I think she achieved just that.


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