Can an exhibition do justice to the work of world-famous choreographer Pina Bausch? No, says her son, Salomon Bausch. But he worked together with a Bonn museum to do it anyways.
Pina Bausch lived to dance. That's something visitors to the exhibition in Bonn's Art and Exhibition Hall, "Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater" can experience close-up. At the heart of the exhibition is the recreation of her company's rehearsal room, which was known as the Lichtburg and was located in a 1950s-style cinema in Wuppertal.
For Josephine Ann Endicott, a thin Australian dancer with reddish hair, Pina was her one and all, she told DW. "She discovered me in London, while I was rehearsing at Covent Garden. She wanted to have me."
That was in 1973, when Bausch was looking for dancers for her own company. Endicott said she was fascinated by her aura. "Her blue eyes were so pretty and pulled me in."
Endicott was a member of Pina Bausch's company in Wuppertal until August 2015. Due to exhaustion, she had to take a break during that time. "Pina would challenge you. When you do that for too long, at some point you can no longer manage it," said Endicott, who has since retired from dance.
The rehearsal room is at the center of the Bonn exhibition. The corrugated walls have been covered in moss green fabric and elongated lamps provide dim light. Costumes are hanging on racks off to the side.
Exhibiting the intangible
Salomon Bausch, the choreographer's son, curated the show together with theater expert Miriam Leysner. They began with one question: Can Pina Bausch's work be shown in an exhibition at all? No, of course not, said Salomon Bausch, adding that you have to go to the theater to truly see her work.
But the two curators found other ways of showing things that are not visible on stage. "It was important to us to integrate individuals who have experience with and knowledge about her pieces," said Bausch.
That's why the rehearsal room was reconstructed. It serves as a venue for discussions and lectures, as well as short dance courses and workshops. Together with members of the dance company, visitors can learn elements from Pina Bausch's pieces. Many of her works comprised of individual, short scenes.
Dance on pieces of paper
"She asked the dancers questions which they could answer with words or movements," Miriam Leysner explained. "We found the questions in her production files, handwritten on pieces of paper."
These pieces of paper are on display in cases outside of the cinema-turned-rehearsal room. Along with them, programs, rehearsal plans, stage designs, stage directions and video recordings of performances are included among the exhibits. The items come from the archives of the Pina Bausch Foundation.
The legendary choreographer and dancer kept meticulous records of her work. "That made it possible for the pieces to remain in the repertoire for such a long time," explained Salomon Bausch.
Dancing with burgers
When Pina Bausch received the prestigious Kyoto Prize in 2007, she held a speech in which she reviewed her life and work. The exhibition is based on her speech, also showing photos from her many travels and experiences, as well as the people who were important in her life.
Dancer Josephine Ann Endicott points out what's absent from the exhibition. "You know, the noise and the smell are missing," she said in the reconstructed rehearsal room. "In Wuppertal, there is a McDonald's below the room, which you can always smell."
The exhibition "Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater" runs though July 24, 2016, in the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn.
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