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Pina Bausch in silhouette gesticulating expressively
Pina Bausch has received the honor for her lifetime's workImage: AP

Pina Bausch Honored

DW staff (jg)
November 9, 2007

The internationally celebrated German choreographer Pina Bausch has been awarded the Kyoto Prize in recognition of her innovative groundbreaking work.


Pina Bausch has become synonymous with the hybrid genre of "Tanztheater" or dance theater. The Kyoto Prize was given to her in recognition of her work in breaking down the boundaries between the two disciplines, and pioneering a new direction for theatrical art.

The 67-year-old is the first woman to receive the accolade in the category art and philosophy.

"I am deeply moved by this extraordinary honor," said Bausch ahead of the Nov. 10 ceremony in Japan.

The 400,000-euro ($588,000) prize is ranked along with the Nobel Prize as one of the top awards in the realm of culture and arts.

Just days ago, she was made honorary citizen of Wuppertal, where she formed up her Tanztheater company in 1973, in acknowledgement of her role in putting the industrial town in western Germany's Ruhr Valley onto the cultural map. She has turned Wuppertal into an international dance mecca.

Spanish film tribute to her work

Bausch, who tends to avoid the limelight, became known to many people outside the dance world with her appearance in Pedro Almodovar's Oscar-winning film "Talk to Her." The film also pays homage to her work.

Dancers Ditta Miranda Jasjfi and Fernando Suels in a dance clinch
Gender relationships loom large in the choreographer's piecesImage: AP

Bausch's oeuvre explores memories, questions of identity and the difficulty of human understanding. Frequently, she thematizes the difficulty of relations between the sexes. Men and women can flirt tenderly at one moment, then fling each other violently across the room the next.

"It is about life and about finding a language to describe life," she recently commented. The choreographer, on the whole, avoids pinning down or labeling her creations, preferring to let her audiences make up their minds.

Bold and visually arresting, her first works were roundly criticized by traditional ballet fans. She became notorious for having her company dance on dirt, on leaves, in ankle-deep water, as well as for bringing them into direct contact with the audience.

Unconventional stage sets

Portrait photo Pina Bausch
The choreographer comes from modest circumstances. Her family ran a public houseImage: picture-alliance/ dpa - Bildfunk

But she began to attract attention abroad with her performances at the World Theater Festival in Nancy, France, in 1977. This was the start of a flourishing international career.

The grande dame of modern dance is famed for her collaborative way of working. She starts by directing a barrage of questions at her dancers, who respond with words, gestures, and improvised dance. "I'm not interested in how people move, but what moves them," she once famously stated.

Bausch was strongly influenced Kurt Jooss, a pioneer of German expressionist dance, who she began studying under at the age of 14. He was to have a strong influence over her work. The psychological ballet of Anthony Tudor, whom she encountered during a scholarship at the Juilliard School in New York, also made a marked impression on her.

Although she has now led her company for almost 35 years. She has no thoughts of retiring. The choreographer has announced that she "still has an awful lot of plans."

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