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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Pina Bausch Has Died

Sad news. Perhaps the most significant choreographer of her European generation - and surely the most visually strange and imaginative - Pina Bausch has died. I recall seeing her works on several occasions, in London, at Sadler Wells, and was always struck by the visceral and surreal brilliance of her ideas about dance and movement, and staging (often the stages were littered with flowers, or muck, or bricks, or other shattered remains).

Bausch saw the world, at least partially, as things to be moved around, often with transgressive force - desire and rage and natural disaster all colliding in the human body. I am not sure dance had ever been so existentially challenged before, so hurt - or so healed. I found her work bracing and laugh-out-loud funny - she gave me some of the abrasive pleasure that some of David Lynch's work does - she very much saw and showed the world in a new light. In her work about the after-shocks of an earthquake in Palermo, for instance, a young woman - increasingly aroused to the point of near-madness, pleads insistently to her lover to "throw tomatoes in my face!" - which he does. It's hilarious, upsetting, wrong but true.

Her inventive imagery and passion were stark, generous, and insightful - and weird. She will be missed. In the week that saw Jackson hailed as a genius, it is good to remember there were and are other forms of performance that are even more fraught and worthwhile. Bausch had genius, too.
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