Pina Bausch's Dance Theater

Company, Artistic Practices and Reception

This volume provides new, ground-breaking perspectives on the globally renowned work of the Tanztheater Wuppertal and its iconic founder and artistic director, Pina Bausch. The company's performances, how it developed its productions, the global transfer of its choreographic material and the reactions of audiences and critics are explained as complex, interdependent and reciprocal processes of translation. This is the first book to focus on the artistic research conducted for the Tanztheater's international coproductions and features extensive interviews with dancers, collaborators and spectators and provides first-hand ethnographic insights into the work process. By introducing the praxeology of translation as a key methodological concept for dance research, Gabriele Klein argues that Pina Bausch's lasting legacy is defined by an entanglement of temporalities that challenges the notion of contemporaneity.

»Gabriele Klein's magisterial volume provides in-depth coverage of the work of Pina Bausch, one of the most important and influential choreographers of our time.  It is the result of a key externally-funded research project in cooperation with the Pina Bausch Foundation, hence new archive materials and many other sources have been used for the first time.The book also has admirable breadth-extending well beyond Bausch-and introduces a sophisticated theoretical foundation, many different ways of looking at and thinking about a wide range of dance.  Educated readers willing to be challenged will welcome this essential text, ›emancipated spectators‹ as well as scholars and dance specialists.«
(Stephanie Jordan, Emeritus Research Professor, University of Roehampton, London)

»An enormous research achievement, incorporating archival, ethnographic, literary and sociological analyses, Gabriele Klein locates Pina Bausch and her oeuvre in constantly mutating relations with their socio-political surround. Offering a brilliant excavation of the artistic process, each chapter unfolds a new perspective on Bausch and her collaborators and on dance itself as a social practice. Klein implements a methodology that emphasizes the complexity of dance as a collaboration among all the different constituencies who participate in its creation, and as such the book provides a powerful model for dance analysis.«
(Susan Leigh Foster, Distinguished Professor, UCLA)

»The ultimate book on Pina Bausch, creator of one of the most impactful dance aesthetics of our time. Truly global in its scope, meticulously researched, and groundbreaking in its methodology of a praxeology of translation, the book speaks to all aspects of Bausch’s choreographies, her unique process and company, and the continuing impact of her work. Klein asks provocative and productive questions as she illustrates how dance is both a knowledge system and an artistic research practice which can make sense of our perilous contemporaneity.«
(Jens Richard Giersdorf, Professor of Dance Studies, Marymount Manhattan College)

»As the first scholar to gain access to the inner workings of Tanztheater Wuppertal and its rich archival resources, Gabriele Klein illuminates the multidimensional creative process of Pina Bausch and her artistic collaborators. Interconnecting rehearsal and performance, revival and reception, Pina Bausch's Dance Theatre highlights the dancers’ diverse national identities, the intercultural dimensions of the works they created together, and the transnational partnerships that afforded the company’s truly global influence. Gabriele Klein innovates a distinctive methodology premised on translation as cultural practice, which has far-reaching implications for dance studies. «
(Susan Manning, Herman and Beulah Pearce Miller Research Professor, Northwestern University)

€29.99 * $35.00 *

7 May 2020, 440 pages
ISBN: 978-3-8376-5055-6

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Gabriele Klein

Gabriele Klein, Universität Hamburg, Deutschland

You are a sociologist and dance scholar.

What interests the dance scholar in the work of choreographer Pina Bausch?

It is obvious why a dance scholar would be interested in the work of one of the most important and radical choreographers of the 20th century. Pina Bausch was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, even across the boundaries of different art forms. In her art, she underwent an important aesthetic paradigm shift in the 1970s, which influenced not only the history of dance but also theatre and film. It is hence little wonder that there are very many publications about Pina Bausch already. However, most of these are either rather journalistic accounts, illustrated books, or straightforwardly academic publications. But access to materials about Pina Bausch's work, as they are required for a serious scientific work about her, has been very difficult until recently. In other words: For a dance scholar there is still a lot of catching up to do in order to give this extraordinary artist the status she deserves both in the academic community and in cultural and art history.

What interests you as a sociologist in the work of the Tanztheater Wuppertal?

As a sociologist I'm interested in many things about the work of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, for example the biographies of German war children who became artists in the 1960s: Pina Bausch was born in 1940 and, like her artistic companions of many years, she grew up in Germany during the late war and post-war period, and this in Solingen, the so-called ›knife city‹, which was very much involved in the arms industry at the time and was badly destroyed at the end of the war.

Pina Bausch developed her first choreographies when the student movements of 1968 reached its peak. As a student at the Folkwang University she did not count herself among the politically active. But like other art students she sought changes in both the predominant aesthetics of the time and in the establishment of the art business. For her it was the break from classical theatrical structure, which in Germany was and often still is in place with opera, theatre and dance as a tripartite structure, and the subordinate role of dance engrained therein. In the young art world at the time, Pina Bausch was one of those who dared to make aesthetic and institutional breakthroughs. This connection between the experiences of a war and post-war childhood and revolts in artistic form and working methods is a sociological dimension that interests me.

In addition, I am fascinated by the Compagnie, by an ensemble that is very exceptional in comparison to other large international dance ensembles. The Tanztheater Wuppertal under Pina Bausch worked together for decades, people travelled together, some lived together. Some of the dancers are still on stage in their sixties. The Tanztheater Wuppertal at the time of Pina Bausch is not a community of convenience, but a kind of family, a model of an artists' community, which today in times of neoliberal cultural policy is perhaps already a historical model.

Finally, I am interested in the question of cultural policy and economy. Pina Bausch was one of the Goethe-Institut's biggest, as they say, exporters. The Goethe-Institut has been very supportive of the international guest performances and especially the international co-productions of the Tanztheater Wuppertal. In this way, Pina Bausch's art has had an enormous influence on dance development in many countries around the world. A large field of research is unfolding here between aesthetic approach, international cultural policy, and the global art market.

In the book you developed the concept of translation – what does this mean?

Translation is first of all a term from linguistics. But translation studies and postcolonial studies, as well as sociological approaches, have introduced the concept of translation into cultural studies and social science discourses in different ways. I have taken up these approaches and transferred them in this book into a practice theory of translation, a theory that can be fruitful for the arts, especially the performing arts.

I was able to develop this theoretical concept in this way because there are all kinds of processes of transfer in artistic work, in performances and their reception, such as the translation of life experience into dance and choreography, the forms of collaboration, the transfer of roles or pieces from the Tanztheater Wuppertal to another company, or from performance to text, to dance criticism, for example. In the various chapters of the book I have tried to trace the respective translation processes and practices, whether in terms of collaboration, the working process, the pieces, or their reception.

Pina Bausch has been very sceptical about the verbalization of dance.

You choose to rely on just this anyway. What is to be gained from this?

Yes, Pina Bausch was very sceptical about talking about her art. When asked in interviews what she herself thought and wanted to say about her pieces, she liked to answer that if she wanted to talk about her pieces, there would be no need to perform them. For her, dance was a language of its own. It was important to her that this language of dance always remains open, ambiguous. That's why she didn't like explanatory introductions to the pieces before the performances or discussions with the audience afterwards. She saw herself as the first spectator of her pieces, and all spectators should have the opportunity to perceive the piece openly from their perspective. Some of her companions see it similarly.

While this position focuses on the moment of performance and the subjectivity of perception, my concern as a scientist is to translate this art into something, into a text, and to put it into context. The point of my book is not to interpret the performances in a certain way. Rather, my book presents a way of reading, of getting to know the working methods and art of Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal, of understanding it in the context of its time and of locating it in terms of cultural history and the history of dance. This reading is based on the examination of comprehensive materials, interviews and rehearsal visits. I also tie in with current debates on theatre, dance and performance theory, which revolve around questions such as: What is a piece, what is a performance? How do groups of artists work together? What roles do the audience and dance critics play?

You describe Pina Bausch as an ›anthropologist of dance‹, as an ethnographer of interpersonal relationships. What do you mean by that?

In her work and in her pieces, especially since 1986 and the international co-productions, Pina Bausch has been searching for what connects us human beings with each other, not what separates us. This cross-cultural approach, searching for the essence of the human being, was already part of the company. Like many large dance companies, her company was also internationally positioned. But Pina Bausch did not only look for dancing skills, she very consciously looked for people from different cultures. Pina Bausch said: »We are the piece.« In her way of working, it was crucial that the dancers contribute their own cultural, social and situational world of experience. This distinguishes the Tanztheater Wuppertal from many other companies because the pieces are very much about interpersonal relationships, about everyday power relations, about basic human feelings such as fear, anger, sadness, hate, lust. Pina Bausch has done a kind of artistic research. She took an ethnographic approach to this, setting out with her company on so-called research trips and allowing the dancers to gain experience on the spot, observing, participating or non-participating, in the respective co-producing country, which was then processed in the rehearsal process and the piece.

What relevance does dance research have for the cultural memory of dance - and here specifically of dance theatre?

Dance studies, much like science as a whole, has a lasting effect. It has its own time. In contrast to journalistic writing, for example, dance criticism, which has to take place relatively quickly after a performance and cannot draw on extensive material or analyse small sections, the processes of scientific work are designed for longer periods of time. The generation and evaluation of material takes place in greater detail, and in this respect the results are of course different. The social contribution that dance research makes to dance consists in assigning it a place in the history of art and culture. Dance studies are a very young scientific field, unlike musicology or art history, for example, where this has been happening for decades, sometimes centuries. Here it is a young science that is carried by the effort to assign artistic dance, but also popular dance – for example in pop-cultures such as hip-hop or techno, or in folk dances – a place in art, everyday culture, and society.

»A comprehensive and absolutely worth reading book.«
Jan Kuhlbrodt, Signaturen, 9 (2020)
»[The reading] is only surpassed by one thing: the visit of a dance evening by Pina Bausch.«
Thomas Rothschild, Kultura-Extra, 31.07.2020, translated from German
»Gabriele Klein [...] offers a fantastic wealth of information, she brings out the characteristic aspects of artistic creation and embeds the pieces in their respective historical, social and political time context.«
Karen Nölle, TraLaLit, 29.07.2020, translated from German
»There are no many detailed works about one of the most famous dance companies in the world. The book offers new perspectives on the working process, the members and the reception of Tanztheater Wuppertal and the work of Pina Bausch.«
Michael Lausberg,, 08.07.2020, translated from German
»This book is designed to be a good introduction to Bausch's cosmos for all those interested in culture, while still containing sections that provide informative nourishment for even the most cunning specialists.«
Helmut Ploebst, Der Standard, 27.03.2020, translated from German
»An informative and personal as well socially relevant reading pleasure, not only for a specialist audience, but for a broad readership.« Miriam Althammer,, 26.02.2020, translated from German
»Klein [embeds] the artistic creation and work of the entire ensemble in complex cultural, sociological, but also intertextual contexts.
The result makes a decisive contribution to being able to view the long-term impact of the artist in a new light ten years after her death.«
Rico Stehfest, tanz, 1 (2020), translated from German
»A work [...] which represents the character of a standard work on the legend and the phenomenon of Pina Bausch and which refutes, supports and documents many of the previous second-hand publications [...].«
Peter Dahms, Tanzinfo Berlin, 07.10.2019, translated from German
Gabriele Klein
Book title
Pina Bausch's Dance Theater Company, Artistic Practices and Reception
transcript Verlag
Klappbroschur, Dispersionsbindung, 26 SW-Abbildungen, 100 Farbabbildungen
Commodity Group
PER003000 PER011020
Release date
7 May 2020
Theater, Tanz, Kunst
Cultural Studies, Dance Studies, Theater Studies, Linguistics, Aesthetics, Philosophy, Sociology, Practice Theory, Qualitative Social Research
Dance Theatre, Pina Bausch, Translation, Praxeology, Artistic Research, Audience, Art Critique, Theatre, Dance, Art, Dance History, Theatre Studies, Dance Studies, History of Theatre

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