Pina Bausch, Germany’s legendary choreographer, premiered her first piece in 1973 and would continue to work with her company, Tanztheater Wuppertal, for the next 36 years. During her prolific career, she transformed and reshaped the notion of what dance could do and say by installing cafes, boulders, dirt, rain and other seemingly impossible-to-move-indoors elements to the proscenium stage. She died in 2009, leaving behind 45 dances of incomparable range, physicality, strength and subtle attention to the ails of society. Known for her brooding temperament and agitated life, Bausch was a teacher, choreographer and performer whose postmodern philosophy collided with her virtuosic dance making. Bausch’s imprint continues to be a driving force in much of Europe.
Keeping stride with the boundary-breaking ideology of Bausch’s Tanztheater, Lauri Stallings and Anthony Harper, Atlanta’s Tanz Farm curators, have planned a series of experiences surrounding Bausch’s legacy, anchored by the appearance of French choreographer Fabien Prioville. Prioville, who worked very closely with Bausch, is an inventive choreographer in his own right, known for thought-provoking dances born from imaginative takes on social and interpersonal issues.
The public will have the opportunity to experience Prioville’s work and relationship to Bausch through a composition workshop, a discussion, a showing of his latest works in progress and a screening of Pina, a documentary that chronicles Bausch life. The series, which runs March 24–29, kicks off with an intimate, philosophical discussion featuring local artists from varied disciplines, led by ArtsATL critic Cynthia Bond Perry and the AJC’s Howard Pousner. A complete listing of events may be found here.
Prioville, 40, began dancing with Bausch in 1999. In rehearsals, Bausch gave Prioville an opportunity to create spontaneously, asked him to re-imagine what he developed, and subsequently supplied him with new tools for making work. In a brief email, Prioville described the exchange as “an intense period” that expanded “my field of vision.”
Currently living in Germany, the choreographer, who also cites working with La La La Human Steps in Montreal and with Edouard Lock as formative experiences, doesn’t necessarily consider himself a prophet of her work or vision. He says he wants to create a world that is all his.
Yet perhaps it could be said that Prioville is currently creating from the memory of Bausch. He has paralleled Bausch’s elaborate sets with his own multimedia stage design, complete with elaborate projections, and the way Bausch blurred audiences lines can be seen in his newest work, The Smartphone Project. This “in-process” theatrical experience asks audiences to download an application to their phones. During the performance, audience members interact with the performers, bringing them closer, and at the same time, farther away from each other.
That is just as much a sign of our times as Bausch’s pivotal Café Muller, which premiered in 1978. The work was an unsettling journey into an ambiguous world of aimless and seemingly emotionless individuals, which took place in a nondescript room built on the stage. The haunting piece, particularly Bausch’s performance of the leading role, was described by Anna Kisselgoff in a 1984 New York Times review as “absorbing into her pores every single detail of the emotionally stunted behavior around her — just as she has absorbed the life around her to create her work.”