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A thoughtful review by Ilona Landgraf in her blog, "Landgraf on Dance."

Where is Tanztheater Wuppertal five years after Pina Bausch's death? She had been the troupe's core and driving force. On entering Wuppertal's opera house one bumps first into a stall offering Pina Bausch books and posters. The audience sitting near me spoke reverently about 'her' pieces and when 'she' did them. Compare this with Stuttgart Ballet, for example, which has John Cranko at its heart. The Stuttgart is a most vivid company. It amalgamates looking forward with its vital history. I remember a comment by Vladimir Klos (one of Stuttgart Ballet's former key dancers and now the associate artistic director of State Ballet Karlsruhe) at a panel discussion in celebration of the 50th birthday of Cranko's “Romeo and Juliet” in late 2012. Klos spoke of Cranko's spirit, which still would be present at Stuttgart's opera house. He was right. In Wuppertal, however, Pina Busch's spirit has gone.

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Very interesting! Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

I saw Tanztheater Wuppertal a few times back in the early 80s.

Just a few months ago I had the opportunity to go back and see another performance (not one I had seen before, though).

The difference between the "older" dancers, those who had actually worked with Pina for many years (and there are still more than just a few, it seems, actively performing) and the newer, younger ones was somewhat striking.

It is as if the newer dancers are more involved with the steps, such as they are, and they faithfully "reproduce" what was before. It does not seem "spontaneous" and as if they "own" what they are doing. Or so it seemed to me. Surely just subjective.

The comparison with Stuttgart Ballet under Cranko and now is intriguing. Of course, Cranko died a very long time ago; the company has had a lot of time to find their way and incorporate his "spirit" into the current company without turning him into an icon.

I also wonder if the fact that a ballet dancers' career is often significantly shorter than a dancer who does the sort of thing Pina Bausch did could have any influence on the way things are going?

Or are they all financial reasons? Wuppertal is not Stuttgart, by any means.

It will be interesting to see what happens; how things develop.


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The news article is titled "Another New Director for Tanztheater Wuppertal" and discusses how Adolphe Binder, the director of the GoteborgsOperanDanskompani, will become the new director of the Tanztheater Wuppertal in May 2017. She will be the fourth director to run the company since Pina Bausch's death in 2009. Unlike the previous directors, she has no direct connection to Bausch or the Tanztheater Wuppertal.

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That is good. Some of my students attended one of the shows. The general tenor of the few reviews I read here was that, well, the company is becoming "another pretty decent contemporary company", of which there are actually quite a few.

That is why I was a bit surprised by the decision to hire someone totally not from the "Bausch" camp. :)

So, it will be interesting to see how things continue for them!


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We've talked in many different places on this website about the difficulties that a company has when their founder dies (or needs to step out). Between George Balanchine, Jose Limon, Antony Tudor, Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Alwin Nikolais, Murray Louis, Trisha Brown, Laura Dean, and all the others, we've seen a multitude of strategies tried, and many of them discarded -- the Wuppertal ensemble is in good, but beleagured company with this phase.

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sandik -- I would rank your list as follows:

Balanchine (very healthy)

Limon (healthy)

Tudor (largely shrunken to ABT but healthy there)

Ailey (very healthy)

Graham (healthy in terms of ability to view but increasingly difficult to bring to life)

Cunningham (shrinking fast)

Nikolais (hanging on at Ririe-Woodbury)

Louis (dead [no offense intended])

Brown (shrinking fast)

Dean (dead -- killed by the choreographer's own hand)

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After attending the penultimate "Proscenium Works" Trisha Brown program at the University of Washington last night, I met my sister for breakfast today and (lacking a balletomane friend to rehash the night) did what balletomanes do and subjected the poor woman to a lengthy one-sided historical review of this very topic.

One of my crackpot ideas was that a school and a unique technique seem the best indicators of survival. It's less a matter of the quality of the choreography and more that a reasonably large amount of people have made an investment in a quite specific style.

It's one of the reasons I fear for Brown's lovely dances: you can't patent skips and shrugs. (In some ways, the early works that involve heavy rappelling equipment seem more likely to survive.)

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I'm always grateful for my sister, who has been my date to all kinds of things, including the (Wo)man Walks Down a Wall at Meany Hall on Friday morning -- a truly beautiful event.

I don't know that your notion (about a school and a specific technique being a good indicator of longevity) is so crackpot, except that no matter how sterling the existing repertory, we seem to need an infusion of new works as well as the old ones, or the desire to continue the specific style becomes attenuated.

Using Brown as an example, since we're already here, I went to the talk at the Henry Art Gallery by Susan (cannot remember her last name -- is a curator at a NY-based museum that facilitated the donation of all of Brown's notebooks and drawings) -- one of her points was that Brown herself resisted the idea of making a "technique" or even teaching classes -- she'd do it, since everyone had to, but it wasn't the same kind of laboratory experiment that it is for many other choreographers. Other company members were much more involved with that, and it looks like will continue to be so in some fashion.

As far as patenting "skips and shrugs," you're right, but that also applies to the Duncan repertory. I think one of the essential keys is having ultra-committed players in the process, who want to maintain and share the work. Without that human commitment, it is all lost.

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Now that I've finally seen Jose Limon's Carlota (from 1972) and now that Pina Bausch's successor company is taking in outside works, I think they should take Carlota into their repertory. It's a great Pina Bausch work that Pina Bausch never made. (And she did study with Limon in New York so there's that connection.)

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Well, that didn't last long:


(For anyone who can't access the link, the company's advisory board dismissed Adolphe Binder as director on Friday. The board also announced the departure of the troupe's administrative director in December.)

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Damn, damn, damn.  This is particularly sad since there was such a wonderful set of videos created with the Nelken material (the second line that you see at the beginning of the Herzog documentary).  I've been hoping that the company can find a way to thrive beyond Bausch.

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Obviously if the company board doesn't trust the A.D.'s vision, there's going to be big trouble. But the weird part here is that Binder seems to have followed the job description and succeeded publicly, but the administrative director, Dirk Hesse, didn't like her decisions. And so they've both been let go. Is that because neither one behaved professionally in their dealings with each other?

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Adolphe Binder has won her lawsuit against the city of Wuppertal:


The story is in German but here's a sample courtesy of Google translate:

"It was no surprise. Adolphe Binder won the case against the world-famous Tanztheater Wuppertal in second instance. The state labor court in Dusseldorf has confirmed on Tuesday that their termination is ineffective. The judge Alexander Schneider has not recognized any of the allegations against Binder as a reason for termination. The cultural manager was accused in the first place to have presented no actionable game plan, also their leadership style was criticized. Even bullying was mentioned. Adolphe Binder is now fully rehabilitated, so the verdict can be interpreted. But she has no reason to celebrate. Because soon begins a new act of Wuppertal drama, which seems like a thriller and like a provincial farce."

"The verdict is a bitter defeat for the dance theater. Ten years after the death of its founder and principal Pina Bausch, it is still looking for a new governance structure for the future. The court has only spoken a partial judgment - was cleared by nothing. Only in a next negotiation, probably in January 2020, will it decide whether Adolphe Binder is allowed to return to work. That she wants that, she made it clear again at the trial. However, Bettina Wagner-Bergelt was hired by a new director last November."

"provincial farce" indeed!

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Tanzteater Wuppertal toured Israel last fall, and I saw them in Pina Bausch's Masurca Fogo, a work created specifically for EXPO 1998 in Lisbon. The dancers are all beautiful and were very committed to the piece, but it was clear even to a casual observer like myself that the company cannot survive solely on Bausch's work.

For example, although Masurca Fogo had lovely sections in it, the idea that a foreign company can come to another country, have a residence and create a work representative of the host country sounds rather patronizing in 2019. I think things were different in 1998, and although I haven't visited Lisbon, I think most European capitals have changed quite a lot in the past 20 years.

That said, Pina Bausch is much loved here and the company is returning this October, this time with the classic Carnations.

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