|1979 to 1996|
Member of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Jean Laurent Sasportes
was born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1952. He began studying maths, physics and philosophy in Marseille in 1970 but something was missing. By chance he met the jazz-dance teacher Anne-Marie Porras in Montpelier. She invited him to watch her small company rehearse. As soon as he arrived he felt in his element, joined in with their rehearsals and learned a choreography he was soon to perform with them on tour. As a result he dropped out of university and began a dance course in Montpelier, with Porras as well as Lise Pinet and Jörg Lanner, two ex dancers from Maurice Béjart’s company. After two years he continued his dance education in Paris under Peter Goss. His first job took him to Munich for six months with Birgitta Trommler.
A bumpy start
From a friend he heard that Pina Bausch in Wuppertal was looking for male dancers. Although he knew nothing about her or her work, he applied. It was an appropriately awkward start. Sasportes was so excited he got toothache and could barely participate in the training and rehearsals. Pina Bausch postponed her decision till after their upcoming Paris shows, in case she couldn’t find anyone at the audition there. Luck was on his side, and in 1979 he joined the Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble. He learned the repertoire, took over Rolf Borzik’s role in Café Müller, and danced The Rite of Spring and Kontakthof. He grasped what it meant to be present without stealing the limelight. Keuschheitslegende (Legend of chastity) and 1980 were the first new pieces for which he was part of the creative process. He saw Pina Bausch’s working methods – asking questions – as a creative challenge. But this was never about improvisation, more about composition. ‘Really,’ Sasportes says, ‘you had to open the door to your heart.’ You had to understand the nature of the feelings. That was the only way to access the inner logic of the pieces.
An influential figure
Over the years Sasportes became a distinctive figure within the company, appearing in almost all the new pieces until 1996. He could play a gloriously naïve fool one minute, the next a rock-hard stoic or an innocent child. He liked to play distracting characters, disrupting up the piece and causing a disturbance, systematically breaking up cohesion.
In 1996 he left the company, but continued to join them as a guest for Café Müller, 1980, Bandoneon, Viktor, Palermo Palermo, Ahnen, Nelken (Carnations) and Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört (On the mountain a cry was heard). He also worked as a freelance dancer, actor, teacher and choreographer. He is famous for his structured improvisations, particularly thanks to the collaboration with musicians such as Peter Kowald and Hans Reichel. He has taught Modern Dance, Kinomichi and his own body discipline Jansannotaiso, internationally. He was founder and artistic director of the dance theatre company CafeAda and created the Ikonoclaste Tanzfestival, which was held in Wuppertal between 2005 and 2008. At the instigation of Stephanie Roos, in 2015 he worked with autistic adults and in 2016 created the dance theatre piece Mein Schloss. Ein Stück über Autismus (‘my castle – a piece about autism’). In 2018 he began a collaboration with the maths professor Barbara Rüdiger-Mastandrea and the video artist Ralf Silberkuhl which led to the piece Am Anfang war das Chaos (‘in the beginning there was chaos’), based on Ludwig Boltzmann’s thermodynamics theories.
Text by Norbert Servos
Translated by Steph Morris