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Biography

Robert Sturm

was born in 1965 to a theatrical couple in Dresden and grew up in the theatre. When he was five his father married a Hungarian dancer and he became bilingual in German and Hungarian. Unhappy with the situation in the GDR, in 1986 he applied to emigrate but it was early 1989 before he was allowed to leave for the West. The next year he began a degree in theatre, film and television studies with philosophy and international politics in Cologne. In 1993 the Romanian director Vlad Mugur took him on as director’s assistant for a production at Budapest’s National Theatre. Following this he was employed as director’s assistant and dramaturg at the newly founded Artists’ Theatre. In 1997 he switched to the Szigligeti Theatre in Szolnok and began staging his own productions, there and in Budapest, including pieces by Martin McDonagh, Javier Tomeo and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

An influential meeting

Two years later the International Theatre Institute in Budapest asked him to accompany Pina Bausch and her dancers during their on-location research for the co-production Wiesenland. He had first encountered the Wuppertal choreographer’s work in his GDR days. The absolute honesty and directness, the emotional force of the pieces left a strong impression on him. They gave him a sense of total freedom coupled with the utmost precision. At the end of the three-week research and development in Hungary, Pina Bausch invited him to Wuppertal for the rehearsal stages of Wiesenland. Initially a temporary collaboration, this led to a permanent position as assistant and rehearsal director from the 2000/2001 season on. Sturm was not only present at all the rehearsals and performances, he was also increasingly involved in planning rehearsals, tours and casting. Liaising with the management, the technical directors and other departments of the company, he was responsible for realizing artistic ideas and for planning.

Artistic direction

When Pina Bausch died, on 30 June 2009, it was not simply a huge shock. No less huge was the sense of responsibility for maintaining this work. And so, together with Dominique Mercy, Sturm took over as artistic director of the Tanztheater Wuppertal. He was well aware how hard it was to maintain the quality of the work without Pina Bausch’s ‘keen eye’. Her memory must now be maintained through the collective memory of all her colleagues. With her very individual, personal way of developing her pieces, Pina Bausch had placed her pieces in the hands of her dancers from the start. Together with all her other colleagues, it was they who realized her thoughts, fantasies and dreams on the stage. In 2013 Sturm and Mercy handed artistic direction of the company to Lutz Förster. Robert Sturm continued to work as head of artistic administration at the company alongside freelance directing. Along with Ulli Stepan he directed the 2013/2014 anniversary season PINA40 – 40 years of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Since 2019 he has been artistic production manager of the Tanztheater Wuppertal.

Text by Norbert Servos
Translated by Steph Morris




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