Rolf Borzik developed the sets and costumes for Pina Bausch's pieces from 1973 to 1979. He has a decisive influence on the way Tanztheater Wuppertal is seen. In 1980 he died at the age of only 35.
born in Posen
meets Pina Bausch
|1973 to 1980|
works as costume and set designer for the Tanztheater Wuppertal
dies at the age of 35
was born 1944 in Posen, Poland, but grew up in Germany and the Netherlands. In 1963 he began an apprenticeship at a graphic design firm in Detmold, then studied drawing and portraiture with the Dutch painter Poppe de Maar in Haarlem. From 1963 to 1966 he studied painting in Amsterdam and Paris before enrolling at the Folkwang School, Essen, in 1967 to study graphics and design. Here he met Pina Bausch. The two became friends, and from 1970 lived together. Three years later, when she was invited to take charge of dance in Wuppertal by artistic director Arno Wüstenhöfer, he began designing costumes and sets for the company.
Giving the new dance theatre a face
They formed a congenial partnership. They agreed that the pieces couldn’t accommodate any of the stylisations typical at the time, instead needing to be situated close to reality. At the same time the sets needed to open up poetic spaces for the audiences, allowing room for them to make their own associations. Borzik worked on Pina Bausch’s Wuppertal productions right from the start and gave them a very different look: everyday in Fritz, spare and reduced to the minimum for the Gluck operas Iphigenia in Tauris and Orpheus and Eurydice. These constraints on the means aimed to draw the eye to the intensity of the actions, with nothing allowed not genuinely needed. For The Rite of Spring Borzik opened up the stage back to the firewalls and covered it in a thick layer of peat – dance as a physical act of violence. On the one hand Borzik sought proximity to everyday life, on the other he defamiliarized the spaces by playing with the elements. For The Seven Deadly Sins he took a cast of a Wuppertal street and used this as the stage floor. The nineteenth-century room in Bluebeard is full of fallen leaves which track the dancers’ steps; in Come dance with me it is twigs and branches. Renate emigrates presents a fantastical ice landscape to the eye. Café Müller shows a coffee house full of tables and chairs which Borzik rumbles out of the way of the dancers. In Arias the whole stage is ankle-deep in water while a melancholy hippopotamus steps through the landscape searching for love.
Everything is possible
Borzik’s costumes are often reminiscent of everyday clothes while at the same time departing from them. They may be minimal or extravagant, elegant or simple, a fake skin or an inventive disguise. Everything is possible. For Pina Bausch he was a congenial working partner with whom she could discuss every thematic and dramaturgical issue. He co-devised and -imagined these pieces from their heart, as they began to define a new genre.
In January 1980 Rolf Borzik died at only thirty-five years of age. But in the seven years in which he had worked with Pina Bausch in Wuppertal he succeeded in giving dance theatre an unmistakable face. He created stage sets which incorporate the chronology of events, in defiance of ephemerality and transience. These are spaces of memory which record the drama of human existence within themselves, at the same time reminding us, with their poetic defamiliarization, that everything is possible, even what we have not yet seen and not yet imagined.
Text by Norbert Servos
Translated by Steph Morris
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