It is the first time that a company other than Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch perform one of the newer pieces of Pina Bausch. The Pina Bausch Foundation, Tanztheater Wuppertal and the Bavarian State Ballet coproduce the 2002 piece “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen”, which will premiere at the opening of the annual Ballet Festival Week at the National Theatre in Munich on April 3rd, 2016.
The Bavarian State Ballet, the Pina Bausch Foundation and the Tanztheater Wuppertal enter new territory. Ballet Director Ivan Liška and his Associate Director Bettina Wagner-Bergelt had been in talks about the production with Pina Bausch herself since 2008. He wanted the Tanztheater piece as the main feature of the retrospective TANZLAND DEUTSCHLAND, which will be presenting highlights of choreographic creation in Germany over four seasons. Pina Bausch had handed her choreographies of Igor Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du printemps” and the danceopera “Orpheus und Eurydice” on to the ensemble of the Paris Opera before.
Pina Bausch Foundation and Tanztheater Wuppertal are working hand in hand to pass the piece to the ensemble in Munich. Ruth Amarante directs the rehearsals together with Daphnis Kokkinos and Azusa Seyama. All three dancers of Tanztheater Wuppertal have been working with Pina Bausch for many years. Since December 2014, they are selecting the dancers from the 70 members-ensemble of Bavarian State Ballet. All 14 dancers from the original cast will personally pass their parts to the colleagues from Munich. Just like in Wuppertal, Peter Pabst will be responsible for the stage design, Marion Cito for the costumes as well as Matthias Burkert and Andreas Eisenschneider for the music.
In December 2014, Ruth Amarante, Azusa Seyama and Daphnis Kokkinos went to Munich for the first time to get to know the colleagues of the Bavarian State Ballet. From the 60-member company, 24 dancers were to be selected for the cast of the piece For the Children of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. A lengthy process that took almost one year and several intense working periods. The actual rehearsals have only started in November. Alongside the three-dancer-team of Tanztheater Wuppertal that holds responsibility for conducting all rehearsals of the 2002 piece by Pina Bausch, all dancers of the Wuppertal cast have travelled to Munich to hand over their parts to the respective colleagues and to practise with them.
Costume designer Marion Cito personally chose the fabrics in order for the costumes to be retailored true to the originals. Peter Pabst is on site to arrange the stage, Mathias Burkert the music and other colleagues responsible for light and technology also share their knowledge. And all of them are entering new territory: It is for the first time that a company other than Tanztheater Wuppertal rehearses one of the later Pina Bausch pieces.
Looking back now just before the premiere: What was – or still is – the greatest challenge of the whole process?
Ruth Amarante: There are 14 parts in this piece, and the respective dancers have to fit the respective parts exactly with regard to both their personality and the quality of their movements. The selection is crucial to everything else. There are so many chances to get it right or to get it wrong, and sometimes it is a very fine line. You also have to allow the other person to grow. That is a huge responsibility.
How did this lengthy selection process work? How did you proceed?
Ruth Amarante: We worked very practical, proceeding from the movements. Initially, we looked at how the dancers moved on the basis of the solos.
Daphnis Kokkinos: We have been studying that for a very long time. You cannot decide for “this one, this one, and that one” in the first rehearsals. Things may change on the very next day, in another scene. It was a development and there were many surprises. At first we looked at all the women and all the men, and then we worked with three to five dancers for each part. The number of the dancers was reduced until we finally worked with 24 dancers, a double cast for each role.
What was more difficult for the colleagues in Munich – working with speech or the new repertoire of movements?
Ruth Amarante: The speaking was not so much of a problem. There is indeed a lot of dancing in the piece, 14 solos that is. But the movement was a whole new world. It is an enormous challenge for dancers who had been dancing en pointe the previous day.
Daphnis Kokkinos: In the beginning some of them thought they could not speak at all, even though they could speak incredibly well! They just didn't know it, because they hadn't had that opportunity and they had to discover that for themselves. It was a stunning thing to witness!
Azusa Seyama: Of course the language and the movements are not easy for them, it is something that they are not familiar with. But I also found that it was interesting to tell them to "just be yourself", especially when they are not dancing. They have so much knowledge of dancing on stage, but we want to see who they are rather than how beautifully they can dance. Being natural as a human being feels very naked on stage, and we are aware that we are watched by the audience. So sometimes we must have courage in order to show ourselves. But I want to tell them how beautiful they are themselves already so they don't need to worry about how they would look from the outside, or add something that is not them.
In practical terms, how would you describe the work on the rehearsal process?
Ruth Amarante: Our colleagues from Wuppertal were there until late 2015 to hand over their parts. Oftentimes, rehearsals took place in four places at a time. After that phase is complete, it is for us to go on working on the material to add more colour and depth. And then, of course, everything needs to be pieced together in a way that makes makes sense.
Daphnis Kokkinos: All of them are very good dancers. They learn a movement sequences very quickly. You just have to tell them once, they are fantastic at that. But you can perfectly copy a gesture and it still remains an hollow form. So it is about understanding the origins of the gesture, its meaning, and to completely embrace it so that it becomes a natural part of them. They need to figure out how to stay yourself when you get the material from someone else.
Ruth Amarante: The work of the dance theatre is just completely different from what a classical ballet company is used to. With us, it is a very long process in which the movement or even just a single motion phrase is developed. That also has to do with Pina's method of posing questions. The gestures often arise from an inner motivation, as answers to questions – from the inside to the outside, as it were. Now we have to work from the outside to the inside – and in a much shorter period of time.
The single roles are handed down from generation to generation at Tanztheater, too. Where is the difference?
Daphnis Kokkinos (laughs): That it is only one at a time.
Ruth Amarante: In Wuppertal, the new dancers grow into that culture, they are completely surrounded by it and the other dancers can support them to some extend. In Munich, the culture, the form, the aesthetics is very different for everyone. Here, everything is new to everyone.
Daphnis Kokkinos: But the process of handing over a part is ultimately similar. We, too, have taken parts from our colleagues in Wuppertal ourselves.
Azusa Seyama: It has been very challenging and also interesting to find out how to guide them and introduce them to our movements without trying to make them look like the copy of us. And when they understood something that I was trying to tell them, it was a big sense of accomplishment on both sides! I totally enjoy this process of passing on!
In this case, everything is new for the three of you, too: It is for the first time ever that one of Pina Bausch's later pieces is given to another company. And you are responsible for the artistic direction of this production for the first time. How do you cooperate?
Ruth Amarante: We have the same long-time experience for more than 20 years, we have very similar feelings for what is important for this work. It is almost like a “schooling”. The human aspect is very important to all three of us, we are looking out for the same things.
Daphnis Kokkios: I think it is ideal the way it is, because we can look at the piece and the dancers from very different perspectives. And we can bring in our different experiences.
Azusa Seyama: I totally agree with Ruth and Daphnis! Firstly, they are two of my great idols of Pina's dancers since I have joined the company, and I am learning a lot from them. I have so much respect for them. And working together with them, having similar feelings with our different eyes, but we respect each other's points of view... It has been wonderful!
(Note: Asuza Seyama danced in the first performance of the piece, Daphnis Kokkinos was assistant to Pina Bausch with the piece, Ruth Amarante has many years of experience in the production of other pieces)
And how do you experience this new task? What are your feelings?
Ruth Amarante: It is an enormous responsibility, of course. And we are trying to live up to it. But it is also great to see the huge progress the dancers have made during this period, and their enthusiasm. Even if there are some frustrating experiences for them at times. They go into the rehearsals with such delight! To work with these dancers is a real treat.
Azusa Seyama: Yes, they are unbelievably professional dancers, and they are so beautiful people, too. It is my pleasure to get closer to them through this work is.
Daphnis Kokkinos: They are really fantastic. They make you want to take all of them home with you!
What is the most interesting factor in this transfer for you personally?
Azusa Seyama: It is interesting for me to see how someone adopts my role, since I have never watched myself from the outside. It is a learning process for me, too. With passing on the piece I can discover so much more than with doing it myself. And it is so beautiful to see how someone approaches the role, how they flourish when getting closer to it. In these moments I am really happy to be here.
Interview by Anne-Kathrin Reif
The Challenge Is To Be Open
Mr Liška, for several years now you have had the plan to stage a piece by Pina Bausch with the Bavarian State Ballet. What was the motivation?
Ivan Liška: There were two motivations, one as a dancer and the other one as an audience member. Being a dancing performer who could not do everything in my career, I had to concentrate on specific challenges as a matter of course. But I always felt the need to experience all facets of dance. The second factor comes from an audience’s point of view. Ever since I was a young dancer with the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf, and from Pina Bausch’s beginnings in Wuppertal I have watched many of her performances there. I can remember the piece “Arien”, for example, which made me cry violently two times and laugh excessively two times - all within four hours. It is something like a catharsis that I experienced in Pina Bausch’s pieces. I find that to be desirable for an audience. And I think that when people here in Munich asked me to show the Munich audiences the very best, a piece by Pina Bausch should most definitely be part of that. The fact that this took so many years only shows that both parties - the Pina Bausch Foundation and the State Ballet - were serious about it. We on our part had always been aware that this was a great venture that does not only take logistics and financing, but primarily artistic confidence.
Under your direction, the Bavarian State Ballet has adopted several modern styles in addition to the classical repertoire in the past years. And still, a Tanztheater piece is yet something entirely different. What is the particular challenge for the ensemble?
Liška: Simone Sandroni who founded the company Ultima Vez together with Wim Vandekeybus has worked here. With regard to Tanztheater, this was a somewhat similar direction. So the company does have some experience with Tanztheater, on a small scale. The challenge for the dancers is to be open. As a dancer I am obliged to open up, no matter how I enter a stage. Those who do not include this in their artistic vita will fail. And the company know that I encourage them to do this. Some of them take longer to manage that. This is why the rehearsal and transfer periods are planned over very long periods. Hopefully long enough.
Have the dancers been open for the project immediately and ready to make yet another new experience - or did you have to persuade them?
Liška: Well, I talked to them about Pina Bausch’s work and I told them about my own experience from watching the pieces and also from the dancers of Tanztheater Wuppertal, many of whom I have known for quite some time. Yes, they were immediately open for the project, but technique is an important issue: How do I work my inner openness when I am asked to be one of sixteen and to offer my individuality to the sixteen other individuals that are all supposed to be equal. And this is not the only task; there are varied tasks they have to cope with. I think they were immediately open, especially because of the confrontation with the performance of their close colleagues. Because everyone can be free but also possibly fail because they do not know how to both voice their innermost beings and bring them into their gestures at the same time - which comes naturally for the Wuppertal dancers.
You wanted this very peace “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” – why this special piece?
Liška: Because I think it is a piece that our company can accomplish. There was a period in Pina Bausch’s work where other forms than dance dominated. “Kinder” is a piece that is more about dance again. It came across like you could imagine that we could possibly manage it. I could never imagine a piece like “Arien”. And I do understand the initial reluctance of the Tanztheater members. It is not that you wouldn’t want to share it with other people - you just wonder: how? But I also wanted this piece because it is so deeply melancholic-optimistic. It is one of the most ravishing and charming pieces of Pina Bausch’s late creative period - one of her masterpieces.
It is for the first time ever that an ensemble other than Tanztheater Wuppertal, whose members decisively shaped those pieces, rehearses a later piece by Pina Bausch. No one at present can predict the result. Isn’t it also a great risk that you are taking?
Liška: Well, from my experience I can judge this company’s quality and I think that our dancers work just as seriously as their colleagues in Wuppertal. Now the perspective of the possibilities needs to expand. When they dance Pepita or neo-classics or Cranco, Neumeier, Kilian, Forsythe, Ek – then this already is a very broad perspective. Now they have to go this one step further in opening up and in their own inner accessibility. Yes, it is a risk. But as I understand the colleagues from Tanztheater, they are aware that the piece will be adopted as it stands, but it will not feel the very same way.
There is also some critical voices that claim that the later pieces by Pina Bausch cannot be passed on at all without something very crucial getting lost. What is your reply?
Liška: I know nothing about that (laughs), and if I did, I would say: Let’s see. We are not trying to build the bridge over the English Channel here, we make an experience. Every venture bears the risk of failure, but we do not proceed from this possibility. I think the colleagues from Tanztheater know very well about the poetry and the substance of the pieces. They are very sensitive; they will manage to work it out with the dancers. Of course there will be some stage fright, but that’s not failing. Anyway we are glad to help finding out if Pina Bausch’s work can be kept alive outside the Tanztheater with our production. If one day some foolish politician decides to treat Tanztheater Wuppertal different from the way they are treated now, then the question arises: What happens then? We will know the possibilities for the future if the pieces are meant to be staged somewhere else. We have seen that with Merce Cunningham who said that his work should not be staged after he died. We did his piece “Biped” - and it was phenomenal. It is possible if it is done seriously and inspired. That is what I try, that is where I have always guided the company.
The interview was conducted by Anne-Kathrin Reif, Pina Bausch Foundation