Pina Bausch Company: ‘This Is Theater, and These Are Humans’

On the eve of the company’s visit to Brooklyn, I spoke with three dancers, from three distinct phases of the company’s 44-year history. All three spoke via Skype from Wuppertal, Germany.

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Nazareth Panadero joined the company in 1979.

Credit
Claudia Kempf

A Yearning for the Work

Nazareth Panadero, 62, has been with the company since 1979. She joined, she said, out of curiosity. She had started as a ballet student in Spain, then moved to Paris, where she discovered the contemporary and experimental dance scene. There, she saw Bausch’s company perform “Blaubart” (1977). She found that she wanted to discover “the woman hidden behind this work.” She joined the company, unsure that she would stay, and has remained, with one short hiatus, until today.

“It’s not something you see in other companies to have dancers who stay for so many years,” said the Madrid-born Ms. Panadero, in gravelly voice familiar from Bausch’s works. “But Pina was interested in seeing us grow old. She wanted to see what a dancer with experience has to give after 40 and 50.”

At the Brooklyn Academy, she will appear in a role she has performed for over 30 years: a nervous-looking woman in “Café Müller,” mincing around a chair-strewn room in high heels, looking as lost as if she’d misplaced her keys. At one point she tries, ineffectually, to help a couple trapped in a violent struggle. “She keeps her emotions locked in,” Ms. Panadero said, “so she lives a little bit through the lives of others. She worries about them and projects herself through them.” It’s a typical Bauschian question: Who are we in relation to others?

For Ms. Panadero, quitting after Bausch’s death was not an option. “When she died, our yearning for the work and our desire for it to stay alive was so strong that it drove us to go on,” she said. “Performing her pieces made us feel as if Pina were alive, still with us. So, we went on.”

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Tsai-Chin Yu joined the company a year before Bausch’s death.

Credit
Claudia Kempf

The Inner Struggle

Tsai-Chin Yu, 37, joined the company a year before Bausch’s death, though she had been a guest for two years while still a student at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Wuppertal. She had come to the school from Taiwan specifically…

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