She was born in 1940 in Solingen as Philippine Bausch; under her nickname Pina she was later to gain international standing from nearby Wuppertal with her dance theatre. Her parents ran a restaurant in Solingen, Pina helped out. She learned to observe people, above all the fundamental things which drive them. The atmosphere of her early childhood seems to find an echo later in her pieces; music is heard, people come and go, and talk of their yearning for happiness. Yet her early experience of the war is also reflected in the pieces, in sudden outbursts of panic, fear of an unnamed danger.
Having already danced in the Solingen children's ballet, at fourteen Pina Bausch began studying dance with Kurt Jooss at the Folkwang School in Essen. There, the young dance student Bausch acquired techniques for free creative expression as well as the command of a clear form. The proximity of the other arts taught at the Folkwang School, including opera, music, drama, sculpture, painting, photography, design, was also an important influence on her, reflected later in the form of a wholly open approach to the media in her work as a choreographer.
In 1958 Pina Bausch was awarded the Folkwang Leistungspreis and, armed with a grant from the Deutschen Akademischen Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service: DAAD) she spent a year as 'Special Student' at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Pina Bausch's teachers included José Limón, dancers from Martha Graham's company and others. As she decided to stay one more year in NY, she was obliged to finance her stay and found employment at the Metropolitan Opera. In her later work her affinity to opera and her respect for musicale tradition was to play a equal role to, for instance, her love of jazz. The distinction between 'serious' and 'popular' music was of no significance to her.
Two years after she had left for New York Kurt Jooss asked her to return to Essen. Pina Bausch danced in works by Jooss, both old and new, as well as assisting him with choreography. As the Folkwang Tanzstudio needed new pieces, she began to choreograph independently and started to create some works. Her first in Wuppertal as guest choreographer, was performed with members of the Folkwang Tanzstudio in 1972. In 1973 the director of the Wuppertal theatres Arno Wüstenhöfer appointed her head of the the Tanztheater Wuppertal. With the two Gluck operas Iphigenia in Tauris (1974) and Orpheus and Eurydice (1975) she created the first dance operas. In 1974, with Ich bring dich um die Ecke (I'll Do You In), she entered the frivolous world of popular songs, while Komm, tanz mit mir (Come Dance with Me) used old German folk songs and Renate wandert aus (Renate Emigrates) played on the clichés of operetta (both 1977). Her 1975 choreography for Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps was to become a milestone; the emotional force and unmediated physicality of the piece became trademarks of her work. From Kurt Jooss she had learned 'honesty and precision'. Bausch demonstrated both these values, unleashing dramatic energy of a kind never seen before. Along with her talent for drama Pina Bausch also demonstrated a sense of humour right from the start, seen for instance in her Brecht/Weill double-bill Die sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins) and Fürchtet Euch nicht (Don't Be Afraid) of 1976. The second part, collaged freely together, with both men and women wearing female clothes as Bausch plays with entrenched gender-role conventions, is both entertaining and funny.
In 1978 Pina Bausch changed her working methods. Invited by the director of the Bochum theatre Peter Zadek to create her own version of Shakespeare's Macbeth, she found herself in a difficult situation as a large portion of her ensemble no longer wished to work with her. She thus cast four dancers, five actors and a singer. With this cast she was unable to deploy choreographic steps and so began by asking her performers associative questions around the themes of the play. The result of this joint investigation was premiered on 22 April 1978 in Bochum under the lengthy title Er nimmt sie an der Hand und führt sie in das Schloss, die andern folgen (He takes her by the hand and leads her into the castle, the others follow) and was almost drowned out by the storm of protest from the audience. Yet in making this unusual move, Pina Bausch had finally found the form her work would take, its dream-like, poetic imagery and bodily language justifying the worldwide success she soon achieved. In taking people's essential emotions as its starting point - their fears and needs, wishes and desires - the Tanztheater Wuppertal was not only able to be understood throughout the world, it sparked an international choreographic revolution.
The worldwide development of dance theatre resulted in many international co-productions for the Tanztheater Wuppertal: Italy, Madrid, Vienna, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Lisbon, Budapest, Brazil, Istanbul, Seoul, Chile... The work, once controversial, eventually developed into a world theatre, which can incorporate all cultural colourations and treats every person with the same respect. This global theatre is generous, relaxed in its perception of the world and thoroughly charming towards its audience. It invites them to make peace with life, and trust their courage to go on living and their own strength. It is a theatre which remains free of all ideology and dogma, viewing the world with as little prejudice as possible and acknowledging life – in all its facets. The Tanztheater Wuppertal has no obligations other than to human beings and thus to a humanism which recognises no borders.
On 30 June 2009 Pina Bausch's life journey reached its end. She will be remembered as one of the most significant choreographers of the twentieth century.
Source : Marilén Iglesias-Breuker, Philippe Le Moal, Dictionnaire de la danse, Larousse, 2008