I was really shocked to hear of the sudden death of German Dance-Theatre genius Pina Bausch upon my return from Cork yesterday. Before reading anything in the media (major features in The Guardian and the New York Times), I heard from my old friend Klaus Sohnel in Wuppertal, who emailed me immediately he heard the news. I hadn't heard from him in years, but it was nice to have the sad news broken to me by one of the three people (along with the wonderful and kind Randi and Martin Juhre) who picked me up at Dusseldorf airport when I first set foot in Germany in 1992. They drove me to the flat I had subletted for a few months from their best friend, Martin Flachmann, in Wuppertal, and ordered pizza. What a welcome! Before they left, I remembered to ask them one very important question: "where is the phone book?". Apart from the obvious adventure, I was in Wuppertal on a mission, after all. The first thing I did when I woke up the next morning, my first Wuppertal morning was to look up "Pina Bausch" in the phone book. There she was. I rang the number. "Ja?", answered a little voice. "Oh hello, I was wondering, could I speak to Pina Bausch please?". "Yes, it's me". "Oh hi, I'm from Dublin Ireland and I'm really interested in your work, I saw the video of Cafe Muller, and would love to see some more of your pieces - particularly the dance-theatre pieces?". "Well, if you are in Dublin there isn't much I can do for you." "No - I'm ringing you from Wuppertal". Pina Bausch invited me down to class at the Wuppertal Opernhaus that morning. I threw my clothes on and dashed out the door, landing in the middle of my first ballet class, ever.
The rest is a long story, involving over one year in rehearsals, on tour, hanging out with the entire company, a year at Cologne University working with Dr. Hedwig Mueller and Prof. Dr. Renate Moehrmann, the arduous task of transcribing 4 of Pina's script-less dance-theatre epic masterpieces so I could base my PhD on them, and a book entitled "Orientalism, Orientation, and the Nomadic Work of Pina Bausch", published by Peter Lang GmbH in 2002. It was an amazing journey, full of incredible coincidences, fantastic people, great learning, and a very deep immersion into the wonderful world of Pina Bausch. I had a privileged glimpse into that world, and in fact, became part of it. "You are part of the family" someone said to me. When I left, I met with Pina for one of our many chats, and she said "Well you can come back any time". I haven't thought about that amazing episode in a long time, like I haven't thought about Klaus, but in honour of Pina Bausch, the genius who brought me there, and whose oeuve and company had me, frankly, obsessed for most of the 1990's, I'll have to dig it up, write it up, and commemorate Pina.
Randi, Martin and the aforementioned Klaus continued to look after me, like guardian angels, for the rest of my time in Wuppertal - up until about 1994. Great Wuppertal friends.
TTFN. More to follow - but it's a bigger project... Here is to the incomparable Pina Bausch. To say she had a massive impact on my life is actually an understatement. As that Irish saying goes, we will never see her like again...