Peter for Pina.
Peter for Pina
Published by Tanztheater Wuppertal
Pina Bausch GmbH.
368 pages, about 500 photographs.
German/English/French leaflet. 68 [euro].
For many viewers, the remarkable stage sets in which Pina Bausch's dances unfold define each work's character as distinctly as the choreography. It's hard to imagine Nelken without its vibrant carpet of pink carnations or Vollmond without its shallow river and massive, gleaming boulder.
To celebrate the extraordinary collaboration between Bausch and Peter Pabst, who designed her productions from 1980 until her death in 2009, the Tanztheater Wuppertal has published an engrossing book, Peter for Pina. "It was originally Pina's idea to make a book about the stage designs," Pabst declares. "A kind of gift from Pina to Peter."
Because words can capture se little of the theatrical alchemy they achieved together, the book documents their work in magnificent photographs, none of which is immediately identified. Some show the dancers in action. Some show a set alone, waiting expectantly onstage or in Pabst's drawings. Some are in color. Some unfold outward, doubling our view.
Three large pamphlets--one each in English, French, and German--accompany the photographs, placing the striking images in the context of their painstaking creation. We learn most about the process from a long interview between Pabst and the film director Wim Wenders that explores the gradual emergence of each production's design. "We never talked about it beforehand," Pabst says, "how something could come to be ... There should be, must be an entire adventure, a journey of discovery."
Intimately familiar with the repertoire, the speakers focus on practical matters as well as artistic ones. "All my thoughts begin with the floor," says Pabst, whose concerns naturally included each set's safety, cost, weight, and maintenance. Yet Bausch's imaginative vision, though often unstated, guided his ultimate decisions.
In additional material Pabst condenses his 29-year history with the Tanztheater into a single sentence: "A rule of thumb when working with Pina was to accept that you didn't know where the piece was going and to never despair that there would be an outcome." Succeeding those selections, thumbnail reproductions of the photographs, with captions, allow us to connect the larger images to the relevant productions. So in the pamphlet's last pages, the book's several elements finally coalesce, just as Pabst's ideas eventually did with Pina's.