Startling Works of the Moment, From the Past

Two presenters combine resources to show Tanztheater Wuppertal By Grace Wells-Smith
  • Dancers of Tanztheater Wuppertal in Bausch's The Rite of Spring / Photo by Ludovica Bastianini
  • Dancers of Tanztheater Wuppertal in Bausch's Cafe Müller / Photo by Bo Lahola

Editor’s note: This version has been ammended from the original, which stated that it was the company’s first appearance at the NAC.


From September 28th through 30th, the National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa presents Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s Café Müller (1978) and The Rite of Spring (1975), an iconic double bill performed by the German contemporary dancetheatre company, entering its forty-fourth season. The Dance Current spoke with Cathy Levy, the executive producer for dance at the NAC, about bringing these international works to Canada.

This appearance of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch will mark the company’s fifth appearance in ten years at the NAC. Created separately by Bausch in the 1970s, Café Müller and The Rite of Spring have been performed as a double bill since the 1980s – a program continuing to sell out theatres. “They don’t look like old museum pieces,” reflects Levy, “they’re vibrant and alive and will touch people today.”

An important element of the NAC dance programming is to present high profile and up and coming international works. The venue presents eighteen to twenty-two dance companies per year, a number of which are are international. “Some of these companies are high profile,” says Levy, “and some are not yet, but becoming high profile.”

Over the past decade, more presenters are opting to present international work, making it possible for partnerships between presenters to form. “There is no formula,” reflects Levy regarding partnerships, which rely heavily on networking, “it’s very much a discussion about sharing.” When presenters share a mutual interest in a company, working together to bring them to Canada becomes an option.

Along with many other presenters, the NAC has an informal partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch will be performing the program the week before they come to Canada. “In this case,” explains Levy, “I knew from talking with both the company and my colleagues at BAM that we were trying to bring this program in the fall of 2017 and so we coordinated how that could work in a contiguous manner.” Elements of these partnerships include scheduling performance dates and the possibility of sharing costs.

During her lifetime, Bausch created forty-six pieces, most of which are still included in the company’s repertoire. Her work remains iconic and relevant, described by Levy as “very particular, personal, dramatic and full of insight into the human condition – two startling works of the moment.” Dramatically different from each other in tone, Café Müller and The Rite of Spring come together to create a fulfilling, emotional experience for the audience.

Tanztheatre Wuppertal Pina Bausch performs Café Müller and The Rite of Spring from September 28th through 30th at The National Arts Centre in Ottawa.



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