Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Terrain Boris Ch

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Terrain Boris Charmatz

In 1968, the year of the student revolts, the dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch (1940–2009) begins to create her own pieces. When she is appointed as the director of the Wuppertal Ballet in 1973, she renames it “Tanztheater Wuppertal”. Her idea of combining dance and theatre revolutionises dance and makes her an icon of a new form of expressionism. She receives numerous international awards for her work. The company’s repertoire is world famous; to this day her pieces continue to tour all over the world. The Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch has made dance history. In 2023, it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Repertoire begins with the syllable ‘re-’, which stands for repetition and return. Today we know that cultural memory requires both: an archive, where historical material is preserved, and the periodic recreation, or re-enactment, of what is held in the archive. Memories cannot live on without input from the outside world. For the archive and for Pina Bausch’s pieces this means that what is stored here must also be performed, restaged, exhibited, critically examined and confronted with our present-day reality.

The French dancer and choreographer Boris Charmatz (*1973) has been dedicating himself to this task since the beginning of the 2022/2023 season. His artistic directorship in Wuppertal is opening a new chapter, with him at the helm of a company that represents the personal style of Pina Bausch and still carries her name in its title. It is an unusual, hybrid situation that enables him to bring together several aspects of his work: his creative approach to our modern and postmodern dance heritage, his belief in the power of collectives and his reflections on the body as a carrier and transmitter of memories. For the restaging of Café Müller (1978/2023), Boris Charmatz is working with three casts and is thus making it possible for 18 young dancers to explore an important piece of dance history and bring its archaic characters into the present. “I would love that everyone could dance Café Müller in the future. The entire Tanztheater, the audience, perhaps even me at some point.”

How can movements with their own history be performed by bodies living in the present? Why do we dance? What is the “ground”, or reason, for our dance? “In a world that is constantly changing, in a society that is drifting apart, we have to ‘ground’ ourselves again”, says Boris Charmatz. With his French Association Terrain, he is working on a vision for an institution without roof or walls. Human bodies create a mobile architecture on a green ground. The French philosopher Bruno Latour wrote: “The path to a sheltered past is nothing but a fiction”. One of his last books, a kind of terrestrial manifesto, was entitled “Où atterrir?”, which can be translated as “Where can we land?”. Inspired by Latour’s political passion Boris Charmatz urges us to find new ways of relating to our planet and adapt our lives to its changed ecological conditions.

With the multi-day programme “WUNDERTAL” (2023) and the dance marathon “Wundertal/Sonnborner Straße”, he has succeeded in creating a spectacular launch for a Franco-German future project that will facilitate an open dialogue between the city, its residents and its urban landscape. With Café Müller and WUNDERTAL, Boris Charmatz is building the foundations for the 2023/2024 season, in which the Tanztheater Wuppertal and Terrain will work together to develop new creations. First in line is the long-awaited new ensemble piece Liberté Cathédrale (2023), which will premiere at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Neviges. The unique concrete structure is the magnum opus of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Gottfried Böhm (1920–2021).

Marietta Piekenbrock