On Pina

Antony Gormley, visual artist

"Pina Bausch has enriched the language of dance and theatre and made it into a kind of rite of passage, taking it back to its early roots in ritual as well as forward to a form of collective psychotherapy.

I am inspired, challenged and indebted to Pina, not least for her acute sculptural sense of body in space."

Akram Khan, dancer and choreographer

"One of the first pieces I saw when beginning to explore contemporary dance was Nelken. I remember vividly how it shattered all the illusions I had built up from the classical world and opened my curiosity towards uncertainty.

Bausch has a gift of stripping away all that is superficial, all excess baggage, all the illusions or ticks that are sometimes used to hide the imperfections or fragility of a piece or a performer; and, on the contrary, presents work in its most naked, fragile and honest form.

When she reveals and celebrates her work's vulnerability, conversely she shows its power - the power of the relationship between complexity and simplicity, chaos and order, noise and silence.

She grants us the realisation that the performers' stories are not so far away from our own stories; the smells, the sounds, scenery, and emotions offered to is not so far away from our own experiences.

I believe the art of storytelling is not embedded in the stories we tell, but in the way we tell them and, to me, Pina Bausch is one of the most skilful storytellers of our times."

Katie Mitchell, theatre director

"When I was 23 I went to see Pina Bausch's production, Nelken, in Paris. I cried silently from beginning to end. I cried because it was so very beautiful - more beautiful than any performance I had ever imagined. The next day I was walking near the theatre and I saw Bausch herself coming towards me, flanked by two people, their arms linked in hers. In my admiration for her, I did not see her feet hitting the pavement. I literally genuflected as she passed, and said something completely inane. She nodded vaguely at me - a little irritated - and moved on. Or, rather, floated on. Saint Pina.

From that moment, I had a new aim - to understand the craft of Pina Bausch. Since then, I have watched everything she has brought to Britain -often returning several times to the same show. I have poured over videos of her work, slowing them down so that I can watch her decisions frame by frame. I have studied her use of light, colour and design. But her touch is so light, her skill so deft, her metaphors so unique, that I cannot see how she does it. And, the effect of what she makes always locks me in its grip so tightly, that I am simply unable to hold a sustained objective relationship to it. Whenever I make any piece of theatre, I have her work in mind. She sets the bar. It is an impossibly high bar. I get nowhere near. To my great shame, I probably do things in my own theatre work that are crudely derivative - although that is never my intention at the time. But the presence of her genius in the world comforts me - perhaps, most of all, because it allows me to watch live performance and forget that I am, in any way, involved in making it."

Alan Rickman, actor

"Pina Bausch pins you to your seat. It's like she's connected to your bloodstream or something. She knows about fears, fantasies and dream-life. It's like meeting your own imagination."

Fiona Shaw, actor

"When Pina Bausch first appeared in London it was like an onslaught of joy, a silent coup! This gentle show I shall never forget. The sounds of children calling each other in a garden of real grass as we all filed out at the interval, still looking back, not wanting to leave the auditorium for a moment. It was all so new: no narrative as we had been trained in; moving pictures that were at once not ours and yet all of ours.

Clearly the work was the memory bank of the company alchemically transformed by this great artist. One immediately wanted to be one of them in their sexy dances; their riveting repetitions; their fragments. It was a moment of change and yet we are still in pursuit of Pina and her ideas; we have yet to catch up."

Richard Wilson, actor

"In 1982, Alan Rickman suggested I join him at Sadler's Wells to see an extraordinary dance company from the small industrial city of Wuppertal, run by a woman called Pina Bausch. I had never heard of the town or the choreographer, but knowing Alan's taste as I do, I was happy to go along

I had little interest in dance at this point. Visits to a couple of classical ballets had left me a couple of notches down from unimpressed. Sitting in the circle of Sadler's Wells that night changed everything - within minutes I knew we were in the presence of a genius. I knew immediately I was in good hands - connected totally with her ideas, her imagination and her intellect.

Pina Bausch and her wonderful company hadn't just opened a new window in dance for me, they had scooped me up and dropped me on another planet. Here was dance that was relevant, choreographed in an entirely original way; it was extremely witty and quite, quite beautiful to behold. Above all, it was hugely open and accessible. I didn't want the night to end.

Since that night I have made appoint of seeing all Pina's show in this country. I use her first name as I eventually came to meet the great lady - not, I hasten to add, as dancer - as I was privileged enough to do a film voiceover for Kontakthof at the Barbican in 2002.

Pina Bausch's influence on modern dance has been profound"

Pina Bausch


Coronavirus update: Sadler's Wells welcomes socially distanced audiences from 17 May, in line with the UK Government roadmap. Read more