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Flash Flashback, 6-6: Insider Audition
Ms. Bausch is Casting
By Tricia Brouk
Copyright 1999, 2007 Tricia Brouk
(The Dance Insider
has been revisiting its Flash
Archive. This article was first published
in the October 1999 print edition of the Dance Insider. It is posted online today for the first time. Tanztheater Wuppertal performs Pina Bausch's 1980 classic "Bandonéon" through June 11 at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt, followed by her new "Vollmond," June 16 - 24. Tricia Brouk Dining Alone, featuring the work of various choreographers, plays June 28 - 30 at New York's Dance Theater Workshop.)
PARIS -- I was here to take class with the company, when Ed Cortland invited me to audition for Pina Bausch. I hadn't expected this. Pina Bausch holds unannounced and private auditions. Timing is everything.
The sun was shining when I took the Metro to Chatelet and followed the Seine to the Theatre de la Ville. I walked in, gave my name to the attendant, and waited in the lobby with the other women. I don't speak French so I had to keep my eyes open and pretend I knew what I was doing (not uncommon for me). When dancers started going up to the studios, I assumed this meant we were to change, warm up and receive our numbers. I changed quickly so as to get a good number or my place in front and center. The studio floor was excellent. It was spacious and elevated from the rest of the room, which made auditioning much easier because we were above eye level.
The room was incredibly hot and more dancers kept filing in.
What a beautiful sea of women! There were 150 women of every background. Classically trained ballerinas, classically trained modern dancers, women who simply love Ms. Bausch's work; dressed in leotards, stockings and stilettoes. After the doors closed and Ms. Bausch walked in, I felt a special flutter in my belly. She is Pina Bausch! Mr. Cortland asked us to bring out the barres. The room was packed with women standing at the barre anticipating the rest of the afternoon. We were given second position pliés facing the barre. Every dancer became fast friends -- or eternal enemies after bumping knees in the first minute of the audition. My friends and I continued to laugh quietly as we finished barre. We were asked to come center and perform a ballet combination in groups of ten. Ms. Bausch sat in the center of the room at a table with Mr. Cortland, a notebook, an ashtray and a pack of cigarettes. The language difference hadn't become a problem yet because ballet terminology is in French. After each group of ten performed the combination twice and again, Ms. Bausch quietly motioned to her assistants and they huddled. After the huddle, a tall man spoke to us in French and then in German. I raised my hand and outed myself immediately. I asked them to repeat in English. This was the first cut. Ms. Bausch eliminated 130 dancers.
Ms. Bausch continued to smoke and during the break I had a chance to admire her. She wore black trousers and a black tee-shirt that hung off her lithe and beautiful arms. Her limbs are forever and her face powerfully expressionless. Over the next three hours we would be asked to learn material from her "Rite of Spring." It was such a thrill. Her dancers were clear and patient, teaching us slowly and giving precise corrections. Ms. Bausch continued to smoke and speak quietly about a syncopation or an arm gesture. Then there were ten.
The last hour we learned a long phrase. Ms. Bausch said she knew we were nervous but she really wanted to see us dance. She asked us to dance the phrase one at a time at any tempo we wished (my forté!). It was incredible to watch these gorgeous women do their thing!
Exhausted physically and emotionally, we sipped water and stretched our quads, waiting for the next request. It was simple. We stood in a circle and learned five gestures. As we executed them, we walked in a circle taking the opportunity to look out at our audience when we were downstage. It was the final runway show of the season.
The audition came to an end and as Ms. Bausch whispered into her assistant's ear, he repeated in French and German. I tried in vain to catch the English. I raised my hand. She came forward and in English, thanked us for working so hard for six hours. She told us she would be leaving for Japan the next day to continue looking for dancers and that she would be in touch. I shook her beautiful hand, thanked her for such a positive and inspiring audition process and went home.