Jo and Pina – Chapters of changes

The Sacrifice of Spring: Pina Bausch's "Sacre" with African Dancers at the Opera House Wuppertal

Ursula Kaufmann

After Josephine Endicott left Australia in 1973, she did not imagine she would make her whole career in another country. Sadly, that talented young girl was soon forgotten in her country until she appeared in several of Pina Bausch’s pieces in Tanztheater Wuppertal’s first Australian tour in 1982. Over the next fifty years she spent all but six years in Pina’s life.

A publication like this naturally begins with a foreword. This one is written by my friend Lee Christofis in Australia. Here you are: Geschrieben hat es mein Freund Lee Christofis in Australien. Hier ist es:

Jo built an amazing career in the company as a member of the Tanztheater before it even had a name. She rose to be a leading dancer, regularly chosen for Bausch’s explorations of human relations, and later teaching and staging various Bausch productions. She travelled the world with the renamed Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, performing and progressively becoming a coach and adviser to dancers, repetiteur, and counsellor to all her on stage and behind-the-scenes colleagues. After Pina’s death, Jo took on some of Pina’s duties and, with unyielding dedication, sustained the company’s repertoire of the many popular productions still played today. Not least are those Pina created with Jo for non-dancers such as elderly people and teenagers which made both Pina and Jo very proud. For her exceptional commitment to the Tanztheater’s name and repertoire, and to her own artistry and family, Jo was honoured by the French Minister of Culture with two highly distinctive medals in recognition of her significant contributions to the arts: the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in 2008, and Officier des Arts et Lettres in 2012. Through these awards Jo has joined many internationally admired artists such as Faye Dunaway, Elton John, Sharon Stone, Tina Turner, Jude Law, and Australian, Kylie Minogue, and Cate Blanchett. After receiving her first medal, Pina secretly presented Jo with a tiny bag of precious stone earrings, whispering in her ear how proud she was of her. When presenting the second medal, Minister Frédéric Mitterrand ried to fix it on Jo’s dress. But he accidently poked the pin into her flesh, eliciting a scream from Jo, which naturally left everyone laughing. Jo inevitably would create some incident during any formal event; she could be shy and shaky at such times.

Jo inevitably caused an incident at any formal event; she could always be very shy and nervous on such occasions.

Jo was presented the prestigious 2023 German Dance Prize together with her beloved colleagues, Dominique Mercy, Malou Airaudo and Lutz Förster, each for their 50 life years of artistic achievement and commitment. As Jo would happily say, “Wow! Nice.” In this, her latest publication, Australians, and others, will get to know Jo as a rarity in her own right, a dancer who has continued to dance into her seventies, and a down to earth Aussie at heart.

Josephine Ann Endicott

Eva Raduenzel

And here we go:


In June 2009, dearest Pina passed away and left us alone so suddenly. The private funeral of Pina Bausch took place on 8 July 2009 – just five days after being diagnosed with cancer and shortly before her seventieth birthday. Two weeks before she had taken her final bow on stage with the performers of her final new piece “like moss on a stone.” Dancers, close collaborators of Wuppertal Tanztheater, her family, her son Rolf Salomon and his partner Ronald, were present; and some very old colleagues from way back then whom I hadn’t seen for thirty or forty years. No journalists, photographers, in fact nobody who did not belong to the Tanztheater.

We met at the forecourt of the Evangelical Reformed Forest Cemetery, Krummacher Straße 25, Varresbeck, Wuppertal. Ich war eine der Letzten, die ankamen. In dem desolaten Zustand, in dem ich mich befand, war ich unschlüssig, ob ich überhaupt dorthin gehen wollte oder nicht. Alles was ich wusste war, dass ich diesen Tag zusammen mit den anderen durchstehen musste und dass ich mich von ihr verabschieden musste, komme was da wolle. Für diesen Tag zog ich mir eine unsichtbare, kugelsichere Weste an, in der Hoffnung, mich stärker zu fühlen und den Schockzustand zu begreifen, in dem ich mich befand. Schnell war klar, dass alle Tänzerinnen und Tänzer unter demselben untröstlichen Schmerz litten und dass wir uns alle in demselben Zustand befanden. Niemand musste seinen Schmerz verbergen, denn wir waren unter uns – ihrer Familie. Wir umarmten uns lange und fest, so nah und eng, dass man den Herzschlag des anderen spüren konnte, und hoffte insgeheim, dass man den Schmerz aus dem anderen herausholen und mit ihm teilen konnte, wenn er zu unerträglich wurde. Es war ein kalter, grauer Sommertag – ein Mittwoch. Alle trugen die Farbe der Trauer – das Schwarz der Trauernden.

I remember cold feet, wet eyes, desperate faces, a constant trembling in the stomach and shivering all over. Slowly, we walked with heavy hearts to her grave. It was so hard, painful, cruel, and somehow frightening.
Birds were chirping, singing sweetly for her. Wind rushed through the branches.
The place in which she lies is beautiful – soft, green, and protected by strong old trees. It smelt good.
There were all kinds of weather as if arranged especially by the stage designer Peter Pabst, or her former partner, Rolf Borzik, who had passed away so many years ago and who now joyfully awaited her in heaven.
Between times, the sun waved to us, but only for rain to pour in the end.
The coffin, simple, made of light wood, was bravely carried with the greatest care by the technicians of the Tanztheater and Pina’s close assistant, Robert Sturm.
Dominique Mercy stood at the head of the grave and spoke as best he could. Words were difficult. It was unbearable.
Tears flowed as each one went to the grave to pay their last farewell.
There was no order. One went – then the next. Hearts were weeping. Hans sang. Jo screamed.
I felt hearts tearing apart.
Oh, Pina!!!!!!! You were so beautiful to us and the whole world. We loved you, Pina.
Rest in peace.
Think nothing more.
If there is one day in my life which has remained unforgettable, and where the bone marrow engraved into my bones, and my feelings froze to solid ice, it was this day ten years ago.
Ten long years later I finally felt ready to visit Pina at her grave. Yep. That’s how long it took me. In other years, I lit a candle in memory, opened a bottle of red, and poured the wine into my most expensive Venetian wine glass bought on a tour to Venice. It was a typical windy drizzling Wuppertal day but the perfect kind of weather to visit Pina. The trees were swaying. Weak, gentle rays of sunshine shone through those old protective trees. I had my umbrella on one arm and a delicious smelling bunch of six blood-red roses in the other hand. I walked exactly that same path I had walked ten years ago, but I didn’t feel sad or lonely. Sitting on my head was Pina’s woollen brown beret, which I had inherited in 2018. I felt radiant, light at heart and, if I may say, happy to see my long-lost friend. I remembered the way well, only back then it was excruciatingly painful. I laid down those roses close to the stone head, took a few steps back to smile a little. Tears rolled down my cheeks, but I was in full control of my emotions. After ten minutes I left. Weights of grief lifted from my heart, and I knew I could be me again. It felt so good.


flew by. It was some hell of a year in many ways. Please excuse me for not getting back to you for so long, but I was too busy re-staging and/or re-directing this or that ancient, legendary Pina piece for either the Tanztheater or the Pina Bausch Foundation. There are times when writing comes easily and times when it doesn’t, but one vital ingredient is TIME. I am as slow as a snail when I write. That’s if I want to make my words special enough to match the feelings about which I write, if you know what I mean.

Time for Jo to recover is something Jo still hasn’t learned to master but she is learning. My energy resources do not come from a bottle, a box, an injection or some Wellness Resort but from my everyday life, my personal encounters with the people I work with, the dancers who inspire me, doing what I love, the few treats I mostly give to myself, like a small bunch of flowers, a wee drop of Chanel No. 5, a now-and-again chunk of good, dark, expensive chocolate, and just being alive and feeling good with and within myself – definitely not taken for granted. People think I have endless energy. It may seem like that from outside when you witness me on fire rehearsing in the studio. But have you ever had a glimpse of me once I arrive home? Sofa or bed here I come. I am an expert at lying down and at sleeping. When I lie down, although my body is resting, my mind continues to tick-tock on with planning, corrections, faces, and the piece, until I eventually drop off. But not only issues surrounding work; my family are always present in my thoughts.


I was proud of the work I did with the Tanztheater on Orpheus, which hadn’t been performed in Wuppertal for 25 years. Four acts of fine, delicate pieces of choreography with endless, flowing, weeping willow arm movements, stirring emotions, and things happening in every corner on of the stage. Pina’s choreographic genius and ability to create overwhelmingly real atmospheres for all humans to see and feel at such a high artistic level, left no distance or difference among peoples, dancers, singers, musicians, or conductors.

Orpheus rehearsal

Arnold Pasquier

The last time the Tanztheater performed “Orpheus” was in 1994 in Genoa. It was one of my many re-re-comebacks to the company after my return from Australia in 1989, when I thought my days with Pina Bausch were over. Ha. Ha. How naive can one be! Her choreography is almost 50 years old, choreographed at a time when Pina had not yet begun her question-and-answer method, and the name Pina Bausch was not so widespread, recognized or appreciated. It was a monster, a risky job as Corona was still lurking around corners, slumbering in bodies and minds, and making rehearsals with a full cast super impossible.

Instead of the whole process taking a concentrated block of four to five weeks, I had to plan ten months of three-days-a-week rehearsals with tiny groups. It was a miracle that we managed to perform it so beautifully when I think back to all the hygiene measures, and the massive restrictions we were obliged to take. Testing. Testing and testing 1, 2, 3. How I hated wearing those masks on trains, boats, and planes. I found ways of getting around the rules by slipping my mask off by pretending to drink or eat for the 3 hours during my many trips to and from Wuppertal. I refused to wear them in rehearsal. It is unhealthy for dancers who really do have to breathe now and again before collapsing.

On top of all the problems evolving around Orpheus, not one single dancer who had ever performed it was either still around or wanted to dance in it. Some thought it was outdated, undanceable and not right for the Tanztheater of today. “I hope you don’t hear this, Pina! Can you imagine the Pina Bausch Tanztheater itself not wanting to do this magnificent piece!! Anyway, Pina, don’t you worry. I want to do it in memory of you – to make you even more unforgettable.” I believed we could, and I felt it my duty to persevere. It is really not an easy job trying to find the soul and the breath which give these pieces the life, weight, meaning, inside harmony and rightful beauty.

It meant for me an entirely new cast, not only of dancers but also singers, musicians, orchestra, and conductor, with myself directing and Dominique Mercy, who was engaged to teach the role of Orpheus. I ended up with a meagre six full time company female dancers, seven guests who were all new to me, plus six male company dancers and four guests who were very young, inexperienced, and strange to me. I did have a few days of help towards the last rehearsal period from three of the older generation colleagues who had performed Orpheus in the 1990s.

At least I had the then director of Tanztheater, Bettina Wagner-Bergelt on my side, and my assistant Çağdaş Ermiş who had been working for Tanztheater since 2014, yet never performed in Orpheus. His first rehearsal assistance. He was great – certainly did his homework. We met often in the office hours before rehearsals began to prepare on paper the placing of dancers. There is nothing worse than an unprepared, unorganized rehearsal director.

I don’t get depressed easily, but once or twice I really was close to throwing in the towel. Basta! Anyone else would have. “And why didn’t you, Jo? You had every reason to.”
To be honest, I had even more than every reason to as my husband was in a bleak, two-week high-dosage chemotherapy cycle exactly during this Orpheus time. I’d come home from Wuppertal whenever I possibly could to a husband as pale and weak as a ghost, but never really telling me just how bad he truly felt. But I sensed and saw it, the grave side effects – I heard his attacks of vomiting buckets some nights. Life surely wasn’t easy. My nerves were worn down to thin. Oh, my God. I prayed. We prayed. I had such a bad conscience when leaving him for Pina and the never-ending Orpheus but let us not spend time on this subject of illness. It happens.

Oh, by the way, I met my husband in the canteen of the Stuttgart Playhouse in the eighties while rehearsing for “Kiss Me, Kate.” Pina was kind enough to allow me a little time to guest. Another time I was asked to play in a film, but this time Pina refused. What Pina said went. In the play I had the role of Bianca. The director had me singing those well-known songs from the musical but with a microphone – I nearly had a fit. I told him I can’t sing, but he said, “Everyone can sing, Jo.” Luckily, there was a lot of dancing, acting, and tapping, and gorgeous dresses, wigs, hats, and shoes to wear, which hopefully made up for my charming wrong note singing.

It was in the theatre canteen that I met Ferdinand. I heard him ask his mate: “Who is that crazy, loud girl laughing?” His friend answered, “Oh, she’s the guest star dancer from the famous Pina Bausch company in Wuppertal.” Anyway, we got to be friends, became a couple, and we stayed happily together ever since. I was forever driving back and forth from Wuppertal to Stuttgart in all sorts of dangerous icy foggy snowy winter weather – you do all sorts of crazy things when you are “in love-in love.” True? Australians do have a reputation for being loud, boisterous, but I promise I am changing. I am not so loud or Australian anymore after living over half my life in Germany.

Revival of Pina Bausch’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” from 1975

Arnold Pasquier


One of the two males playing the Orpheus role was transgender artist Naomi Brito, an amazingly talented, beautiful, magnificent moving dancer who seemed to me extremely sensitive and shy – hiding in corners where she couldn’t be seen – but was always listening and taking everything in. She came to the rehearsal wearing earrings but of course took them off once we began. When I first met Naomi, her name was Gabriel. I had some difficulty in accepting him as a trans-she-her, but I remained open minded even though Orpheus is a male role. It took me a while to get used to calling Naomi “Naomi,” and I could have bitten my tongue off when a “Gabriel” slipped out. I could feel it was painful for Naomi the few times it happened. A question arose – what best to do with her hair – a suggested small trim here or there might help, but no way was she prepared to cut it more than a millimetre, and she really didn’t appreciate it if I touched it. Naomi shared my ladies’ dressing room with Luiza and Daria while I sat on the windowsill with my work papers spread out on my lap in the hallway.

It was a tricky situation I was getting myself into, and for sure, it wasn’t being very diplomatic from my side when I chose guests for the role of Eurydice, but I just didn’t see any of the six Tanztheater female dancers as Eurydice. I tried, but wasn’t satisfied, and the only other female dancer who might have been capable was non-stop in other shows and rehearsals. The yearly season planning of Tanztheater for 2021/2022 was, I thought, mentally and physically suffocating. Several colleagues of mine were sceptical about my choice of Eurydice, but I wasn’t. I was the artistic director, and so allowed myself to take the freedom and responsibility to trust myself and my gut knowing that I had Bettina’s support.

Luiza Braz Batista, an unforgettable, hardworking, talented, Folkwang School dancer with whom I had worked on Cantata in 2012, was one of my choices as the situation with Naomi was somewhat delicate. Somewhere stored in my memory I pictured the two of them, Naomi and Luiza, as a beautiful pair. I found similarities in their looks and personalities, both Brazilian, same language and understanding of communication. Moreover, I just could not imagine any other person fitting so well. Luiza was determined to do justice to her newly acquired role. It was technically difficult, but she never complained. My corrections were many, but she understood perfectly. In the end she was truly beautiful with Naomi.

As to my choice in casting a prima ballerina, Daria Pavlenko from Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Ballet, I had also to listen to comments like “How could you bring a ballerina from Russia to dance Eurydice, Jo? She is as stiff as a board!!!” But I knew better, as I had been working with and without Pina on Orpheus and Eurydice for many years, listening to her corrections and working with étoiles like Marie Agnes Gillot, Eleonora Abbagnato, and Alice Renavand, all stars of the Paris Opera Ballet. Not to forget that I was also a classically trained dancer and performed that very same role, and I am definitely not as stiff as a board. Pina loved lines, positions, stretched feet, beautiful legs, long necks, poise. Of course, I had to remind Daria to relax here and there not to be so balletic, and not throw her legs so high, but she understood. If you understand the story and the text and just let your feelings and emotions bathe in the truth of the music and you remain naturalistic and real, you should be fine.

The other Orpheus was Pau Aran Gimeno from Spain, who had 13 years of Tanztheater up his sleeve but had left the company in 2019 to develop himself in other fields. Technically perhaps not as gifted as Naomi, he was beautiful and generous in his movements in other ways.

At one stage of my rehearsals, it evidently had to happen; I ended up with the Corona virus. Who didn’t? I tested and retested until I wasn’t contagious, and then I was back in Wuppertal like a whirlwind, full-on, and holding up the production until the singers came to join us. My colleague Bénédicte Billiet, who had worked on the singer roles many times at the Paris Opera, was planning to work with them in our rehearsal studio called Lichtburg (a former cinema) while we rehearsed in the Playhouse but suddenly, she too came down with Corona.

I sent a substitute to the Lichtburg while Bénédicte agreed to help via Zoom. But after just one rehearsal, the substitute came down with either an upset tummy or the dreaded virus. I then sent another person, Barbara Kaufmann to Lichtburg, who also contacted it. By this time, I was going mental. Who wouldn’t be, as we were getting close to the end of rehearsal time? Finally, I sent Luiza for two days as she knew the music, the text, and their ways, and she was quick, patient, and because I had no-one else to send. Thank God she agreed to go; working with singers is not the same as working with dancers. By now I was the one who was in need a wee drop of help. But there was no-one else but me. From then on, I avoided looking at my mobile phone first thing of a morning, as any news was bad news. Coffee after coffee came first and then my morning bath and then my urgent messages.

On top of these many hindrances, the war between Russia and Ukraine began, on 24 February 2022 to be exact. We had four Russian colleagues working for Tanztheater. All clearly affected, teary-eyed and heavy-hearted, struggling with the devastating daily news – clutching their mobiles to stay in contact with relatives, friends, families – knowing that in the near future taking them in their arms to hug them dearly was next to impossible. Our concern was for Daria, who was flying to and from Russia for her rehearsal blocks. Would she be able to travel? Will her credit card still function? How safe is it and so on. And this all happening in the twenty-first century. Madness!

For the Orpheus role, it was the very first time that a male with androgynous countertenor voice sang it. In all other times, the role of Orpheus was sung by a woman mezzo-soprano. So also new for me. The first question was what will he wear, a dress or a soft material suit? We decided on a suit. His name was Valer Barna-Sabadus, born in 1986 in Romania. Quite young, very good looking, with a voice like a sacred angel or a nightingale. I had heard he was an international star. Normally hearing something like this would make me nervous, but no time for nervous. Valer was lovely and easy to work with. I had the same old problem again; some colleagues were just not open minded enough to have a male, and a countertenor. I found this somehow arrogant. I was immediately taken, felt gripped close to my heart when he sang – with such an amazing feeling of so much love, passion, and conviction in every pore of his being. I immediately fell in love with this magical treasure person, and not only his Amazing Grace voice.

Oh, they were all so good. Dancers, singers, musicians, conductor, stage technicians, wardrobe, light designer. Thank you everyone for not giving up and trusting in me. When I close my eyes, I can still hear and picture the beauty and sadness of it all.


Ursula Kaufmann

Act 1. Mourning. Fascinating images – a large uprooted, leafless tree lies on the stage, a woman suspended high above a man’s head lying in a horizontal position with her face covered by a long white veil which sweeps the floor. Kneeling at the man’s feet, a dancer grieves in aching beauty while Eurydice sits serenely in an over-sized high wooden chair, wrapped as a bride in soft, flowing white material with a long veil draped over her hair. In her lap she holds a bouquet of blood red roses. A mixed group of mourning dancers in black move in a wave of sadness towards the chair.

Act 2. Violence.

Female dancers now in white dresses with Orpheus lost in the Underworld. Threads of wool tied to many oversized chairs, a black raven sitting on the left arm of a female dancer, another holding an outsized loaf of bread, while an unreachable apple hangs from nowhere. Three brutal macho men appear in leather butcher brown aprons. Fear, panic, danger engulf the scene while some dancers flee to escape.

Act 3. Pina’s Garden of Eden.

It was the closest Pina ever got to classical dance. Women dancers dressed in flowing flesh-coloured skirts and closely fitted leotards. Men in flesh-coloured trunks. A mystical, joyous, peaceful scene with dance highlights, exquisite gliding, lyrical movements, and pas des deux.

Act 4. Death.

A dramatic duet. Grieving women enter in long, black transparent dresses and begin their movements in slow motion. Men in black. For the duration of 13 seconds all bodies, including Orpheus, are face down on the floor while Eurydice’s long, red dress stands out like a pool of blood. Nach und nach stehen die trauernden Tänzerinnen und Tänzer auf und gehen langsam zur weißen Rückwand, wo sie eine ungerade Linie bilden, um den Saal zu verlassen. Gradually, the grieving dancers stand and walk slowly to the white back wall where they form an uneven line to exit. In the silence, the singer Orpheus bends over to take Eurydice’s lifeless body into his arms to hold her close and tight to his heart before dying himself of a broken heart.

“I have lost her. All my happiness is now gone. If only, if only I had not been born. Being on earth is painful. Oh, in vain. Peace and hope. Life’s comfort is nowhere to be seen for me!”
The curtain closes on the final note with Gluck’s music filling every inch of the stage, leaving a flood of sadness spreading through the auditorium. Only death is death and “the big nothing” is left. Viewers have goose bumps; not a soul dares to cough, fiddle or move in their seat. The power of the music and the sense of emptiness are left hanging in the air. It is agonizingly beautiful. One after another, people stand up and clap like crazy through tears of awe, respect, and utter amazement.
Pina’s choreographic genius and ability to create such overwhelmingly real atmosphere on stage for all humans of the world to see, share and feel at such a high artistic level is unique. All were touched to the cockles of their hearts.

Those “weeping willow” broken wrists, endless arm movements, and leg line positions, which she embraced in her work, began here, and have remained in all her following pieces as her unmistakable signature.

When I am teaching these older pieces in which I danced so many years ago it feels like I am reconnecting and disconnecting, living, and reliving, then letting go of my former self all at the same time – slowly saying good-bye to it all. Now I am so much more aware of the gifts I was born with. Now I can admit to myself how lucky I was to have spent so many years alongside this amazing woman Pina Bausch. I thought without Pina I would be a weak, hopeless person but I have learnt that I too am special – respected and well liked.


I have Sacre many a time since its creation in 1975, but never was there a Sacre like this one.

“Frühlingsopfer” in Wuppertal with Ruth Amarante and Dita Miranda Jasjfi

Ursula Kaufmann

Anique Ayiboye and Babacar Mane

Ursula Kaufmann

You won’t believe this, but last year (that is the end of 2019/2020) I ended up in Senegal, Africa teaching Sacre to 38 African dancers from 14 different countries. What a wonderful idea, a daring project that would carry the spirit of Pina and her work to further corners of the world. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Jo would end up in Africa teaching Sacre of all pieces. The ballet is Pina’s response to Vaslav Nijinsky’s unique and genre shattering, 1913 ballet, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), with music by Igor Stravinsky for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. In it a young girl is chosen and sacrificed in a ritual to bless and honour the earth and the awakening of Spring. The ballet itself is danced on a stage full of soil as if on naked earth. How beautiful and authentic is that. In Sacre, everything is united: strength, brutality, violence, grace, vulnerability, and dance.

Pina’s Sacre is a unique, overwhelming piece of genius, a truly breathtaking dance piece. The dream of any dancer. An experience never to be forgotten, whether in the role of the “chosen one” or as a dancer in the group. Never to be forgotten by anyone who has ever watched it live.

Our very first run-through took place in our tiny studio in the Opera House in Wuppertal Barmen in 1975. It remains one rehearsal I will never forget. The run-through began and a suffocating heat filled the room almost immediately. All dancers dripping in their own sweat, breathless, next to exhaustion. There are dancers who sweat and those who don’t. I was saturated. The floor seemed to tremble beneath our feet. Dancing on the soft earth created gigantic feelings when laying your sweating hot body down on that soft, warm, noiseless earth while being bodily and mentally so close to other wet, dirty, smudged colleagues and feeling their same panicky fear. None of us had a clue what the mysterious solo that closes Sacre would be like as it was taught secretly in Pina’s tiny office in the opera house. The moment had arrived, the moment we’d all been waiting for – the quiet before the storm – the solo of all solos.

Marlis Alt was the first dancer to dance or die this magnificent, brutal, shattering three-minute solo. There she stood with a heart pounding full of fear, anger and despair, the tiny blonde, seemingly fragile Marlis surrounded by death, as if frozen alive. Then on one distinctive note in the music she drops to the ground as if she had fainted. A split second later, she stands ready to battle against her unescapable fate. Death. Her movements were strong, fierce, dynamic. On and on she fought while the driving, ecstatic music penetrated through every pore of her sweat soaked, convulsing body. I stepped out of the group, my legs taking me all the way down to stage front when I then dared walk across the stage with my eyes glued to the victim. I suffered every moment with her. The rest of the compassionate, focused ensemble stayed upstage, slowly, individually breaking out of its tight form. I was the only one who caught Marlis, from the front. As if in an epileptic fit, Marlis began ecstatically beating and slapping herself repeatedly, knocking or wiping out whatever life was left inside her until finally, and on the very last note of the music, her arms outstretched she fell face down into the earth dead!

I remember at the end of the solo running out of the studio sobbing, unable to bear the terror and intensity of the moment. I had to escape. Oh, my God. I really thought Marlis was dead, or could be, and it seemed so unbelievably real.

Some years later, the honor of dancing this merciless solo was bestowed upon me – not the classical ballet dying swan in feathered tutu, which I had dreamed of dancing as a young Australian Ballet dancer but that of the sacrificial virgin clad in nothing but a simple, transparent red chiffon dress. Here I was faced with the opposite of what I’d been taught in classical ballet – pull up, stretch your feet, always look beautiful and fairy-light. This solo is not a dance solo but a real happening, and is something so far away from the ethereal, codified world of ballet. The weighty, pulsive movements are heavy, almost all masculine, haunting, deep, and animalistic while the accents in the music and the choreography told me instinctively to go down, down, down. It’s another kind of beauty. I was thinking too much about the perfection of the steps and the technique instead of becoming the victim, allowing myself to become united with that ever-driving, powerful, brilliant Stravinsky score. “Plant those feet of yours deeper into the earth, Jo, so that your upper body and limbs can be free to stretch out in all directions. Fight, Jo, go further, beyond the beyonds of your limits of not only physical motion but also your emotions. Only then will you master your death.”

I danced this solo for many years and remember having coughing fits for weeks after a long Sacre tour. A long hot shower after the performance to ease muscle, bone and body pain was heavenly. One had to scrub and scrub away the residue of soil as it had crept into my ears, up my nose, under my fingernails, between my toes and in my underpants. All this belongs to dancing Sacre – the pain, the dirt, the exhaustion, but the joy and elation as well.

“Sacre” in Senegal, filmed in “Dancing Pina”, 2022.

Florian Heinzen-Ziob

No doubt this idea of re-staging and producing Sacre will be a great challenge. Sponsors had to be found, of course, but: “Yes. Let’s tackle it.” I was sure Pina would think the same way. Pina who never shied away from daring. I would indeed love to work to support the dancers in Africa with everything necessary to make it possible. It would be a wonderful gift. After this project my untiring goal of serving Pina would be fulfilled, knowing that I had given everything to her art and the beauty of it.

Africans are born and bred with dance, ritual, ascendants, and sacrifice being part of African tradition, and if anyone can dance Pina’s Sacre it’s the Africans. Sacre, with all its themes of sexism, primal fury, and rhythm at the heart and soul of the piece. In Sacre, everything is united: strength, brutality, violence, grace, vulnerability, and tradition. In dance we will be united. It is not about the color of your skin.
I wonder if I will find a suitable African dancer for this technically killing solo. I will need not just one candidate but at least three, as the number of tours and performance are many. Or is the solo not really about technique but about something else of more vital importance and the technique secondary? Or is it both? Where do the weight and balance lie? In its conviction.
A stage full of soil or naked earth. I wonder where these tons of earth necessary for Sacre will be shipped from. Does Africa have the right colored peat? The earth we dance on is so important. In Wuppertal its consistency was carefully inspected and controlled before each performance. If it was too moist, dancers had massive trouble slipping or falling on entrances, which is really embarrassing if it happened to you while, on the other hand, if too dry, you found yourself in trouble breathing.
What I know about Africa – mosquitoes, malaria, hot spicy foods, beautiful men and women, bodies, baby slings, earrings, beads, bracelets, big gleaming eyes, bright colours, runny snotty children’s noses, music, drums, breath-taking sunrises, hyenas hunting for food, skinny stray chickens running around, hip hop, street dance, starry nights, pitch black, more mosquitoes and scorching hot sun which certainly won’t be good for my skin nor make me any prettier looking – am I right, Pina? “Yes, Pina, I will be careful of the sun and wear a sun hat. You can watch from up there, Pina.”
Hopefully the main rehearsal period won’t be in a biblical rain or huge storm season. I hope they speak English, but I guess French is more common. And maybe when I am finished, I could go on safari through the wilderness and see gorillas, wild elephants, and chimpanzees. Sacred Bao Bab trees.
Casting turned out to be the casting adventure of a lifetime with my colleagues Jorge and Julie. It was held in December 2019 and took place in three different countries: Abidjan on the Ivory Coast, Ouagadougou in West Africa, and in Senegal Dakar. It was so hot we rained sweat. Dancers were invited from all over Africa to take part and from the circa 160 applicants, we were set to choose 38 dancers. Truth be told, I think most of the African dancers had not even heard the name Pina Bausch, or Stravinsky. Does this matter in the end? It was exhausting and so different for us. Did I say exhausting – is there an existing word in English which means three times over exhausting? – but it was completely thrilling. I was getting addicted to it and to the dancers, and so were my colleagues. Working on Sacre in Africa had top priority. I hoped I would not get eaten alive by mosquitos.
I arrived home on a blustering Wednesday morning after the three-week casting – like I said, three times over-exhausted and just two days before Xmas, only to queue up in long supermarket shopping lines to make Christmas look, taste and feel like Christmas. No time for baking cookies, Christmas cake or plum pudding this year-round. Sorry, my darlings, mummy is just too tired.
In the meantime, great news! Hoorah! Sponsors have been found – sponsors with money for the Sacre in Africa.

On 2nd February 2020, I flew back to Dakar with other colleagues to begin on a new, emotional territory task upon tasks. Altogether we were eight persons involved in this project: Jorge and me as artistic directors, and Ditta, Clementine, Barbara, Julie, Kenji and Çağdaş assisting. We were mostly only three, to keep costs as low as possible for the rehearsal periods. Rehearsals took place at the École des Sables.

This truly beautiful school was founded in 2004 by the Benin-born and Senegal-raised Germaine Acogny and her German husband Helmut Vogt. Germaine is well known all over the world not only as a dancer and important person but is considered the mother of contemporary African dance.

Amy Collé Seck

Maarten Vanden Abeele

Germaine is now 80 years old. She is incredible – generous, brave, and full of energy. She is so very disciplined she goes power marching on the beach in front of her house every single morning in the early hours, even with her 80 years old aches and pains. A film team was on site to capture and document the work process for four weeks.
I was by far the oldest and greyest on board the African Sacre project and if I think about it, I am the oldest person still teaching Sacre that I know. The only original dancer left teaching. A dinosaur. Sacre was created in 1975 which means 47 years ago if I am correct. Madness – better I don’t go into it. I am breaking historical records and may even go down in the Guinness book of records for this achievement.
Our rehearsal days were tough – long but necessary – six rigorous days a week with class from 9 a.m. till 10 a.m. and rehearsal from 10.00 a.m. till 13.00 p.m. Then lunch break and rest. But resting time was mostly for thinking, or meeting with the team, or organizing, and then we continued rehearsals from 16.30 p.m. till 19.00 p.m. Most rehearsals went overtime. On Saturdays we worked half a day. Thank God. We each had at least two 2-litre bottles of water. Sweat just poured off us. Drip. Drip. Drip. Feet were burning hot with blisters as the sun shone down on the black dance floor. Several of the dancers had cut raw feet and were forced to take off necessary healing days. The soles of my feet were cracking.

Together we ate the canteen food cooked on site by African women. A bell rang when lunch or dinner was ready. In my life, I have never seen such hungry dancers. It is true, yes, dancers need and love to eat, but they filled their plates so full of food that there was no plate left to be seen. Food consisted mostly of chicken, sometimes fish and rice and vegetables and to drink was freshly made delicious ginger or bissap-hibiscus juice. The room was hot. The food did get a bit boring and sometimes was a little on the yucky side. I had something like continual diarrhoea during my whole stay, which was good for losing weight. I lost three or four kilos.
Thank goodness our hotel was only a five-minute walk from the studio and from the outside it could have passed with four stars, but my shower was either only cold or only scorching hot. And if I complained the manager said they had repaired it. Repairing it so that when my shower functioned meant that the rest of my colleagues subsequently had inherited my problem, but at least I could enjoy my shower. Once or twice, I took a bath in a colleague’s room where I filled it with branches of eucalyptus leaves to ease my aching body. Ditta and I were always exhausted – but exhausted in a kind of proud way which somehow makes the exhaustion worthwhile.
We each brought our own mosquito nets from Germany and thank goodness we did as the ones offered by the Hotel were full of holes. Any buzzing, annoying mosquitoes still alive were splatted; even they seemed tired, lazy, slow, or old, or they were in my colleagues’ rooms having a small feast on their blood and not mine. Left over remnants of dried blood marks remained on walls and ceilings. Eeeeh!
We did have the choice of either an old rattling fan or rattling air conditioning, which was often so loud you just had to turn it off and spend another sleepless night or the electricity just cut itself out and you then were faced with sweating in your sleep, as if it wasn’t enough to have been sweating the whole day long.
Ever-present Wi-Fi and Internet was difficult or too expensive for the hotel manager to have 24 hours per day, so he just cut it down to four-hour availability and made up some excuse. Overall, it was back to basics which I have nothing against.
A mini supermarket was 25 minutes walking distance from our hotel. By mini I mean it stored roughly 30 items. I went for ice-cream, extra-large packet of chips, nuts and that was it, but mostly I was too tired to walk the sandy street.
I loved my big bed. If only I could have stayed longer on that bed – paused and rested my weary body – but no, Jo. Over breakfast each morning at 7:30, we chatted mostly over the Sacre planning of the day as if it were some kind of restaurant menu. We did laugh a lot.
In Africa, everything is coming soon. The definition of soon meaning anything up to a delay of any amount of time. Coffee in the hotel was hard to swallow but we came prepared and brought our own suitcase packed coffee from Germany. Clementine squeezed the Bodo Plunger into her suitcase. This got us off to a good start for the rest of the long, stifling hot days of 40 degrees and over – until the barkeeper broke it. He was so upset and afraid to lose his job that he was almost in tears. We said it’s okay we won’t report it to the boss. From then on, we drank their coffee or Nescafe. Oh, what the hell, it was only a coffee machine.
The great thing about the hotel was that it was only a footstep away from the ocean and if one wasn’t too exhausted in the midday break, one could go for a swim, which was just bliss. We were told it could be dangerous. But, after those rehearsals, I just needed to do something good for ME, danger or no danger. I almost drowned twice in that ocean.
I was alone and all by myself at the time. No one would have missed me!!!
My actual 70th birthday was in Senegal on Saturday 14th March, the very day of the afternoon when the devastating news of the virus reached us, thus making my birthday doubly unforgettable. Ever since day one I had been called “Mama Jo” by all dancers. Mama Jo appeared in the studio for our usual morning rehearsal when the dancers began singing and yelling “Mama Jo – Mama Jo.” Those dancers were loud, very loud. They took me and threw me into the air and then tipped bottles of cold water over me. It was great fun. I loved it. Always did want to be thrown into the air like that, like some kind of famous soccer star who had just kicked the golden goal.
After things had calmed down and Jo was dry our plan was to do our very first run-through of Sacre. How exciting for all involved, as first run-throughs are always special – adrenaline is at an extremely high level. It went well really well. Of course, there were still massive lots of corrections, but the Sacre feeling was there before my eyes. Germaine was emotionally shaken up. I took her in my arms and hugged her. It was a very important happening and not just because of the piece. There was so much more behind it.
Six long weeks we worked like animals when all future planned guest performances in London, Paris, Wuppertal, and Amsterdam were cancelled. Covid came along just 10 days before our planned premiere and ruined everything – put a stop to all theatre or dance projects on my calendar – and a full stop to my Africa project. The announcement? All public gatherings and performances forbidden. Oh, my God, it’s good that Pina didn’t have to experience this. I felt robbed. Merde. Merde. Merde!
We met immediately with Germaine Acogny, Helmut Vogt and all the others in the team for a crisis talk. What to do and how to communicate this devastating news to the dancers? My stomach had dropped down on to the ground. I had turned white as a ghost.
Nevertheless, my birthday was celebrated in the hotel that evening with all the African dancers. I drank champagne and three glasses of gin and tonic to drown my sorrows. Three delicious creamy cakes arrived. I ate a huge piece from each of the three. I danced like crazy with lots of them. I was happy on one side but inside I was crying buckets. I left the party, like Cinderella at midnight, but couldn’t fall asleep.
Another crisis-meeting early next morning. At least the film crew could film. We decided to do two run-throughs – one in the studio and one directly afterwards on the beach in the sand. The idea was nice in the moment from another perspective: the film would be made with the ocean behind, the blue sky above, and wind blowing up and through the dancers’ dresses. The natural light as the sun diminished waved us goodbye as we heard waves crashing. Evenings are chilly in Senegal, and we were so very tired.

Germaine Acogny

Antoin Tempé

By now we felt the cold from the vast ocean set in. A few stray people were walking on the beach. A donkey. Some curious kids were playing football a short distance away. Everything was quite improvised from our side, but at least all this was recorded and filmed, so, we have this to cherish and hold on to. The dancers danced as if it was their first and last Sacre as borders were closing all over the world.

Suddenly, it was uncertain just when most dancers, re-stagers, and crew would be able to fly home. Dancers’ passports sat in Paris waiting for visas for the planned European tours. Six dancers were left waiting for weeks and three had to remain at the École des Sables for another two months. I packed and flew home on almost the last flight out of Dakar to my family in Germany. It was kind of terrifying.
The patient, loving, English woman from Sadler’s Wells named Ghislaine Granger kept in Zoom contact with me and the rest of the re-staging team. She hadn’t given up yet even if she was on her 48th or 52nd planning and re-re -planning of the rehearsal schedule with dancers, and even on her 86th budget planning. I had lost the logistic nightmare track as there have been numerous scheduled hopes of “if” and “ifs” and “this time” where you almost believed it just might happen. Anyway, nothing had happened till now but who knows, maybe the 53rd schedule! One of the planned question mark venues was the Dome in Paris which seats 4,600 spectators. The Beatles performed there, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Eric Clapton, and many others but no it didn’t happen. Ghislaine was sent on “furlough”, as were the many dedicated behind-the-scenes people involved with nitty gritty organizing things like visas, tour dates, costumes, stage, lighting, where the soil coming from, or does it have to be shipped from Europe to Africa.
Dealing with the many “if options” was super challenging as is motivating yourself and keeping dancers mentally and physically alive and committed. These tours don’t just happen. All theatres, artists and co-producers are suffering desperately to survive. Some will never recover. Each cancellation is disheartening, but one should not give up hope, though I must say it is depressing the longer it continues. The budget for the project has suffered desperately from the effects of the never ending “invisible monster,” Covid.
Our faithful partners and co-production partners are still out there: Sadler’s Wells, Foundation Pina Bausch, Théâtre de la Ville, École des Sables, the project grant-aided by the Federal Cultural Foundation Germany and the Ministry for Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia and supported by Tanztheater Wuppertal, all still on bord.
Before going to bed, I still picture these unforgettable, courageous dancers in my mind, feel them in my heart, imprinted in my brain. I clearly see their strong gleaming faces, their wild fear, pulsing, sweating, long-limbed beautiful bodies contracting and contorting, speaking out to me loud and clear, and tenderly vulnerable. Sometimes they haunt me in my sleep.
I wondered if we ever would get to perform it. What am or was I to do? I doubted my ability to participate. I am rusting away already. How shall I keep fit when studios are shut down, swimming pools; people told to stay home. I have no work to keep me motivated. I can’t freeze my age and stay 70, the age I was when it was supposed to happen. I wish I could. In February 2022, there was a planned tour to Adelaide, Australia. Realistically, I don’t see any future for Sacre touring until 2022.
Like I said, this African re-staging of Pina’s iconic piece Sacre was to be my “very last heart project.” I really wanted to end my days of Tanztheater with this African Sacre. My final farewell to Pina Bausch.
The toll on dancers was steep as Covid ground into its second devastating year. The continual cancellations were starting to depress me. Lockdown after light lockdown then back to lockdown or shutdown or shut up and put up with another year of restrictions: testing, temperature checks, wearing masks, cleaning protocols, vaccinations – difficult to believe anything you read on the internet or in newspapers.
“Hey Corona or Covid or Delta or Omicron or whatever your name is – can’t you just go away and leave us and the world in peace? You have done enough damage already.”
After my forced break away from African Sacre I decided to undergo a second hip replacement ending up under the knife and in the hands of my surgeon just 6 weeks before the go-ahead of our re-re-re-rehearsal next period and re-re-re-begin of Sacre. My doctors’ advice was, “nothing before 3 months Mrs. Endicott.” I answered “Yes, I promise” but I broke my promise and flew back to Dakar and straight on to the École des Sables to re-re-teaching and re-re-re-doing all the Sacre movements with my marvellous new hip. Naughty, naughty girl.

It was a miracle, but one and a half years later, and one new hip replacement the wiser, we did finally performed Sacre to a sold-out house on September 23, 2021, at Teatros del Canal. Sometime during my Orpheus odyssey, I flew to Madrid to watch and celebrate the World Premiere of Sacre and Common Grounds with African dancers. Yes. Yes. Yes. I was overwhelmed. It was brilliant and brilliant is a word I have never used in all my life. I was shaking all over and crying full of pride and happiness for them and our long struggle of cancellations and of waiting and waiting to do it. The following day I woke at 5 a.m. to fly back to Wuppertal to continue my end-stage rehearsals of Orpheus, while the Africans continued their tour to Denmark, Austria, and Luxembourg. The tour to Australia to open the Adelaide Festival was confirmed for the beginning of 2022, but unfortunately, I couldn’t go with them as the Tanztheater Orpheus overlapped with a tour in Fürth, Bavaria. This hurt more than a little, but what could I do! My colleague Clementine Deluy has now taken over from me as Artistic Director. Naomi came down with Covid and couldn’t make it to Fürth, so Pau danced all performances. Plus, one of my main girls rang on the day we were leaving. This is when iPads are truly wonderful. We just gave the Orpheus iPad to the replacement dancer on the 5-hour train trip, and by the time we arrived, she had an idea of what she had to do. And thank the Lord she turned out to be surprisingly lovely.

After Fürth, I spent 5 short days at home before joining Anne Martin and Jorge Puerta on yet another Bausch production titled Gebirge in the historical city of Lyon, France. This was somewhere around the beginning of May 2022. It was so darned hot. Lovely city with those two rivers, the Rhone and Saône, and ever so many classy and non-classy super restaurants, cheap and expensive to dine and spend time, if you have time. The best baguettes ever – consisting out of flour, warm water, salt, yeast, magical kneading hands and handed-down secrets- simple as that. 2021 it received UNESCO heritage status.

P.S. End of 2022 the emotionally intense film Dancing Pina by director Florian Heinzen-Ziob had its world premiere. Watch it if you can. A testament which captures two iconic timeless works of Pina filmed in two different continents of the world: Iphigenie auf Tauris danced by highly skilled ballet dancers of Dresden, and filmed in the luxurious, early Renaissance-Baroque Semperoper and the other piece being Sacre which was performed by hip hop, street, and traditional contemporary African dancers filmed in the tiny fishing village in Toubab Dialaw, in coastal Senegal. YEAH!

AND. On 21st of January 2023 Florian and the Foundation filmed the African Sacre while it was performed in the hometown of Bausch in Wuppertal. Seven spectacular performances with 25 minutes of thunderstorm applause and standing ovation. Happiness pure. And so grateful the dancers. I am so proud of them all. Both girls who danced the solo were indescribably, fearfully, unbelievably wonderful. Intoxicating! So that’s great to have as a lifetime memory. YEAH! YEAH!

“Sacre” in Senegal, filmed in “Dancing Pina” by Florian Heinzen-Ziob

Florian Heinzen Ziob


No piece by Pina is easy to re-stage and teach to a new company, but I knew before we even began that we would run into some tough and difficult times with Gebirge. That is not its real title but because it is such a mouthful – On Top of the Mountain a Cry Was Heard –we just call it Gebirge instead, which in English would be “mountain”. Titles and names are indeed important, and Pina’s pieces were for her, in some ways, like giving birth. Everything she conceived flowed into every one of her works. Each piece allowed for growth and was of vital importance.
The real or correct title is taken from the Bible, Matthew 2, 18. The stage floor is covered fully with dark colored earth and was designed by Peter Pabst. There are handfuls of mighty powerful images, one of them being to Mendelssohn’s War March of priests where one female and one male are chased like a pack of hungry wolves by two groups of four men and forced to kiss. It is repeated and repeated. The running in the earth is difficult. There is no escape. Some scenes are shrouded in a mist of fog with dancers crawling in a clever unison choreography in the dirt. The piece is underlined with panic and threatening, desperate, haunting moments. A group of nine women enter the stage as a group. They sit in a horizontal line in the earth in their summer street dresses. A man in trousers and white shirt enters – places his hands on the back of one woman and gently sways the group of women until another man arrives and forces each one of them to say the word “uncle”. He is vicious with them, squashing and twisting their bodies into all sorts of positions almost pressing the word “uncle” out of them. Some scenes feel and are long. There are now-and-again flashes, humorous moments, and scenes, but also bittersweet and sad scenes. Dance is minimal. The piece is slowly paced and close to three hours long. Rather exhausting to watch. The printed program sold at each performance includes photos with names of the original cast and the cast of the current performance, a music list and credits of all contributors involved, and a short description of the piece or a list of some of the questions Pina had asked during the evolution of the piece. In general Pina never wanted to be too concrete about saying what her pieces were about. Dance is a language beyond words. She preferred to leave this up to the fantasy of the viewer to discover what effect the piece arose in him or herself.

For the program of Gebirge in Lyon there was a two-page text from the Wuppertal born writer, journalist Raimund Hoghe who was engaged by Pina as collaborator, dramaturg from 1980 until 1989 or was it 1990? His task as dramaturg being no doubt “Pina personal” to help Pina just like everything with everyone else was. They discussed for hours upon hours after rehearsals. Later, Raimund went on to search his own artistic inner calling, his aesthetic path as a choreographer and dancer courageous enough to create solos for himself and others. Raimund was born with a severe curvature of the spine and reached only 1 metre 65 cm tall. Normally you would never see this kind of body on a stage, but it does have its own beauty of a very fine human being. He was successful and has been awarded many prizes for his books and theatre pieces. Once Raimund left the Tanztheater, the position was left vacant.

Our workshop was short. Finding the right dancers who might fit into the main roles was risky. Who could step into the terrifying role of Jan Minarik who the first person to dance it and who remains in this role next to irreplaceable. We tried almost all male dancers but weren’t convinced. The only man we saw as a vague possibility was Roylan Ramos, a person of color from Cuba with an extremely muscular, beautiful body, who took time learning the role but made quite a good job of it. The costume alone that he wore included neon orange swimming trunks, neon red bathing cap, black rubber shoes, a rubber band around his head distorting and deforming his nose, and neon red gloves! Would you dare to go on stage knowing that? This was an acting role. Next, we asked ourselves. “Who could fit into the special, delicate male roles of Jakob Andersen, Jean Laurent Sasportes, Lutz Förster, or Dominique Mercy, to name a few. If I think about Jakob, who is Danish, I immediately see his strong-featured distinguished face, his long neck, bald shapely head, his very long arms, and not an ounce of fat anywhere on that long body of his. He is a highly intelligent person with a strong personality who plays the piano and sings. The things he did in the pieces were mostly instigated from his answers to Pina’s questions, of which there were many of during the creation of Gebirge. I guess you could say he was the author of himself with Pina’s help. This kind of role belongs to him because he created it.

Jean Sasportes is another kettle of fish. Jean came to Pina in 1979 and was born in Casablanca. He has an interesting face and body and laughing, sparkling dark eyes, crooked teeth, and a charming smile. Also, a great sense of humor and a lot of fantasy. Everybody just seems to like Jean. He is a pleasant person. Jean is extremely funny on stage. In Gebirge he comes on carrying a wooden chair, an old enamel bucket half filled with water, 2 or 3 cups and a plastic bottle of washing up detergent. A long colourful scarf is fixed on his head giving the impression he has long hair. He is wearing a tatty old lacy bra and outside, where the nipples would be, hang two sagging, shriveled-up balloons in green and pink. His belly is bare. Tucked into his underpants are five or six more long, silvery transparent and colorful scarves, a packet of cigarettes and lighter. Grotesque, oriental, absurd, to say the least. He begins washing up the cups looking out into the public in a completely bored manner just like your typical bored-to- death housewife while his bra straps keep on slipping off his shoulder and his long-haired scarf continually bothers him. He is not doing much other than washing-up the dishes and looking, but the little he does is so wonderful. It’s never over or under done. He just does it and can do it and get away with it with flying colors because he is Jean.

All these four dancers are individuals and of strong character. Their presence instantly fills the stage just by entering, and before they have even begun to do anything. There are no short cuts in filling out these roles.

On the other hand, a few of the other dancers cast had very little to do. Some were only in group scenes which were few and far between. Those who only sit around during rehearsals get bored. It only needs one or two to spoil the work atmosphere. There were indeed a few tough days when you needed to have a little chat with those unhappy dancers. We did what we could as best we could. I was happy with what we achieved and glad to see this striking, yet disturbing piece come back to life with the dancers of Lyon.


After her death, Pina’s son Salomon, born in 1981, who had been studying law, founded, and brought to life The Pina Bausch Foundation. His aim was to keep his mother’s legacy and dance-historical heritage alive, to continue to cultivate her works, spread her artistic message and carry it forward worldwide. To take care and safeguard it. Salomon is Chairman of the Board of Directors. All copyrights to the pieces and choreographies are owned by the Foundation, which occasionally grants licenses allowing other companies to acquire and perform Pina’s works, as it did during Pina’s lifetime with the Paris Opera before her death. Until 1996, Pina Bausch works had been danced exclusively and solely by the Wuppertal Tanztheater. Her answer to anyone wanting a piece was always a definite “No!” or perhaps “Call me back in another few years” or “keep trying” or just don’t answer. Pina was never quick in making difficult, delicate decisions especially when it came to selling off anyone of her pieces but in the end, the prestigious historical Paris Opera Garnier became the first ones to get lucky.

Salomon Bausch

Uwe Schinkel

Like everything else it was not only a trust thing but for sure a money thing as Bausch pieces isn’t cheap. Pina and Brigitte were old friends from the past from her New York Times. I think this may have had an influence on her decision. Brigitte is a wonderful speaker.
The content of Pina’s works, like her huge artistic legacy is complex, diverse, multi-layered, and confusing, it seems almost impossible to imagine. The archive includes materials for all 40 to works, thousands of photos, videos, programs, recording notes, booklets, DVDs, manuscripts, notes, posters and interviews, dancers’ notes, direction books, and all costume and stage design references.
The cooperation between the Tanztheater and the Foundation is of fundamental importance. The first big Foundation event was in 2016. A large, first-time exhibition of installations, photographs, video footage and documents, was held at the famous Bundeskunsthalle Bonn (Art and Exhibition Hall of Bonn) in Pina’s honor. Visitors participated in dance workshops, performances, and discussions, and were allowed to view the Heart of the exhibition – a replica or reconstruction of our rehearsal room called the Lichtburg.

Pina Bausch in “Danzon”, 1995

Ursula Kaufmann

In the entrance area – in an endless loop on a huge screen, a cut-out video extract of four to five minutes of Pina dancing in Danzon. The premiere was on 13th May 1995 in the Opera House. Here she danced her beautiful, calm, soft, flowing arm-dance, dressed very simply in the aloof way we knew her best, wearing her every-day wide black pants, a thin black woolen sweater with a V-neck amidst an unforgettable, larger than life video clip of many large, tropical fish called piranhas swimming behind her, which gave the impression of swallowing her up. I watched it many times; there is just something in the way she moves which attracts me to her so deeply. And the more often you watch her the more fascinating she becomes.

“Nelken” by Pina Bausch, 1982

Ursula Kaufmann

I opened the workshop with the famous dance sequence of The Four Seasons – Frühling, Sommer, Herbst, Winter (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) from the 1982 piece, Carnations, with participants who were willing and able. The music was the orchestral score of West-End Blues and performed by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five in 1928. It was fun and after one hour, I had everyone following me bravely through the eye-catching Bundeskunsthalle to the beat of the music. The same exhibition was subsequently hosted at Berlin’s Neo-Renaissance exhibition space Martin-Gropius-Bau. Later, in 2016, the Foundation launched The Nelken Line. The site went online as a worldwide tutorial for any participants, organizations, families, friends who were interested to learn or even start their own sites to share videos with others. People love to do it.
Salomon is an unstoppable worker. Handsome. Young. Has his mother’s eyes. It is a huge job that he has there with the Foundation. Huge is not even a big enough word for the responsibility resting on his shoulders. Over the years, I have done quite a few of restaging older piece productions for the Foundation. Whenever he calls it’s like “Oh no! What does he want me to teach or do next?” In this way he is very similar to his mother and Jo still hasn’t learnt to say “No.”
There has been a lot of talk about whether these older pieces should be performed any longer or if it just wouldn’t be better to make good quality DVDs of former performances. Some pieces I would say “yes” but others not. It depends on many, many things, and it seems to me that it’s the older, cherished pieces that companies of the world are asking for.

Nowadays, thanks to Salomon Bausch and the Foundation Pina’s pieces have been entrusted to other companies of the world: Sacre at the English National Ballet and For the children of yesterday, today, and tomorrow at Bavarian State Ballet Munich in 2016; Pina’s first dance-opera Iphigenie in Tauris from 1974 to the Semper opera theatre in 2019; Gebirge in Opera theatre Lyon and Kontakthof at the Paris Opera in 2022. Last, but not least, was Sacre at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, with dancers of the Staatsballett, the highlight of the June 2023 season, as it was at the Adelaide Festival in South Australia in March 2022.
After many long, weary discussions Salomon has received the official green light to go ahead for the realization of the Pina Bausch Centre, a cultural space for art, exhibitions, archives, workshops, creativity, and a meeting place for the world. This is just wonderful. Completion is envisaged for 2026 or 2027, with an estimated cost of anything between 58 million and 140 million Euros! I saw the plans – amazing, super modern, attractive, but I wonder if this would please Pina, or frighten her? They are not just figures but serious figures.

Any teaching or re-staging work I do for the Foundation or the Tanztheater I take more than seriously. With much enthusiasm, I commit myself time and time again to carry Pina’s legacy onward with grace and meaning. When involved in a revival of the older pieces I like to think I am not only keeping Pina alive but also “my” colleagues from back them. It can be a kind of lonely job at times, even when things become frantic.

I think that as long as the soul of the pieces and Pina’s spirit remains it is possible to re-stage pieces. It’s a pity Pina could not see all these new casts. I am sure she would have told them how beautiful they were and how much she loved them. Dancing Pina’s works for dancers is a kind of life changing discovery of oneself. Kontakthof is one of the pieces that theatregoers would like to have.


“Kontakthof” by Pina Bausch, 1978 and “Kontakthof – Resumption Tanztheater Wuppertal”

Ursula Kaufmann

There is something unbreakable or immortal in Kontakthof with its range of nostalgic, bestseller taped songs from the 1920s and 1930s and its themes of tenderness, relationships, and life experiences. Whether for young, old, professional, or amateur, this piece has remained as strong in its choreography and intention as it ever has. Not only do I feel like I have danced it for a thousand years but have been teaching it for two thousand and one years.
Kontakthof is cherished and loved by all audiences in whatever version they watch. It is so important for dancers to do pieces like this so that they can just learn to be and wear themselves, and not just dancing for the sake of dancing, dancing in sleek, slender, tight satin dresses and mind-boggling high-heeled shoes with your hair hanging loose and whirling around with you all the time. Who wouldn’t feel special. What a treat! In the Australian Ballet Company, I remember dancing mostly in tutus, hair pulled back tightly in a bun, pink tights and pointe shoes, plastered on make-up, false eyelashes, hair pins sticking into your scalp sometimes. No swans – no princes – nor airy fairies.
I love the music and those sad, old fashioned love songs and their wording.
Springtime and Sunshine, that slow-tempo song by Spanish composer-conductor Juan Llossas, is repeated several times throughout the piece – it almost chokes you. I will try a little translation of the German song for you:

Springtime and sunshine.
Shall your love be for me?
What I never dared to dream.
That is what your kiss told me.
Springtime and sunshine.
Are you alone?
And till the end of my days,
I remain yours.

There are also tangos and the beautiful Valse triste from the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Even the “Harry Lime Theme” from The Third Man movie, by the Austrian composer Anton Karas, to which all of us on stage hummed along, and other songs that make you chuckle and smile.

Meryl Tankard and I were the original two pink girls of 1978. Meryl was in an attractive blue satin dress, and I was in a tight pinkie-red satin one. The set resembled a pale grey dance hall with three doors, one large window, a black piano, and an old, electric carousel horse. Thirty-two chairs and twenty-six individuals were on stage. The personalities of each performer were vital to the piece. My tight red dress was soaked in my sweat by the end of the 3-hour game of love. The few moments I wasn’t on stage, I was off to change my hairstyle or touch up what was left of my make-up. In one scene Meryl followed me in big circles with her beautiful legs and feet. We strutted the stage in tight black dresses on the musical beat like sisters on very high half-pointe, in synchrony, while with our right hand we made tiny little pinching movements, as if our underwear was too tight. We were so pulled up from the waist that we could hardly breathe. I walked around that circle six times. Meryl dropped out after the second circle but joined me later. The balls of my feet were killing me.
Another much-loved scene was when twenty-five charming, fascinating foreigners sit downstage in a row as close to the audience as possible on those famous black wooden chairs which are to be seen in many Pina pieces. Each foreigner each told a short story, convincingly interesting, happy or sad love story from their life in their native language. Another man went randomly from one to the other holding a microphone close to twenty-five love stories in about fifteen languages. It did not really matter whether you understood the story or not – just watching those different faces light up was entertaining enough. It felt like one was almost inviting the audience to tell their story.
Probably the most touching scene towards end of the piece was when Meryl stood on stage sad, lost, and lonely. One of the men tentatively walked towards her, touching her gently on the shoulder. Another came and patted her tenderly on her cheek. A third man entered, a fourth, fifth, sixth till all twelve men are touching and caressing her. Their gestures of tenderness accelerated and gradually turned into a groping, fumbling, dirty touching, and poking of Meryl all over. They swarmed around her like bees attacking an apple. Meryl just stood there, tears welling up inside her and bore it up to the verge of being unbearable. There is a clever change in the music, and the men follow the next woman candidate, while Meryl sadly picked up one shoe, which had been removed during the scene. This scene is difficult to watch in any version of Kontakthof, but when the young 14-year-old girl, Kim, stood there, it was even more hideous, unbearable to swallow. I remember on a tour, someone from the audience calling out: “Stop it. Leave her alone.”

YEAR OF 2000

In the millennium year of 2000 Pina asked Beatrice Libonati and me to restage Kontakthof with amateur senior citizens over the age of 65. Pina was extremely busy working with the company and entrusted all responsibility to us. The premiere of Senior Kontakthof was planned for February 2000, so we began in 1999, knowing how slow this process might happen to be. No-one could foresee just how successful, heart-warming, and ever-so-touching and soothing it was watching these 26 elderlies, normal, everyday people of all shapes and sizes on stage performing their Kontakthof. We toured through so many countries for almost twelve years, all SOLD OUT. I found them unexpectedly powerful, courageous, and authentic, and they brought something even more human/e than technique into the piece. I loved and respected the Seniors’ Kontakthof and learnt so much about life along the way. Most of them were wartime children, and so I got to hear lots of stories about their childhoods. It was fun touring with them; they were like a bubbling bunch of kids running off to this or that museum, famous sites, market halls and restaurants. Some had seldom been out of Wuppertal. Having breakfast in the hotel with them was hilarious. Many were not able to cope with the crispy French baguettes due to their false teeth. Some of the wiser ones had brought from home their own good, healthy German bread.

“Kontakthof – With ladies and gentlemen over 65” by Pina, 2000

Ursula Kaufmann

I was also the replacement dancer for any one of the women when injured or feeling unwell. On several occasions I was thrown on. I tried my best not to stand out as a dancer. No way did I want to steal their show. During one of the performances I danced, one of the seniors lost his false teeth for a short, embarrassing moment during one of the more physical scenes; he just picked his teeth up and put them back into his mouth and continued like a real professional. I almost cracked up when I saw those teeth lying on the floor.
Beatrice Libonati had left the production some years before and I continued with Bénédicte Billiet. All good things come to an end, but when we announced the date of their last performance of Kontakthof with Ladies and Gentlemen over the age of 65 we felt like we were breaking their hearts. Indeed, some almost did, and several were closer to 80. I felt rotten having to spread this news but thought it better to finish when on top of the wave.
Pina had developed a special place in her heart for these Seniors and to the premiere performance of each tour she sent a short, personal, handwritten letter to be delivered, or a rose which was handed out to every senior before the show, wishing them success and joy, and thanks. After she left us, the letters ceased.


In between the senior Kontakhofs and Teenager Kontakthof there was a mixed generation cast of performances with Tanztheater but I won’t count this to my list of Kontakthofs. Okay? In 2007 Pina came up with her next new brilliant idea and asked me in her sugar-honey-sweet way: “Joeylein, I must ask a big favour of you, which would make me so very happy and which only you can do – Kontakthof with teenagers.” I wasn’t keen at all, knowing how difficult adolescent children can be as I had gone through it with my own children, all the tears and quarrels my daughter and I had. Das hatte ich mit meinen eigenen Kindern durchgemacht, mit all den Tränen und Streitereien, die wir hatten. Puberty? I could run away just hearing the word! But my biggest downfall, something I never learnt, was how to say no to Pina.

“Kontakthof – With teenagers from 14” by Pina Bausch, 2008

Ursula Kaufmann

The Teenager Kontakthof was to be performed with school children from five different schools in Wuppertal. Three hundred screaming untamed teens took part in the workshop, but the number of teenagers we wanted to keep for the production was only 20 boys and 20 girls. Rehearsals were mostly Saturdays, and through the week I gave after school, solo rehearsals. The whole thing took a little more than one year and a half, sixty-five rehearsals with everyone and forty-five solo rehearsals. An intense week somewhere in the holiday period!
My whole life suddenly seemed to evolve around this Kontakthof. Pina came seldom to rehearsals in the Lichtburg and appeared only towards the end period on stage as she was just too busy with other things. For me, now sixteen years later, I say it was such a rewarding project watching these pubescent teenies transform from their shy, naïve, inexperienced, innocent, awkward, sensitive selves into amazing young adults – into young men and young ladies. By the end of the day, I was obsessed by it, never regretting one day or an unforgettable experience for all involved. I was grateful to have such a wonderful working partner beside me, Benedict Billiet. At times I felt that instead of having my own three children I now had another thirty. Parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, uncles, and aunties came to watch the premiere and were visibly amazed by their little darlings.


Ten years has lapsed since my last downloads of Kontakhofs when I was next asked by Tanztheater in 2021 to restage it this time with a fully new cast of younger dancers. And then came yet another, “yet another” Kontakthof which I finished re-staging in December 2022 with dancers of Paris Opera, but I won’t go into it as it’s just going to make this whole section too long and you really will think that I have nothing else better to do than teach Kontakthof. Shall I tell you something? There just might be another version of Kontakthof with Jo and whoever is still alive and feels capable of dancing it with dancers from the original cast from 1978. The wish is there. I hear five performances are planned in November 2024. Can you believe. I wonder if it will really happen. Maybe there really is a “Forever Young.”


That same year Pina created Café Müller. How I loved watching her in every performance she gave, dancing so completely there on stage utterly alone, for herself, to the magical lament from Henry Purcell’s opera, Dido and Aeneas which ends with these words.

When I am laid in earth,
may my wrongs create no trouble,
no trouble in thy breast.
Remember me, remember but ah,
forget my fate.

“Café Müller” by and with Pina Bausch, 1978

Ursula Kaufmann

She was the most musical dancer and choreographer that I had ever witnessed. In 1978, a small cast of five dancers and Rolf Borzik in a room full of empty coffee tables and simple black wooden chairs. Pina enters in silence in almost complete darkness wearing a long, pale pink petticoat. Her eyes are closed. She is very pale. Thin. Not an ounce of make-up. Barefooted. Ghost-like. Both arms slightly outstretched in front of her body as a protection from stumbling into any of the chairs and tables.

Shoulders are slightly raised. She carefully feels her way along the side wall while Rolf frantically throws, pushes, and pulls any obstacles out of her way for fear she may injure her delicate self. Her long brown hair is tied in a low ponytail. Her appearance is alarming, beautiful, serene, mysterious, untouchable, isolated. She slides down the wall to a sitting position and then falls in one piece to the right side.
Her feet and legs are not stretched or pointed but hang long in the air. The form is beautiful. She wanders backstage to the oversized glass door and then begins to move in her pure, full, and perfect way – a mass of endless, sensuously flowing limbs. Her presence is magnetic. Why are her eyes closed? Is she blind? Sleepwalking? Does she perhaps not want any more of the world and its problems? Or just be there to fulfil her long-awaited desire to dance?
Pina danced Café Muller for many years – the last time being three years prior to her death. I remember going to her before the performance and hugging her. I felt only bones. “Remember me.”
What was more beautiful than the sight of this beautiful woman Pina Bausch? There was something so pure and simple about her, so very full of giving and generosity. Lost in beauty and the words of the music and dance – in her element.


For the past 14 years, the Tanztheater has seemed lost and disoriented without Pina. There were five changes in the artistic direction and now going on to the sixth. Initially, two close confidants took over the artistic direction – the popular, well-known original company dancer Dominique Mercy, who had been associated with Pina since 1973, and Robert Sturm, her assistant since 1999. Both invested all their energy into their new position, but neither really knew how to continue with this seemingly impossible task of great expectation, and everyone was highly sensitive and critical. They really and truly tried, but with time they gave up.

Dominique Mercy

Claudia Kempf

Robert Sturm

Claudia Kempf

In April 2013, the leadership was handed over to the former long-time dancer, dance professor and Artistic Director of the Folkwang University of Art School, Lutz Förster who, approximately three years later, also gave up, leaving the Company with no artistic direction for six months. These six months were bridged by a repertoire team consisting of five long-standing older dancers until the next designated artistic director, Adolphe Binder, arrived. It felt strange having a new woman sitting in Pina’s chair.

Lutz Förster

Franko Schmidt

Intendant and Artistic Director Adolphe Binder immediately had a portrait of herself hung on the wall in front of Pina’s used-to-be bureau door and created a nice, colourful, comfortable sitting area in the office. She also had the entire hallway repainted, and all the old pictures in the hallway of the Tanztheater removed and replaced with new ones. There was never a photo of Pina hanging outside her door. It wasn`t necessary. Just a simple name sign was enough for her. Adolphe was quite impressive and very well spoken with experience, authority, diligence, and a different kind of aura. Good looking. She didn’t have Pina’s beauty (in my eyes no-one does) and she didn’t have her “see-thru you” eyes. Oh, Jo, stop comparing!
During her first season in May 2017, she whirled the Tanztheater around a lot and was full of energy, and new ideas of her own vision. She set positive impulses for the Company’s future by commissioning two full-length works – one by the Greek experimental theatre stage director and choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou, and another by the Norwegian choreographer, playwright, and director, Alan Lucien Oyen. Both were highly acclaimed artists. Adolphe engaged five to six inspiring, talented new dancers who fitted in wonderfully in the company. Many dancers and workers were positive about Adolphe but many also not. There was trouble and for whatever reasons, true or untrue, Adolphe was accused of bullying staff members of the Tanztheater and failing in her artistic task to create a feasible annual program. Her contract, which was meant to go until 2022, was terminated without notice with a legal dispute to follow. It went to court. Adolphe won the dispute after three trials, and her name was cleared, but it left a deep, non-erasable rift in the company. It not only hurt, but it also felt somehow dirty. Even worse, it damaged the reputation of our wonderful company, which was grounded on trust, respect, and love. It was horrible. I remained neutral and kept out of it as well as I could. There are always two sides to the truth. The managing financial director Dirk Hesse also resigned.

Adolphe Binder

Joakim Roos

After just one sad year of Adolphe, yet another chapter of change! In January 2019, the preferred candidate of the city of Wuppertal, Bettina Wagner-Bergelt, took over as General and Artistic Director with Roger Christmann acting as General and Managing Director. For both, it was clear that they only wanted to stay for two years with their contracts ending in July 2021. Once the two years were up the weary searching process continued, while the company remained in yet another unstable condition. They were down to four final candidates and then down to one, but he withdrew his application shortly before receiving his contract. Bettina and Roger remained one year longer while head-hunters continued their search for the next person to fill Pina’s place. Bettina and Roger had meant well for the company – but the company lacked unity.
Unfortunately, the company has lost quite a few of the better dancers whom Adolphe brought to the Company. Scott Jennings. Jonathan Fredrickson the wonderful young male American dancer. The gorgeous, red-haired Breanne O’Mara. Two more left this year, Oleg Stepanov and Ekaterina Shushakova. A huge pity for the Company, but like I said, the situation is, at present, not ideal. I understand their decision. The Tanztheater is just not moving forward. What a dilemma.

Bettina Wagner-Bergelt

Claudia Kempf

September 2022 yet another new director of Tanztheater was named. The internationally known artist, choreograph and performer Boris Charmatz. His contract is valid for the next 8 years. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed. I hear lots of rumours and gossip and contradictory opinions. I am curious and wonder if anyone will ever be able to rescue the fragile state of Tanztheater.
Nevertheless, the Tanztheater still exists and is successfully entering its forty-sixth, forty-seventh, or forty-eighth season. The youngest dancer is 23 years old and the oldest 67 years old.
The company has slowly become a four generation, wonder-of-the- world company – where many have never met Pina Bausch. Older dancers are attached to their roles and continue to dance in selected pieces – sometimes overreacting or taking it too personally when it comes to role replacement by a younger dancer. Of course, no one wants to hear those hurtful words blatantly spoken: “You’re too old to go on stage anymore,” but the time does come. This situation can become tiring, and everything must be discussed and considered carefully. Everyone needs to be treated with great care as was done once upon a time by Pina.
Pieces are continually being learned and passed on to younger, new generation members of the company, while the costumes, shoes, props, scenery, set design are safely stored and well looked after in a closely situated warehouse in case a work is brought back into the repertoire. Like this, the pieces can live on.
In the year of 2023 the Tanztheater will have written history by celebrating its 50th anniversary. Terrain Boris Charmatz”:

“It is just not the same without you Pina.”

Boris Charmatz

Caroline Ablain


Where should I begin, with today, yesterday, tomorrow, two years ago, 30, 40 or 50 years ago, or should I not write at all? Just leave it, Joey! In my childhood days, I wrote silly little poems, notes of affection and gratitude to my mother, and as a teenager I kept a diary. In the many years I worked with Pina, I managed to keep notes, not many, as there was never time, or I was just too tired; dancers are forever tired but somehow, I always had a need to write.
Never did I think my notes would turn into books. Nor did I think that I would write these books in the difficult German language. Even now, 50 years later, my German is by no means perfect, but I can make myself understood and have learned to like the language, especially the old German language which I find very beautiful. I am Australian born and bred from the land of down under. This is my first attempt at writing in English. After living more than half my life in Germany, my English is, I would say, primary school level 6.

Where am I? In the Corps de Ballet of the Australian Ballet Company

My first book, which I wrote in 1999, is titled Ich bin eine anständige Frau (I am a respectable woman) published by L’ Arche Editeur, Paris, and one of Germany’s leading publishing houses, Suhrkamp Verlag. It seems now, 23 years later, outdated. So, I am not just translating, but as pages turn and the past and present overlap it is becoming an almost new book. Words and sentences come from my stomach, my heart, my soul – not so much from my head.
In 1999 I remember clearly as if it were yesterday going to Pina with a shaky voice “Pina, I have written a book about myself, us, the work, Australia, my double life, and I would like to give it to you as a present for your birthday. Maybe you would like to read it before it is published.” This was the answer I received “Great Jo, but don’t give it to me yet because I don’t know when I’ll find time to read it!!!!!!!!!!!” Some of you may think “Oh, that’s an awful answer, how sad.” But for me, it was the answer I guess I was expecting. It’s like this. That’s how Pina was. That is how well I knew her.
Sometimes I don’t know whether I should be writing in the “is” or “was” or “what was yesterday or today” because somehow, for me everything still lives inside me and hasn’t come to its end. It’s quite complicated as I’ll be going back and forth between all those years and between the lines, reliving the tightrope walk of conflicts, struggles, joys, and sorrows I endured as a dancer, while working for this very important V.I.P, Pina. As spontaneous and enriched as my life has been, I admit it would never have been so sparkling had I not met Pina Bausch. Her work has continually kept me on my toes, busy and alive for the past 50 years.
For me, writing is a substitute creative outlet not quite the same as dancing, but there are similarities. There is rhythm in words and sentences, atmospheres, and loneliness, even pain. I must handle words with great care as everything and everyone mentioned or concerned with Tanztheater or Pina is and was super personal, sensitive, and fragile.
Sometimes I think I should have become the lawyer like my vocational guidance result suggested when I was sweet sixteen. Or a nun!
The private Jo, the on-stage Jo, the teacher Jo, is one and the same person. That goes for the writer Jo and the mother of three children Jo and loving wife Jo.

It is difficult to write about personal experiences with her, but in the end, I am not writing just about Pina, but about myself, my life and my all-encompassing love for dance, the audience, my family, and last, but not least, Pina. When I write, I am all alone in my world with her, with Pina.

If any other dancer decided to write their story about their relationship with Pina, no two stories would be alike as each dancer experienced her individually, differently, although in common we each loved her.
The name on my birth certificate is Josephine Ann Endicott born 14th March 1950. Most people call me Jo or Jo Ann. Pina liked to call me Joey or Joeylein.


I never really wanted to become a dancer. As a child, I was extremely shy, sad, always blushing red if anyone spoke to me. Mother tried everything to make me happy, all kinds of sport, gymnastics but it wasn’t until my first ballet class that the crying stopped. I was seven years old. Ballet – that was it and I just had the knack for it. Many young girls and these days even boys dream of becoming dancers but it certainly was not my dream. My parents were not rich. Dad kept saying, “Her ballet lessons are too expensive.” Mum replied, “If only you would go and see her dance, you’d understand – as if she were born for it. When she’s dancing, she’s happy.” When I think back to all those many ambitious ballet mothers who pushed their daughters into going to ballet school just because it sounded so impressive and “oh how terribly in.” But not my mother – she was not one of those pushy parents. Dear old dad showed no interest and neither did my two brothers. Neither of them ever watched me out there dancing – never mind. Mum never missed and was more than happy that I’d discovered something that put an end to me crying. It was a hobby. My hobby. And truly mine. We adored it, loved it. We saved our pennies and took ourselves on the bus to theatres, movies, dance, opera. We saw everything going. Hankie, always in the purse in case we needed to cry, and afterwards we treated ourselves to Raisin Toast, Waffles with Butterscotch Sauce, or ice cream. Heaven! Of course, we didn’t tell Dad. Sissy, Ben-Hur, Gone with the Wind and Love Story were some of our favourite films or watching a magical Nutcracker performance as a Xmas treat with all those glistening, airy fairy costumes with thousands of sequins glued to them.
Mum had three sisters, and all were great at the high energy level and footwork precision of Irish dancing, but none made it to the stage. I probably inherited my portion of talent from the whole lot of my mother’s sisters plus her father and mother and consequently made it to the stage. On one of my visits home, Mum and I took ourselves to watch Michael Flatley and his amazing theatre performance of Lord of the Dance. Oh, wow, what a sex bomb! As if his quick tapping feet could light the stage up in flames – an awesome performance. We were dumbfounded. Now you can watch it on YouTube, but no way will a video viewing grip you as a live performance does. Any kind of dancer needs an audience to play with.

Meantime, Mum and all those sisters have passed away now. Mum had just turned 101 years of age. My brother Tim tells me she had stayed 23 hours of the 24 hours a day in bed afraid of falling over. Her doctors said she may live for many more years, but she did not.
I never wanted to become a ballet dancer at all – perhaps a librarian or lawyer. At the age of fourteen or fifteen, I had serious thoughts of entering a convent to become a nun. Really. For one whole year, I went every morning to church until my ballet teachers insisted I take part in an audition for The Australian Ballet School, the most prestigious ballet school in Australia situated in Melbourne. Admission to the school was based solely on talent and potential with a timetable of intensive ballet classes, character dance, repertoire, mime, jazz, contemporary and pas de deux. I was sweet sixteen at the time. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be one of those chosen best six to seven girls selected from all of Australia. Honestly, I only went to the audition because everyone said: “Go, Jo” but Jo was from Sydney. I didn’t know a soul in Melbourne. A one-way train trip Sydney to Melbourne back then took around 14 hours. No way did I want to leave home and go to live in cold, rainy, old Melbourne. I loved my two brothers and Mum and Dad too, even though they divorced when I turned fourteen. My father was a real entertainer, charmer, and good looking; he liked to sing and play his ukulele and tell the funniest of jokes.
Anyway, fate stepped in; I hit the jackpot and found myself sitting one fine day with my pink, packed suitcase and heading for a city called Melbourne. I stuck it out, persevered as bravely as I could, held back the tears, but was not happy. I was praised and well-liked by all teachers. Perhaps I could say I was one of the teachers’ favourites but after six months of “crying rivers”, Mum agreed to come to my rescue and take me back home. I just didn’t belong there – not arty enough. The others were all so different. I felt like an ugly dancing duckling. There I sat on my packed, pink suitcase waiting with my heart nearly breaking. In the background, I could hear the muffled sound of beautiful music playing wafting by. Dame Margaret (Maggie) Scott, the Director of the School whom I trusted dearly and who had become something like a second mother to me, understood the dilemma I was facing. She took me lovingly in her arms, looked me in the eyes and said: “Stay, Jo-Jo, do it for me, you are so very gifted, and I love you.” There I stood torn apart between my two mothers trying to listen to my pounding heart. Somehow, I just couldn’t leave the dance behind, so I ended up saying goodbye to Mum who then returned alone to Sydney, while I slowly but surely turned into a real professional ballet dancer. Had the music not been playing in the background, I might have decided differently.

My task in life was DANCE.

I hadn’t realized then just how fortunate I was to be an Australian Ballet company dancer in the mid 1960s in the history of Australian dance; nor was I aware of just how fortunate I was to have had the chance and honour to stand on stage and perform with such famous ballerinas as Margot Fonteyn, Carla Fracci, Maya Plisetskaya, Lucette Aldous, Natalia Makarova, Marilyn Jones, and others in a wide range of great classical and modern ballets watching, admiring, yearning and learning with and from them. Dame Margot impressed me especially – what a fine, beautiful, charismatic, generous, ageless, musical dancer, artist, and person she was. She must have been around the 45-year mark when I performed in the corps des ballets with her. Her arabesque was not that high anymore nor were her feet so perfectly arched; I can’t remember thinking to myself she ought to stop. Technique alone was never enough to grip me to dance. What really interested me was their whole personality, what they gave and how they moved and touched me. Dancing just for the sake of dancing was never my thing. A dancer speaks best with her body and soul. Some of the greatest choreographers alive at that time came to Australia: Anthony Tudor, Sir Fredrick Ashton, Anthony Taylor, John Butler, Roland Petit, Léonide Massine, Rudolph Nureyev, Robert Helpmann and more. (Massine came to rehearsal wearing a hairnet over his head.) And teachers as well. One of my favourites was the Russian teacher Vera Volkova who defected in 1929 and who also taught Dame Margot Fonteyn, Alicia Alonso, Erik Bruhn and many famous others.
Dancing is a privileged profession. When I dance, I dance with fire and passion. It is kind of intoxicating being on stage. Many teachers have said “Jo is a natural talent.”

Autograph of Rudolf Nureyev


I became and remained a truly devoted fan of Nureyev. He guested relatively often with the Australian Ballet Company. Lucky me, he entirely fascinated me, his gorgeous face, mouth, legs, eyes, unbelievable presence, muscles, fifth position, feet, bottom, his concentration during class, finesse, passion, aura, musicality, his very being on and off stage. His cheekbones. He didn’t look ridiculous in those pink ballet tights. I treasured every rehearsal when I could watch, study and learn in detail why such hype was made about this God of Dance “Nureyev.” He didn’t need words, his body said it all. I remember so well his Prince walk in the black velvet cloak as Albrecht in Giselle, as Romeo, as Hamlet. And the way he used to swear and curse. Madness! Even my ears turned red. One day during rehearsal his cloak was missing. He was livid. He walked to the side in a mighty huff, ripped down the velvet curtains and used one of them as a replacement for his missing cloak. I loved it. Fonteyn and Nureyev together, heaven.
I remember an international tour to the United States, the invitation coming from legendary Russian-born Sol Hurok, one of the world’s foremost impresarios – a big do. Those days, I wore false eyelashes, thick make-up, jewellery, wigs, and nothing but the best in clothes. There was a huge party after opening night with lots of who’s who and whatnots. Drinks and food were laid on, caviar, champagne, you name it. I was dressed up to the nines in a beautiful evening gown (for me terribly expensive) and more than likely after two drinks on the tipsy side of turvy. It got real late, and almost everyone had disappeared. I found myself in Nureyev’s arms, sitting on his lap, and he kissed me. I seem to be forgetting lots of things these days, but this I will always remember. I ended up being in one of the photos in my stunning, expensive gown in Vogue Magazine, which, of course, I sent to my mother.
I spent four years in The Australian Ballet, sometimes happy, sometimes sad still questioning “do I really want to be a dancer” with all that jealousy, forced to listen to abusive, humiliating corrections and all that artificial ‘nonsense’ of not being pretty, sweet, nice, or dainty enough. The continual day-in day-out hype of striving towards always looking like your idealized perfect body ballet dancer. In this profession every single part of a dancer’s body plays a visible, vital role but I just didn’t fit into this certain norm – although highly talented. Competitive looks and who you know or sleep with is mostly what the dance world is about. Some dancers were criticized for being too short from knee to foot, their backsides too round or too prominent, sway back, neck too short not enough swan like neck– it went on forever. The ballet world can be quite cruel and is full of calorie counting anorexic dancers with eating disorders – always has been. I know because I happened to live with a few who stuck their fingers down their throats to bring up the food they had binged on. Of course, they were never honest enough to admit it. Verrückt! There are exceptions in some companies; but it depends on the direction. The glamorous side with a dressing room full of flowers, chauffeur, a life of luxury, fame exists only in film, or if you become an etoile at the Paris Opera or a star Grande ballerina at La Scala.

Nevertheless, a tiny little voice inside me whispered in my ear “leave this company before it turns into a dead end.” My last conversation with the Artistic Director, Dame Peggy van Praagh, went something like this: “Jo, darling, you’re such a talented young promising dancer, but, your face, darling, is so round and too fat. Could you not pop in by the dentist and have your back teeth removed? It might accentuate the cheek bones, which you obviously don’t have. Or, perhaps, darling, a new hairstyle – leave them open and down loose, preferably allowing them to cover your cheeks. Perhaps it is even possible to stick or glue them onto your face, darling.” Maybe she didn’t exactly mean it the way it sounded, but that was the message I got, and it hurt deeply. “And, darling, just lose one or two kilos more; then, we could put you up to being a soloist.” Well. Well. Well, I’m not stupid. Did she want me to starve? A dancer must eat. A dancer needs strength.
In “Kontakthof” I had a six-minute solo aria existing entirely of the word darling. Each performance reminded me of those “darling” words from Peggy van Praagh, that’s why I was so damn excellent at it! The sound of that very English darling word and the rest stuck forever.
After this, I ended up taking Nureyev’s advice and after a breath taking three months filming of Don Quixote in 1973 (directed and choreographed by Nureyev) I left my homeland and flew to London. I knew not a soul and unfortunately landed up in a cheap hotel in Kings Cross – prostitutes on almost every corner, sleazy men on the lookout. It was nothing like it is now or like you might imagine after watching Harry Potter. I was naïve and had heaps to learn about life. I was a young, innocent kind of 22 years of age and up until then forever falling in love with gay male dancers. Being Australian wasn’t easy. The first few weeks and months I felt like I would freeze, and if I didn’t freeze to death, then I would die from the feeling of being the loneliest person on earth. A grey, bleak black hole of homesickness inside me gradually grew bigger and bigger. I dared not go anywhere without my koala keyring nor could I sleep without being covered by the dyed maroon kangaroo fur coat with black fox cuffs and black fur fox hat, which Mum gave me as a farewell present. I loved that kangaroo coat. It not only kept me warm but became a substitute for the friends I had left in Australia. Vegemite for my thickly buttered toast was nowhere to be found in English supermarkets those days, only Marmite or Promite! I ate so many cheap, cheese omelettes that I never touched an egg later, cakes being an exception.
Daily life in London was expensive and after three months, my savings were almost eaten up. I asked at Covent Garden Royal Opera House if there was a job vacancy as usherette. They were short on staff, and I got lucky. Covent Garden those days was a thriving fruit and vegetable marketplace with lots of coffee shops, pubs, and taverns. Now it has turned into a fashionable shopping area and tourist magnet. I remember well the good old Nags Head on James Street, which I hear still exists. On performance nights, I smuggled myself into Covent Garden to watch the crème de la crème of British dancers of The Royal Ballet: Lynn Seymour, Antoinette Sibley, Jennifer Penny, Merle Park, Wayne Sleep, Anthony Dowell. The list of dancers I admired was never ending. I loved every minute. I didn’t know then, but while watching performances, I was doing all the movements with them. My passion and love of dance was rapidly reawakened while my wounded ego began to heal. Slowly that little voice began whispering to me again until I couldn’t fight against it any longer. “Get over it, Jo, ignore those words of Peggy, wake up and believe in yourself. You must dance!”
It was Nureyev who said to me: “You crazy Australian kangaroo girl, you are in the wrong company here; you should go overseas to Europe, to Germany.” After a breath taking three months filming of Don Quixote in 1973 (directed and choreographed by Nureyev) I ended up taking his advice and after speaking quickly to my teacher-mother Maggie Scott, I packed my pink suitcase, then I went home to Mum and then I was gone with the wind; not even Scarlett O’Hara could stop me. I left my homeland and flew to London. I knew not a soul and unfortunately landed up in a cheap hotel in Kings Cross – prostitutes on almost every corner, sleazy men on the lookout. It was nothing like it is now or like you might imagine after watching Harry Potter. I was naïve and had heaps to learn about life. I was a young, innocent kind of 22 years of age and up until then forever falling in love with gay male dancers.


Yes, it seemed I was destined to meet Pina Bausch. My first acquaintance was during a dance class in 1973 at The Dance Centre, Floral Street, London. The 33-year-old Pina Bausch had just been appointed artistic director of the Wuppertal Ballet and was searching for one last dancer.
At that time, I took class hobby-wise quite regularly at The Dance Centre because it made me feel happy. I liked the atmosphere of the place. It was easy going, you weren’t being judged for how you looked or what you wore. The class was super fun, a type of body conditioning class taught by the inspiring, legendary dance teacher and person John O’Brien. Carlos played the piano. Fantastic music. It was so wonderful. One day there were two onlookers. Most probably I was sweating, red in the face and a few kilos too heavy but having great joy dancing. I kind of felt the woman’s eyes on me the whole time. I can’t explain, but believe me, when those glass-clear blue eyes of Pina focus on you, you feel it from miles away. It was always like this. Little me had no idea who the hell “the good-looking woman” was and so continued until class finished. I took a shower, got dressed and descended the stairs to pick up a low-fat juice and take a quick glance at the notice board just for interest’s sake. Suddenly, I felt “that woman” standing behind me. She tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and there I was standing face to face with Pina.
In those days, Pina was more than beautiful, her face a whiter shade of pale, the shape of mouth, sweet red lips, no make-up, the simple long hair tied back in a ponytail, long elegant sinewy hands, those incredibly pale blue eyes, that enchanting smile and the aura about her, her large feet. Beside her, I felt like I don’t know what. It was like the beginning of a fairy-tale. In her broken English, she asked me if I was looking for a job. I answered “yes,” but I meant to say “no,” as I wasn’t looking for a job. I was awestruck, and no, I don’t really believe in love at first sight, but… I felt hypnotized, fascinated, and connected.
I was 23 years old. For further talks, we strolled along the streets of London searching for a typical, cosy English café with herself and Herr Züllig, who was, at the time, the Director of Folkwang School, Essen. She took very wide steps. I can’t remember how long we spoke, but believe it or not, she wanted to engage me as a soloist for the start of her company in Wuppertal. Me. I must admit she did mention “one or two kilos less but never mind” with or without my kilos, she wanted ME. Me for the person I was and am. Sensational!
I remember her words in the café – telling me how badly she wanted to create something beautiful, a new language of movement, unprecedented, free, and emancipated and of great importance to the world of dance and theatre, based on human feelings. To achieve this, she needed complete support, loyalty, courage, patience, strength, ability, and the personalities of her chosen dancers. Seeing life is a treasure chest from which she and we together took out wondrous moments and memories of everything that made up one’s own life. Wow, this sounded exciting and convincing enough for me to say “yes,” but never ever did I foresee that I would remain working there in that grey, rainy, industrial city of Wuppertal for so many decades just for the sake of this woman. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in that unforgettable tsunami-strong impact of our initial meeting in London when our eyes first met. Who knows! She put a spell over me!
And so, one day in July 1973, I found myself standing in front of the Wuppertal Opera House, which was built in 1905 but damaged badly during the Second World War. I didn’t have a clue where on earth this place called Wuppertal was. Someone said to me: Jo, it’s always raining there; there’s a suspension train that hangs in the air called the Schwebebahn, landmark of the city, and years ago, on a test run an elephant named Tuffi fell from it directly into the Wupper, luckily ending up with only minor injuries. They named a brand of milk after him, and it is true that the Germans make the best cakes in the world. If you ever travel to Europe, you must try the creamy Black Forest cake or Frankfurter Kranz, the variety of delicious breads, fattening sauces on baked dinners and gooey gum bears, which stick to your teeth, and if you have fillings, they end up sticking to the bear! Help. Take my advice if you ever make it to Wuppertal, bring an umbrella and an extra pullover.
My first few years in Germany were hard. I couldn’t speak a word of German, and the harsh guttural sound of the German language didn’t appeal to me. The language somehow frightened me. Grammatically it is a difficult language to learn. I never conquered it but picked it up from hearing, as there was never time to study. With my French colleagues Dominique Mercy and Malou Airaudo I would sit during rehearsal breaks with our coffees in the small canteen of the opera house with a book of basic German for beginners. If only you could have heard us – them, with their strong, heavy French accent and my Australian English. Back then I did have a typical Aussie accent but over the years I seemed to have lost “me bloody Aussie accent”. In the canteen we laughed a whole lot more than we learned. My biggest problem was to know when I can say “Du” to you?” In English, we don’t have this problem, because “you” means “you” but in German, the wrong choice can cause misunderstandings. Let me explain. “You” in the German language can be “Sie” or “Du”/ Only to friends and people you are familiar with, do you say “Du.” Others, like lawyers, doctors, teachers, bosses, politicians, and anyone you don’t know, are “Sie.”
Dancers normally pick up languages easily but not me. With Pina, I could just be me and my days of extreme, idiotic dieting were over.
Breakfast: 1 egg and 1 glass Sherry.
Lunch: 1 steak and 1 glass Sherry
Dinner: 1 egg and 1 glass Sherry
Yet another greater one: the Strawberries and Cream diet consisting of as many strawberries and with as much cream as you like, but only that. I stayed on the Strawberry diet a long time but didn’t lose a pound. No wonder. There were thousands of others. One of the leading ballerinas of The Australian Ballet suggested I go a few hours a day in the sauna! First rub yourself in the fatty areas with Tiger Balm, then wrap layers of plastic Glad Wrap all over your body, sweat for hours and don’t drink anything afterwards. Great, hey! I did as I was told, and I wasn’t the only one. Madness! Thin is in everywhere these days and not only in the dance world, teenagers, models, film stars, not only women, also men. Crazy the hype about being thin and perfect bodies and food and calories and vegan and tattoos and piercing and fitness and Botox and nails and eyebrows and eyelashes and inflatable lips. It just goes on forever! Perhaps I should have taken up smoking, but I can’t stand the taste, or worse still, can’t bear the smell even though it does look cool. A packet of cigarettes in Australia today costs more than 40 Australian dollars.
Oh, by the bye, while talking about ballet and thin and beautiful. In 2012 I taught an early Bausch piece, Wind from West, (named Cantata) at The Juilliard School in New York, one of the world’s leading music, drama, and dance schools. While there, I stumbled upon some fascinating photos of a very photogenic young classical Pina standing leisurely in a dance studio, wearing pink tights, pointe shoes, a leotard and looking frightfully near to anorexic thin, but fathomlessly beautiful. Can you imagine Pina in pointe shoes, with her size 42 feet? As a teenager, she prayed each night for her feet to stop growing and admitted to me once that when she danced in pointe shoes that her feet felt more like having solid blocks of pink coloured wood tied around her ankles. I, on the other hand, loved my pink satin Freed pointe shoes and as a child often slept with them under my pillow. What a pity I never got to dance anything in pointe shoes in all those years with Tanztheater. My pink satin pointe shoe days were over the minute I left Australia. The shoes have remained on top of a cupboard collecting dust ever since.


When I first set foot in the Wuppertal opera house, all I had to believe in was myself, and the magical moment, and the memorable feeling I experienced with “that woman” in London. She was enchanting, enticing, cunning, sweet, sceptical, wore an ironic all-in-one-smile and was my solo contract, one of the few she had handed out. Once again, I knew no one. I gulped, knowing it wasn’t going to be exactly easy nor “my piece of cake.” In those days, I couldn’t even pronounce the word Bausch properly; I said Pina Bush. The name of the porter at the stage door was Herr Lipschitz, who spoke no English at all meaning we just could not communicate. (I couldn’t believe someone could have that name, it sounded like you know what.) A little later other dancers arrived, only a few could speak English. Many seemed to know each other. We were then taken up the stairs to the tiny dance studio of the opera house. I think there were about 24 dancers. And there she was, sitting on a wooden chair, legs double crossed, wearing her comfortable men’s-size 42 black leather shoes, holding a cigarette in her hand, and looking ever so cool – correct yet somehow distant and yet near all at once. On first impression, I was a little shocked as most dancers didn’t look like dancers at all – more like the cliché of a dancer. I thought to myself: what on earth is that for a company – get the hell out. On the other hand, I fitted in perfectly as obviously and apparently, I also never resembled one. Luckily, there happened to be another Australian girl, Colleen Finneran, who became my dearest friend. I didn’t feel quite so lost.
In 1973 there were French, American, Philippine, Australian, South American, Dutch, Venezuelan, English, Finnish, Portuguese, Swiss, Czechoslovakian and six or seven German dancers, all very different looking, all shapes and sizes but with strong personalities. These foreigners gave the company its unusual, international, authentic flair. Among us, we spoke a kind of bio-language – a mushmah-mixture – mischung – melange stemming from German and English languages with a bit of everything else added. Nowadays, it is call Denglish. Everyone you happened to pass in the theatre said “Guten Morgen” whether you knew them or not. This is a done thing here but seemed weird to me than.
Her last adamant words to me before each summer holidays were always “Don’t forget your straw hat and sunscreen when you go to the beach, Jo. And don’t go cutting your hair.” If only I had followed her advice, but as an Aussie kid going to the beach with temperatures soaring over 40 degrees, the damage had been done before I’d even met Pina. A tube of zinc cream, that was it. In those days, knowledge about skin cancer and forever young wasn’t in. Sunburn is a word I will never forget and the blisters, skin flaking and skin peeling that go with it, so bad I couldn’t sit, walk, stand, or lie down. And combing all the knots out of that waist-length long hair, which Pina loved, was next to torture. Yes, Pina was obsessed with hair! Hair and skin. Hair just had to be long, the longer the better. Any sunburnt skin was to be covered from head to toe with makeup. I wanted to answer “Give me a break Pina. It’s holidays.” But I didn’t dare. I only need to look at the sun my skin flashes red.

“Pina Bausch backstage” is the name of the work KH. W. Steckeling’s from the book published in the 1970s. The trained textile engineer developed his own patents in his ribbon weaving mill under increasing international competitive pressure. KH. W. Steckelings, also a photographer and conservationist from the beginning, met Jan Minarik, the Czech dancer with Bausch, in 1974, became part of the family for two years and photographed the company rehearsing, doubting, laughing. A smallest selection can be seen here with kind permission – the complete “Pina Bausch backstage” at the publisher


Pina Bausch was German, her full name Philippine Bausch. I don’t know anyone who called her Philippine. For me, for us, she was always just Pina. She was born in 1940, in Solingen, a town close to Wuppertal, and world leader in the production of blades and cutlery. Her parents owned a guesthouse.
All Pina ever wanted to do was dance. She took her first ballet lesson at the age of five, and at fourteen, she commenced her dance studies as a student at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen under the direction of Kurt Jooss. At the age of eighteen and with no more than a little English up her sleeve, she left Germany on a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Dance in New York, where she remained the next two and a half years before returning to Essen, Germany at the wish of Jooss. At the Folkwang Tanz studio, she began to choreograph and realize some of her hidden skills.
Arno Wüstenhofer was a big-hearted believer in Pina’s artistic potential and extraordinary talents. As Artistic General managing Director of the Wuppertal Opera House he made many attempts to persuade her to lead the Wuppertal Ballet, as it was called in those days, but she was unsure, undecided, and not keen to work under the strict system of a three-stage civic theatre which she called a factory – too many rules to obey which would interfere with her artistic freestyle. Wüstenhofer pleaded with Pina until she finally signed up in 1973. He made many intern exceptions for Pina. Just one example: we were originally obliged to dance in operas, revues, and musicals. In Pina’s eyes, this was impossible as she wanted and needed her dancers at her beck and call at all times. As soon as possible Pina spoke with Arno Wüstenhofer about being freed from this so called “annoying activity” and that was it. Done thanks to Arno. I quite enjoyed dancing in these operas and musicals; at least, the public applauded and at least we had the feeling we were dancing.

It was mostly Hans Pop, Pina’s sole, loyal assistant and collaborator from 1973 who choreographed for those Operas while Pina wiggled her way out as often as she could. Hans was a tremendous leaning-post for Pina and far too seldom mentioned in the history of Tanztheater. Without him she would never have been able to do what she had to do. Hans was always there for Pina and for us. I quite enjoyed dancing in these operas and musicals; at least, the public applauded and at least we had the feeling we were dancing. Arno was a clever, noble man with a great sense of humour. In the time we spent at the Opera House we went through five changes of Theater managers, and all were somehow under Pina’s spell or charm: Arno Wüstenhofer, Hanno Lunin, Hellmut Matiasek, Jürgen Fabritius and Holk Freytag. Theatres, Playhouses, companies, institutions rise or fall with their direction.
Hard to believe now but it is true that in the beginning so called-revolutionary years we were dancing to almost empty houses. Spectators walked out of performances left, right and centre, slamming doors loudly behind them. An odd tomato was thrown on stage. The Wuppertal audiences were not particularly impressed by the new woman ballet director named Pina Bausch, especially after the successful former ballet director, Ivan Sertig. Late at night, Pina was terrorized with abusive, anonymous phone calls and told us of one call: “Hopefully on your next tour to Asia, the plane crashes.” One critic wrote “a half an hour of disgust.” It hurt. At times, I felt insecure going on stage in those flimsy, transparent dresses worn later in Sacre or Cantata. It was hard, not only for Pina, but for all of us.
Every now and again Pina taught class, when and if she found enough time, but mostly she wanted to choreograph Her class was based on Jooss, Züllig, Jean Cébron technique, which I’d never seen or heard of, and which nowhere resembled my solid, classical training days in Australia. Both Züllig and Cebron were invited to give guest classes in Wuppertal. Most exercise movements seemed twisted, the torso spiralled, off balance, peculiar, a strange kind of wrong but somehow right and wonderful with flowing masses of boneless arms. I understood the dynamics and details of the body movements, and after several lessons, I do think I managed well, but nobody could really do them as Pina did them. Bodies can do unimaginable endless things. Pina had a real tick about “arms”, the longer the better. Both Züllig and Cebron were fascinating solid-centered teachers with strong personalities and wonderful sense of humour. It was important and necessary for me to learn this kind of technique as it was part of Pina’s dance vocabulary history – she wanted to share her dance enrichment background knowledge with us.
The first seven years were the toughest and most difficult as no real stability had been established. Those early years of Tanztheater were known as disturbing, poor theatre times, and if ever I do manage to speak with any of my older colleagues, which I rarely do, it sounds as though it was anything but roses, but I don’t have to speak with them as I know and remember it myself. She did have her favourites, and if you weren’t one of them, you sat watching others dance and waiting hours. Many dancers were unhappy, unsatisfied, in tears or continually leaving even if she was the most supposedly fascinating, interesting woman choreographer around at that time. Two or three unhappy dancers quit after the first year, and others followed soon after. She was as slow as a snail sometimes with her ideas and her choreography. Often, we hadn’t a clue what she was up to or aiming at. Most of us were there because we were professional dancers and wanted to dance and not sit. Pina took it personally when anyone left. It upset her greatly and she would ask: “Why are you leaving; don’t you love me anymore?” Or she smoked her cigarette to the end, stubbed it out, then stood up and left the room.
Any kind of jewellery, watches or rings were forbidden in class, rehearsals, and performances.
With Pina everything was or should become art.
Working with Pina was never in any year a walk in the park.
Nothing went on stage until she was satisfied, and no dancer ever felt uncomfortable in what they were doing or portraying. Never be who you are not. You always take yourself on stage with you. This is something I learnt working with Pina.
All my years and all my moments with Pina mattered somehow. They all influenced me in some way or another.
Over the years Pina became something like a mother, sister, friend to me and not just a choreographer, director. At times it felt like she had stepped into the shoes of a therapist or head shrink, not that I have ever been to one.

With each creation, we were discovering or heading to a clearer direction, towards Pina’s vision of Tanztheater. Slowly but surely, we were progressing in a direction that the dance world hadn’t been before. The long journey took us to unknown territories where we struggled and stumbled while keeping track with her. She took big steps. The road to success was difficult and stony, but with Pina as inspiring lead guide, we followed. She alone, with all her charm, took us by the hand through mountains of unknown darkness. The way was both path and goal while a smile from her scared away any doubts or desperate thoughts of failure. At the top of the summit, we arrived, and at the peak we continued to dance and celebrate her every success.
How could I perhaps describe her? PINA. Probably better, I don’t even try, otherwise, I’ll never get finished with writing. But quickly in a few words: beautiful, fascinating, charismatic, unreachable, powerful, modest, humble, distinguished, workaholic, pale, thin, tall, cool, stubborn, egoistical, control freak, workaholic, persistent, lonely, wise, diva, German, disciplined, stingy, fanatical, perfectionist, an icon. Pina was mentally strong and could not be persuaded to do things she did not want to do. She remained stubborn and uncompromising. No one could change her. Her motto: “I am who I am, and I can and must go my own way.” She never pretended to be anyone else but herself – never following trends but instinct and feelings, mistrusting words and preferring to let her pieces speak for her. She herself seemed to have an insatiable longing to be loved. She loved her life and especially the TANZ. To me she was a thousand special things and remains unforgettable.
After so many years with Pina, I cannot explain what she was searching for in those pieces: something lost, beauty, contentment, tenderness, faded youth, truthfulness! A way of expressing herself. A calling to free and find herself? It will remain her secret.
I asked myself if she was happy and if there is a difference between being happy and being contented. Is happiness something short lived? The older she grew the more contented and satisfied. I do think over the years and from piece-to-piece Pina may have found what she was looking for. Satisfied is something we all hope to be once we get older. Isn’t that right?
One cannot compare Pina’s method of working with other choreographers. I heard her say: “One is born to choreograph; one cannot learn it.” Choreography and dancing are two distinct and very different practices. The secret belongs solely in her person. There is no secret recipe to Pina’s work, or to her success: both are so open and multi- faceted that her productions influenced other creators: choreographers, directors, film and theatre makers worldwide.
From 1973 until Pina’s death, approximately 140 dancers had been engaged, and on fixed contracts – not including guests. It is not many for so many years, which speaks highly of her. Of the dancers, about 128 came from other countries, and few were from Germany. As far as I know, only two dancers were fired.
In the 1970s she created seventeen pieces. In the 1980s there were nine dance evenings and eight dance evenings in the 1990s. Altogether she created forty-four pieces. Our first European tour was with Sacre and Todsünden in 1977, and after this there followed international tours to other countries and theatres of the world. From year to year, the number of tours increased, taking us to a bit more color, and special excitements, and amazing dance solos.

The number of dancers increased over the years to 34, as did the number of guest teachers, assistants, in office staff, rooms rented, and even a Shiatsu therapist and physiotherapist were engaged to accompany the ensemble on tour around the world.


Fritz was our first avant garde dance theatre piece and premiered along with Rodeo by the American choreograph Agnes de Mille and The Green Table by German Kurt Jooss in January 1974. Both Kurt Jooss and his daughter Anna Markard and Agnes de Mille (daughter of the famous Hollywood director Cecil de Mille) were present at our rehearsals in the studio and on stage. Mr Jooss was of great influential significance to Pina’s background as a dancer, choreographer and as a person. It was nice seeing them together; sometimes they held hands. You could feel their connection and boundless admiration for one another. I believe he became something like a foster father to Pina.

Rehearsals for “The Green Table” by Kurt Jooss with Jean Cébron (as Death)

WDR/Dt. Tanzarchiv Kön/A. Crickmay/W. Vogel

The Green Table is an anti-war dance he had choreographed in 1932 just before Hitler came to power as Germany’s imperial chancellor. Jooss himself danced the role of “Death” in this ballet. I liked Mr Jooss and performing in this powerful piece.
In Rodeo we tapped and learned square dancing and were dressed as Cowgirls and Cowboys in boots and cowboy hats.
Being second cast in the role of the “Mother” in Pina’s Fritz meant I was able to sit with the rest of the audience and watch the rest of my colleagues perform.
I’d never seen or heard anything like it: weird to weirder to weirdest, unusual, almost indescribable, broken, cut, stiff, diffuse dance movements with many strange lifts.
Fritz seemed to me to be an echo or nightmare with figures out of Pina’s childhood, but who knows? Pina was a five- or six-year-old Second World Wartime child and undoubtedly influenced by her memories and the unforgettable sounds of bombing raids, wartime sirens, being dragged down to the bunker, which was situated close to her parents’ house, with nothing but a few food rations and her scraggly doll half hanging out of her backpack. Danger, fear, terrifying enough for anyone.
Short passages of music by German composer and church musician Wolfgang Hufschmidt and the Austrian composer and conductor Gustav Mahler were played from tape, as strangely dressed, weird, oversized figures entered the sparsely, haphazardly designed room, with an old-fashioned iron bed, a bed cover, a wooden table, armchair and a white washbowl. A ray of light shone through the back door while the mysterious figures entered: an extremely pale woman with a bald head, a small creepy looking woman wearing a wig with hairs on her chin, a stiff, tallish woman in a deep lilac chiffon dress with long wooden arms, a man in a black dress, a wig and transparent plastic gloves, a headless man in a heavy winter coat, a male in a one-piece nude bodysuit wearing stilettos, false bosoms and, around his waist, a huge red pair of lips.
Fritz, a sensitive young boy, played by a girl wearing his father’s long white sleeping shirt watched as father unbuttoned Mother’s many-buttoned dress. Mother then buttoned up. Father unbuttoned then he pushed her face forcefully into an enamel washbowl. Grandma, all grey and old in an ugly, long, colourless dress, sat hunched up in her armchair. Her legs lay over a dancer’s shoulders hidden by her dress so that as she stood up, she became gigantic. (Pina alternated with one of the dancers in this part). The so-called visitors or relatives spread out in the room doing all sorts of weird actions. Not a single performer looked anywhere near to what one could call a dancer, and no two anywhere alike. The atmosphere in the room was gloomy, dark, dismal, bleak and depressing.
In the silence, you could hear coughing, buzzing, panting, and breathing. Cold shivers were creeping down my backbone, but I couldn’t look away.
I was glued to my chair stunned, paralyzed, and electrified. I continued watching almost without blinking or breathing, afraid I might miss out on something, as if I somehow knew this dream, this nightmare. My heartbeat seemed to grow louder. I had never seen anything so intense, convincingly different, completely inspiring, expressive, controversial, overwhelmingly special, and I looked forward to the day when I would dance the “Mother.” Definitely not ballet, nor even dance. It was theatre, yes dance theatre.
I feel sure if Pina brought back the once so controversial Fritz, nowadays everyone would love it. But who of us would still be around and fit enough to firstly remember it and then able to teach it. I think there is only one full-length video of Fritz, which exists and two not full-length, poor quality black and white videos.
Pina never ever said in words what her pieces were about, onlookers were free to interpret it for themselves.


Josephine Ann Endicott

Heimut Drinhaus

Pina had me on stage reciting difficult passages of text or singing in German back in the days when I couldn’t even pronounce a word of German or say the word Bausch correctly let alone understand its meaning. But not only me, all of us, but I was the one she had chosen to sit there to begin this strange, titled piece “Ich bring dich um die Ecke” which means something like “Around the corner I am going to kill you”. I sat there, all alone, right in the middle of the stage dressed up in a black Persian fur coat, sheer black stockings, a tight grey skirt and beige blouse with my hair done up like a lady (like the Polish/German actress Hanna Schygulla in one of those Fassbinder films) with my strange accent, fat young round face and my non-dancer body on a wooden chair and looking into the public. Between the lines of my German text, she had me laughing, standing, sitting and falling off the chair.
Cleverly, the better-known other song I had to sing she decided I should portray and sing it as a hiccupping, stumbling, fumbling drunk. It was hilarious and different. Like this I even got away with it. I liked the experimenting whereas other dancers, some audiences and Wuppertal critics didn’t.
This piece was not taken on into the repertoire and never performed again. It was here that we first realized even dancers have mouths, are real individuals who can laugh, cry and sing are people living in this world just like anyone else.


The premiere version was four hours long. One year later she shortened it by thirty minutes. Maybe forty minutes would have been enough or better, but you couldn’t tell Pina that. It was their choreographies.
How much did Pina love and appreciate the naïve, cute, and childlike hidden talent side of Jo? Finally, in 1977 she created a piece titled “Renate wandert aus” (Renate Emigrates) in which Jo did not have to scream, laugh, or cry. The piece had a touch of Hollywood to it. Operetta style.

An impressive set design by Rolf Borzik consisting of high snow-capped Styrofoam mountains. Rolf had rolled into the studio a clothes rack: there was one pale pink puff-armed dress, somewhat like dresses my mother had sewn for me when I was a teenager. I knew that dress just had to be mine. I tried it on. Fitted me down to the ground. Gorgeous. The dress somehow told me how I had to be. Angela! Angela with bows and ribbons and funny hairstyles, nice make-up, beauty spot, dressed up in colourful, pretty, short-length dresses and bright high-heeled shoes.

Ulli Weiss

Pina handed me some old comic magazines to study, and from them, I invented my own six or seven funny, sad, silly, goofy stories of and with Angela and her non-existent boyfriend Dick. Angela and Dick. It was a bit of a private joke to me having a boyfriend with the name of Dick. I guess you might know what I mean. Pina did. Or I went into ecstatic fits over Italian words like spaghetti, espresso, macaroni, quattro formaggio while waltzing with my partner Vivienne Newport.
One of Pina’s favourite moments was towards the end of the piece and, with strict orders from Pina, I was allowed to eat the Angel’s feathers and burp long and loud twice, “not three times Joeylein. Twice is perfect.”
I just loved all that kitschy, golden oldie musics. It was so Hollywood that you had the feeling John Wayne or Gina Lollobrigida might appear in the next scene.
Jo made magic out of her role as Angela. Angela was not just a pretty face – there was much more to her. Angela never wanted to hurt anyone –she just sometimes couldn’t help herself from being a star.
Some years ago, there were talks about a revival of Renate, but as we knew from Pina that necessary further cuts would be necessary, the question arose, if we had been authorized to make these cuts? And if so, who is going to take that responsibility? 1984 was the last time we performed Renate. If it were done soon, as in very soon, perhaps I could have a try but…no, let’s forget it for now Jo.


Pina’s first choreographed dance for opera was Iphigenie auf Tauris in 1974 and composed by Christoph W. Gluck in 1788. Some say 1781. I should check with Wikipedia who seems to know everything. Iphigenie is a feast for eyes and ears. I was twenty-four years old and must admit that I hadn’t listened to more than two operas of my own free will in my whole life let alone danced in one, but Pina had. With Pina it made sense to dance in and to anything.
For the first time in this company dancing with a live orchestra and singers was awesome, exhilarating, and made everything so much more exciting than dancing to music from tape.

The leading role was danced by Malou Airaudo. She begins lying face down on the floor with simple touching, feeling, caressing the floor movements with her hands, then she continues feeling parts of her body until she is standing. Her thick, long brown hair flowing with each movement.

“Iphigenia in Tauris” revival with Ruth Amarante as Iphigenia

Ursula Kaufmann

During the overture, priestesses waited behind an iron door for their first entrance. I know I always had goosebumps. The door opened and out we spurted in a diagonal, one after the other, wearing simple beautiful tunics like an army of graceful, generous, and elegant Amazons dancing Pina’s unique movements. Yes, Pina had taught us how to move with pride with the breastbone being lifted high, which gave the priestesses the feeling of being ten centimetres taller.
In the table scene, at the beginning of the second act, the two male dancers Pylades and Orestes lay piled or draped almost naked on top of each other, while their bodies slowly awaken to a driving, moving impulse, which came from somewhere deep inside each of them. Dominique Mercy danced the prince Orestes and Ed Kortlandt danced his friend Pylades.
One has the impression that Pina had created these legendary heroes of the gods with hammer and chisel, or sat with Rodin, or Agamemnon and the characters of the piece personally, and even sat with Gluck while they discussed the emotional content of the music. Here one is not aware of technique but of freedom and beauty, like witnessing a dream of the past come true. The costumes, stage design and lighting were minimalistic. If only I could draw, sculpt, paint or photograph, but no, all my talents went into dance. I swear anyone who has seen this production walks out of the theatre happy with images that resonate or remain with them in their sleep.
Pina was praised highly by the theatre critics for this gorgeous mythical opera, and it was voted dance piece of the year.

After Iphigenie the icy feeling between viewers and critics slowly began to break, and awards, medals, prizes, honours of merit for lifetime achievement came rolling in, but she surely deserved every single one of them. You name it and she had it. In 2008, she was presented with the highly prestigious, endowed Kyoto Prize in the category of Art and Philosophy. I remember her showing us in the Lichtburg the long silver decorated sword, smiling and as proud and happy as Larry. She wanted to celebrate her big prize by inviting us all to dinner but somehow, we never found time. When she smiled or laughed, she resembled a little girl, and she did have a sense of humour and loved to laugh, although many would never have thought so.


Pina felt at home in the Lichtburg and for sure we the dancers spent more hours of time there and we ever did at home.
Our ballet studio in the opera house soon became too small for us, so we moved to a place called the Lichtburg, which in former times was a cinema situated above a McDonald’s in Wuppertal-Barmen. A room that spoke as if a good spirit had lived there even before Pina’s time. It is hidden between a pub, internet café, erotic shop, and a sex bar, and is a convenient walking distance of ten minutes from the Opera House. Most of her works were created here in the Lichtburg. That’s where it all happens or happened.
There is no indication that a world-famous Tanztheater is located there. There is a bell but without a name, and only we who work there know what takes place inside the building. In my life, I have trained in many dance studios in Australia, America, London, Paris, but none comes close to Lichtburg. A necessary code to the outside door now exists as hooligans managed to break in the door some years ago; and just recently tipped hot coffee over our longstanding cleaning lady. The codes I keep forgetting are changed from year to year.

On entering, you go up ten steps where you are greeted by another coded door which opens to a quite amazing, surprisingly spacious cinema room with a black PVC floor. Next to the door is a water tank and pushed to the sides are four rollable iron ballet bars, DVD recorders, small old-fashioned monitors, one in each corner, a video camera, a microphone, a music system with loud speakers, four large sliding mirrors on wheels, clothing rails, a black Steinway piano and an old-fashioned telephone set on quiet as not to disturb the holy rehearsal process, and if someone did happen to call, then, a flickering light on the right side wall lit up. An odd cable or two hanging loosely from those walls with three or four ugly old-fashioned lamps attached that would now be classed as “in.” On both sides old, dusty, monochrome Robin Hood green curtains that have probably never been washed hang. Annoying bright lights that somehow always hurt our eyes, a first aid kit, aluminium storage boxes, boxes with props, blue plastic bags, many chairs. The heating system I never quite understood as more often it didn’t work, and so the studio was either too hot or too cold. The room seems to be decorated with training clothes, men’s trousers, shirts, coats, dresses and high heels hung on all sides of the studio. Each dancer has his or her spot or corner of clothes. One rarely went upstairs to undress. On looking up from the studio, you can see the old, still-seated auditorium. The atmosphere is casual, friendly, open. Once Pina enters it’s another story.


Later, there were renovations and by the end of 2010, we finally had better showers, new wooden floors, fresh paint in the stairwell and even some fitness devices like a bicycle, a small trampoline, a rowing machine. Even a sofa, two armchairs, a table, refrigerator. Downstairs remained taboo to even think about any change whatsoever. Lichtburg is not a luxury studio, but it did serve its purpose beautifully. Pina’s table was situated at the front of the room where she sat like a judge focused on us during rehearsals as if she had a sixth and seventh sense. Just what was she looking for? What did she want? What did I want? Could she sense our hopes? Was she able to read me?

On her table lay pencil, sharpener, black pencil case, rubber, a stack of paper, exercise book, ashtray, cigarettes, matches, a small bottle of water and a thermos flask of muddy water coffee and sometimes a roll with butter and cheese and which mostly remained untouched in its paper bag.

Auditions are held in Lichtburg. Thousands of dancers apply, and then hundreds from all over the world are selected per internet to come at their own cost.
I was amazed last week when I passed by the Lichtburg and saw a large, printed sign outside on the door: TANZTHEATER PINA BAUSCH. Oh, not sure if Pina would be too happy about that.


“Arien” by Pina Bausch, 1979

Ursula Kaufmann

In the mid-80s in New York, it was kind of hip or an insider tip to go watch a Pina Bausch performance. Prior to the premiere of our guest performance series of Arien at B.A.M. in 1985, New York suffered a severe drought. Water was scarce and the many hundred liters of water were not available for Arien and had to be flown from, I think it was L.A. with the result that our Arien premiere was delayed 90 minutes. An announcement was made, and it was requested all spectators to bear with us and to be patient while we waited for the water to arrive and which they all did. In the audience were Woody Allen, Bianca Jagger and David Bowie who came backstage after the show to congratulate me. And believe it or not, I even got to drive through the streets of New York with Lisa Minelli in her black stretch limousine drinking champagne from the very limousine fridge.
The stage, ankle deep with water, was supposed stay warm but after 30 minutes it had turned cold. Of course, the technicians tried their best, but the stage is just too big and open to keep its heat. Arien received its title from the many arias sung throughout. A sad but poetic, romantic, melancholic love story. Pina had me in love with a hippopotamus on a flooded stage. My role was difficult and demanded all my experience as dancer and actress, and the whole scale of human feelings, from hope to hopelessness. A mournful state of sad beauty enhanced with loneliness, and death. Dresses clung to wet bodies and became heavier tin the dancing. Men in suits and women in evening dresses lay in the water reflecting brilliantly while I was constantly saturated. Would be believe I had six off-stage moments to change my underwear before going back on stage only to get wet again?
There is little dance as was often the case in the early years. A funeral scene to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Nr 14 Mondscheinsonate. 26 dancers on stage all in black. All you hear is the sound of silence and steps taken in the water. In a never-ending embrace, a small woman is carried by a tall dancer across the stage. Mouth to mouth their lips touching in one lingering kiss. Children’s games, musical chairs and rhymes are played seriously while each word is articulated as if in a Bible. Little Peter Rabbit. This old man he played one. I am a little Teapot and hokey pokey were just a few. No one laughed.
I began to move on first note with my eyes shut, very concentrated. To be honest, I wouldn’t call it a dance at all. It consists of mini non-stop moving moments to each Beethoven beat, – 1, 2, 3 – 1, 2, 3 as if you were in a trance full of sorrow or drowning in moonlight bliss or a yearning to pass into another world. The longer the dance continues, the more you become one with the Moonlight Sonata and the 1, 2, 3s. Others join in. Towards the end of the music, you snap out of the trance, and in a cold shudder of fright, you scream and run off stage – the water splashing everywhere.
Pina must have loved me doing this Mondscheinsonate dance as she often told the other dancers to “watch Jo.”
Each time Arien was brought back into the repertoire, I could still hear so clearly the voices of the original dancers with me at its creation in 1979 underneath the voices of the new generation dancers, an echo from the past while memories, situations and all kinds of feelings and images returned to me.

My adorable 90 kilo hippo, present in many scenes, was guided by a walkie talkie held by a person standing just off-stage. Crouched inside were two lots of strong healthy, young men. In the hippo squatted two strong, healthy young men. It is or was awkward and uncomfortable when they had to walk as the water soaked into his belly making him heavy and sagging, patsch, patsch, patsch, as he trampled on. During one performance, the walkie talkies failed, and he came walking from back to down front. Normally, he’d stop in the middle of the stage, but he plodded on and on. Had he gone another three steps, he’d have fallen off the stage. I ran to him and said, “Turn around now, you are about fall off the stage.” The public laughed while he struggled to turn around wobbling his way back to his sitting place while “his voice or eyes” were repaired. I then took my cue to continue with the scene, which was no doubt laughing for the next two minutes over the sight of his big bottom and the little tail hanging in the middle of his fat lovely bottom.

For the 1979 premiere of Arien, the hippopotamus wasn’t quite finished. The paint was still wet and in need of a final coating of “hippopotamus-grey”. No way could Hippo with the two men inside play my lover, as the fumes would have knocked him out. Instead of cancelling the show Pina asked Hans Dieter, a very dear colleague who was by far the best choice, as he was furthest away from looking like a dancer and nearest to resembling my Hippopotamus. Of course, it wasn’t as poetic or authentic, but just the same, it was somehow lovely.
I loved bringing Pina on stage for the Arien applause in her black rubber gum boots (galoshes), a funny sight, Pina bowing in those gumboots either smiling or half-smiling or with the hint of a smile or with slightly raised corners of the mouth or just standing there pale and exhausted with the weight of fame resting on her shoulders.

In 2017 I restaged Arien to a fully new cast of Tanztheater dancers and a newly made Hippopotamus who I thought wasn’t quite as handsome as the old one. He seemed a little fatter somehow. The dance floor was also new and for some reason was slippery. Allegedly, the dance floor had been impregnated with an agent that foamed as soon as it came into contact with water. About 15 minutes after we started dancing in the water, it started to foam and lather itself up into a bubble bath. Looked great, but wasn’t meant to be. It had to be replaced as this was a complete no-no.

Following Arien, water appeared in every other piece: in bottles, buckets, puddles, an aquarium, showers, rivers, a swimming island, projections, waterfalls, or drunk from a glass, tipped out of a bottle, gurgled, and spat out, poured over a person, and rain trickling from a garden hose for three hours.

As far as I know it never happened that a performance was cancelled, not even on the unexpected day of her death on 30 June 2009.

Rolf Borzik


Rolf and Pina met during their studies at the Folkwang School and together became a genius working couple. He was not only her closest colleague and advisor but fortuitously her partner, collaborator, mentor, stage and costume designer. Furthermore, he also protected her from many unpleasant discussions and awkward situations. Pina and Rolf loved and inspired each other. They not only inspired each other but relied on each other and loved one another.

Rolf was full of ideas and imagination, and due to their close relationship, he was able to accomplish a more realistic understanding of the content of her vision and what was ideally wanted as a stage space. They moved all kinds of mountains of new ideas by creating the most amazing stage landscapes and costume designs that I have ever seen or danced in, like the thick layer of peat in Sacre, a stage full of water in Arien, leaves in Bluebeard, icy mountains in Renate, the barren tree and twigs of tree in Come dance with me, enamel bathtubs and hanging white sheets in Iphigenie. Endless ideas and elements of nature. Rolf was often in the studio watching, making his notes and sketches, or indulging in photography. He was something of a dreamer; a few times he lost track of time and found himself sleeping overnight in the set-painting studio of the Opera House. He was popular, encouraging, and well-liked among all the dancers.

Keuschheitslegende (Legend of chastity) was Rolf’s last piece with the dance theater. At the time of the creation, I was seven months pregnant and thrilled to pieces when I heard the doctor say “positive”. I was head over heels in love. My role was that of a pregnant, wealthy, chic, charming, dominating lady-like-brothel-mother in a gold dress and fur coat. In Legend of Chasity there were 4 crocodiles on stage and an annoying barking dog. The stage floor was a blue canvas painting of a sea with lots of colorful, cocktail sofas and velvet armchairs on wheels. This piece was filled to excess. Erotic obscene scenes, dirty jokes, childish sex games, ironical sleazy sequences, attempts at mating, posing prostitutes, flesh, peeping toms, smoky atmospheres with dancers lifting their dresses or men lowering their trousers to do a so-called dance with their belly button. Men in bright colored suits and ladies wearing elegant evening dresses. A man in underpants, white shoes, socks, and dark sunglasses who greased his complete body with Vaseline while staring in to audience. Before intermission clothes were stripped off and flung into the air to a very simple Bausch long step movement to fantastic music.

I ate hors d’oeuvres, drank champagne while the 4 real-real-life-sized crocodiles lay at my feet. By the time of my crocodile-feeding-scene I was close to vomiting or passing out at the thought of touching that wet, ghastly, dripping, raw, bloody meat which lay stacked up in that ugly, pink, plastic bucket. As if in ecstasy, I beckoned my crocodiles in a sickly, sexy voice, “Come my darlings, it’s dinner time and look what I have for you. Delicious, tasty, bloody, dripping meat! Ach! Ooh! Mmmm!’ I saw that one crocodile wasn’t responding to my call. I wandered over to him holding an extra-large dripping piece of bloody meat. On throwing the meat in to his mouth I heard him calling, “Help. I can’t breathe.” It was the crocodile which had been painted on the day of the dress rehearsal. I realized there was something seriously wrong. I quickly ordered one of the dancers close by to drag him off. Anyway, that’s just by the way.

The stunning golden dress I was supposed to wear for Keuschheitslegend was made of synthetic material, and the moment I put in on I began to sweat and my whole body began to itch. The material felt awful, and I thought perhaps it was unhealthy for the golden baby in my tummy, so I asked for a different dress. Rolf and I quarreled stupidly, and my being me and somewhat sensitive as pregnant women tend to be, must have said the wrong thing in the wrong way and hurt Rolf’s feelings. I hated myself for this petty fight over that stupid itchy golden dress.

What I did not know at the time was that Rolf was seriously ill. He never complained. One year later, in 1980 Rolf passed away. Leukemia. He was 35 years old.

I was on two months maternity leave and in Australia when he left us. My thoughts were no doubt with Pina, but I could not be there for her. I called per telephone and asked if she would like me to fly back to Germany, but I knew with the support of her family of dancers, staff, and close friends, and as long as she kept working, she should be okay.

And that she did – threw herself in to her next work titled 1980 which turned out to be a most beautiful piece full of beauty, poesy, and joy-engraved moments with touches of loss and sadness on a stage full of green green grass, this time designed by Peter Pabst.
Rolf played a vital role to the success of Tanztheater giving it an unforgeable, unforgettable, unmistakable face.

Those years with Pina and Rolf were markedly different if I compare them to my Tanztheater experiences of now. There was a kind of humility and an openness among us to or in whatever we were doing. Something transpersonal something non-describable that happens between people who create and strive to do things together. A togetherness which now seems to me lost ever since she left us.

“1980 – A Piece by Pina Bausch”

Ursula Kaufmann


I did a lot of talking and diary writing to myself in those days when I first left Australia. And I made a point of sending a letter to Mum each week without fail. Calling on a telephone was too expensive. This was before the days of the internet, iPads, mobile phones, electronic books, WLAN, short messaging, zooming, WhatsApp. A pound was a pound and a dollar a dollar, and the good old German Deutsche Mark was a sign of a strong economic currency.

Each second year, my mother came to Wuppertal to visit until she got too old to fly. My first flat in Wuppertal was mini. We took turns sleeping in the single bed or on the floor. Mum was as agile and uncomplicated as I was. I am so much like my mother, especially now with age but not only in looks. We have the same impressive eyes and similar taste in clothes. We cry over the same songs or music. Get upset over the same things. The list is long. I am greyer than she ever was and catch myself making the same silly mistakes she did or like all old people do. My husband says, “You are becoming your mother.” Just a few weeks ago we couldn’t find the house phone. It was nowhere to be see or found. My son was in the downstairs bathroom and heard a ringing noise coming from outside the house – the telephone had landed up in the rubbish bin. Anyway, back to Wuppertal.

Wuppertal is not such an exciting city, especially if you cannot speak German so Mum asked me if she could watch rehearsal now and again. Pina was very particular about anyone at all sitting in on rehearsals and watching a creation of any new piece in any year. Mostly, this was out of the question, a real taboo, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend even asking – even if she was my mother. Twice she was allowed exceptional permission to watch. Bravely she sat up front on the floor in a corner making herself as invisible as possible. On her second visit she took out of her bag a pair of knitting needles and began knitting. The click-clacking noise of those steel needles was obviously disturbing Pina immensely. I was given such a severe look from Pina that I went to Mum in her invisible corner and asked her to stop knitting. Mum placed her knitting right back where it came from and never went back again. Of course, it sounds terrible but now that I have done some choreographing work myself I can kind of understand Pina’s reaction. Even now when I am writing and I hear a tap dripping or the sound of a buzzing fly I get annoyed.

To my mother, Pina was the woman who had taken her Joey away from her, with all deep respect to her work. Mum never really understood why I just didn’t leave her. To be honest, I don’t even understand it myself.
I lost my father at the age of twenty-six. We were on tour at the time. I asked permission to go to the funeral in Sydney but the answer I received was “I need you here.”

Mum passed away on 17 July 2023; she had almost reached 102 years. She had been desperately waiting to be taken up there for years. My mother was not only my mother, but one of my favourite people.


There were many times I tried to escape her but the many times she called me on the phone, and I heard her soft, weak voice: “Joeylein, can you come? I need you.”

I couldn’t say “no.” Hearing her voice was like a soothing, warming, healing cream.
There were days when I thought she nourished herself not only on the love of her dancers but also on their suffering and pain. I wondered where her feelings were. If she even had feelings. It was just so difficult to read through that poker face of hers but yes of course she had feelings – doesn’t everyone. I really don’t know how to describe what I mean but it felt a bit like she was outsourcing or extracting so much from one’s inner self to meld into her works – as if she could feel her feelings best through other persons. But I guess that is exactly what gifted, exceptional choreographers do – and it depends on individual capacities.
There were times when I not only loved her but hated her. No, not “hated her,” hate is a much too severe word. I never hated anyone. She truly once did say to me after a performance of Come dance with me, “That’s the way I like you best, Jo, exhausted.” What is the English word for love-hate? Ambivalent, yes, that is the word I would say describes my relationship, but also complicated. On one side she gave me the wings I needed to master my life, but she also planted a few horns and thorns to go with the horns. I became obsessed, trapped, drawn not only to her exceptional personality and beauty but by her closed penetrating ways. I felt dependent. She was able to manipulate me and knew this only too well. Sometimes, I liked this near, close feeling, but at other times it felt creepy.
Being Australian wasn’t easy as I was and still am in my ways a very direct, old-fashioned, conservative sided person. You can’t beat being truthful, but even so, there are ways to say things and ways to not say things. I had to learn to adjust. Vor einigen Jahren kam ein Journalist auf mich zu und fragte, ob es wahr sei, dass ich Pina einmal einen Vampir genannt habe! A journalist approached me some years ago asking if it were true that I once called Pina a vampire! And I said: “You don’t care if someone dies here on stage; the main thing is your work goes on.”

I kept silent and swallowed before answering. “Yes,” I did, and I can’t deny it and I’m sorry that I lashed out and hurt Pina with such violent words, but please understand, I was young, impulsive, somewhat stubborn, emotional, perhaps stupid and for sure I was stressed out having to dance two huge roles in the other two pieces on that triple bill evening in 1976. Great choreographers are not easy people. Why did I freak out like that?

Jo – why, Jo! Let me try explaining, defend or apologize for myself. It was our very first dress rehearsal of the long-awaited Sacre when, after the first ten minutes, a dance colleague was injured and had to leave the stage limping in severe pain, yet the rehearsal continued for quite some time as if nothing had happened. I was sure Pina was aware of it. She generally never missed anything. I was furious. It was that moment after the first little solo when 2 strong, craving men grab the dancer under her armpits and literally throw her thru the air onto the shoulders of a man who is standing about 1 metre away waiting to catch her. Ideally, she lands with her crotch directly in his face. But something went wrong and landed badly. Colleen heard noises of cracking vertebrae. Did you know the spine consists of 33 bones called vertebra? Anyway. Yes, I know, no one wanted to stop… the excitement, the stress, the months of work behind it! Just let’s do it now finally. Sacre is not a piece anyone would want to stop. But!! My friend was hurt and obviously in pain. Colleen suffered for the rest of her life from this accident, which in those days 1976 wasn’t even recorded as an accident and therefore no compensation. I didn’t speak with Pina for weeks after this episode. She did go and visit Colleen in hospital!
I hated myself in moments like this. I hated myself for hurting you Pina and calling you a Vampire. We didn’t talk to each other for weeks after.


I knew she cared for me and so did I for her and after a round of tears and sorries after the “vampire episode” we were once back on talking and working terms, I was invited by Rolf and Pina to spend Christmas with them. It didn’t take much persuading, and so I went with them to Holland. I apologised and cried on Pina’s shoulder.
Rolf’s mother had laid the table perfectly. Pina wore a pretty dress, and I probably did also. I sat beside Rolf and opposite Pina. We drank a little wine, laughed. I was careful not to laugh too loudly. Then came Christmas dinner. TONGUE. I’d never seen a tongue on a silver platter before, let alone eaten one for Christmas dinner. Tongue is a real culinary delight and difficult to cook. I looked to Pina and then to my plate. Oh, my God, what was I to do? No way could I get that tongue anywhere near my mouth. My focus went again to Pina. I could see she felt the same. I’m not sure how we got out of it, but I know my tongue and Pina’s tongue were left untouched on our plates. Never will I forget that tongue at Christmas.
My other Christmas at Pina’s parents’ home was different, without tongue, and with nice walks through the little village and forest where Pina talked about herself, her childhood, and her family. Her father August asked as we walked through the front door on seeing me, “Is this your new prize horse?” I noticed what large feet he had. Wow, I think Pina said he wore a size 47 shoe. That would be an English size 16. I spent a pleasant Christmas there with Pina’s mother Anita and father August, Rolf, and Pina. For several months afterwards, I stayed with Rolf and Pina at their apartment in Fingscheid Str 5 Wuppertal Unterbarmen. I had my own room where Pina watched and observed me from the kitchen window whenever she wanted to and which I often caught her doing. Mostly, we went out for breakfast at Cafe Banz which is now non-existent and out to dinner. If there happened to be anything green or red on Pinas roll, as in salad or tomato or in healthy it was removed. The filter coffee she made was weakened with lots of hot water and ended up tasting more like weak tea or muddy water than coffee. We seldom ate at home. I don’t remember Pina cooking. Everything was very tidy and clean; even her underpants were folded perfectly. Pina had a beautiful satin, old-fashioned dressing gown for mornings when she arose from bed. It was a brownish red colour, and she looked gorgeous, half awake, half asleep, her skin so pale, serene, and soft.


Rolf was replaced by Peter Pabst. Pina would have been lost without Peter. They were a great working couple. Peter had a great sense of humour and, like Pina, never gave up. For 29 years, he faithfully and dedicatedly assisted her as a stage designer. Between Rolf and Peter’s tenures, we danced on stage floors full of earth, water, leaves, grass, a long street with pavement to the one side and potholes, 8000 fabric carnations, sand, over-sized cactus trees, a mountain of red roses, a sea of stones or on an island floating in water or on a ship among many amazing other settings – in rain, puddles of water, wind, and fog. There were small dogs, Alsatian dogs, sheep, doves and other real animals and unreal ones, a hippopotamus and five crocodiles, which normally can only be seen in the zoo or in the wilderness, but with Pina one witnessed them on stage.

With never-ending imagination, Rolf and Peter brought the stage spaces to life for Pina. It was so much fun dancing on real stage floors. They smelt good. They felt good. They looked good. They were good.
Peter added into the pieces amazing projections and video material: fields of flowers, masses of people, exotic fish and animals. In Kontakthof, there was a three-minute film clip about ducks’ mating habits. In Walzer, there was an excerpt from a film about the birth of a child.
Stage discovery and design decisions were discussed and examined by Pina and Peter intensely for hours, days and nights until the not yet born piece began to exist. For Peter it was an indeed stressful, demanding, and nerve-wracking job. Peter and Pina had all departments of the theatre workshops working overtime and on tenterhooks until the very last moment, but in the end, and as always and especially for Pina, everything came wondrously just in time together. Pina would have been lost without Peter. They were a great working couple. For 29 years, he faithfully and dedicatedly assisted her as a stage designer. He had a great sense of humour and, just like Pina, never gave up.

Marion Cito, who began working with the Tanztheater as dancer/assistant in 1976 stepped into the shoes of Rolf as costume designer and had similar problems to those of Peter since the costumes couldn’t be designed before a creation but during the process of creation. Each costume was uniquely designed, fitted, and sewn with much care for the person’s body and personality by Marion personally. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to perform in a Marion Cito designed dress. My costumes were all chosen by Rolf, Pina or me, and I loved every single one of them. They were my treasures and good luck charms. I always hung them up after a performance, not like some other dancers who just left them thrown on the floor. I cared about my costumes.
In my time, we wore dresses from the existing theatre pool of costumes called Fundus or purchased from second-hand shops. We danced in casual street dresses, petticoats, skirts, barefooted, in street shoes and in heels but not quite so dangerously, dazzlingly high as the stilettos my colleagues wear today. Some of the evening dresses were made especially by the lovely wardrobe ladies. Marion is now well over 80 years old and retired while Peter enjoys his life as a pensioner travelling in one of his super cars to Wuppertal now and then to help when necessary.
Life is a miracle and full of surprises, and on the following tour to South America, Pina met the German-born poet, writer, and teacher Ronald Kay, and shortly after, at the age of 41, found herself pregnant. In 1981, she gave birth to her son whom she named Rolf Salomon Bausch.
In 2017, Ronald passed away and now lies close to Pina in his grave.


My first successful longer breakaway from Pina was in 1986. The Tanztheater was and is often on tour, which is wonderful if you don’t have the lead role or have children – but I happened to. I felt obliged to save all my energy for the performance of that evening. Somewhere along the road, I began to feel like a marathon woman, Paris, six performances of Walzer and five of Seven deadly sins. I saw nothing of any city we toured to except for the theatre, ballet studio and my way to and from the theatre, my hotel, and a few restaurants. It was heaven and hell all at once. Combining, organizing or juggling my private life and family around these tours so that I could accomplish the performances to Pina’s satisfaction was not easy and often expensive. At the end of 1985, there was a long exhausting residence for me in New York at Brooklyn Academy of Music: four performances in a row of Arien, four times Kontakthof, four Gebirge, and six performances of Seven Deadly Sins. For each of my roles, there was no understudy. Pina’s pieces did not function unless they were real and living, and I was on the edge of real and living. My skin was bad, my nerves bad. I felt like a withered stick of leek. I was left with no sense of space or freedom around me and little time to spend with my family. Often, I felt so damn lonely going to my hotel room alone, after performing all those haunting game of love pieces. Who was there to be tender to me?
My body, soul and mind were telling me to stop. I just wasn’t me anymore. All that being touched by the men on stage in Seven deadly sins began to add up, so much so that I could hardly bear to look at a man. I was abnormally tired. Through the day, I would sleep and sleep. Only got up to perform or rehearse; even attended for the corrections. And out of a mad kind of discipline or of love and passion for dance and Pina, or my duty I was able to master the performances well but …!

Really is that what life was about. I had no life I was only working. I needed to change something in my life. I just couldn’t continue. What was life about? After thirteen non-stop years of working for her as a loyal dancer, I not only wanted but desperately needed to be free and out of close vicinity. Jo decided to leave Wuppertal and Pina and devote herself to her family by moving as far away from Pina as possible.

I’m not sure if Pina really understood or forgave me, but I told her that I must leave for a while. As it was in the middle of the season and my contract was not finished, we decided it best I go home to Australia to rest but on one or two conditions: she absolutely needed me for the coming tour in Japan and Kyoto to perform Sacre and Kontakthof.

As it happened, I found out later when I was in Australia that I was pregnant with my second child and it suddenly all made sense. For a very high price, we hired a shipping firm to transport most of the beautiful antique cherry tree furniture, which I had acquired over the years, to Australia. It was too precious and full of memories for me to leave behind in Germany. I was happy when it arrived safely four months later. There were a few mice in one or two cartons. Nothing got broken, but my nice velvet curtains were eaten by the starving mousetrap family. With the money we had saved over the years, we were able to buy a little Federation house in Marrickville, Sydney, and two years later after our third child Simon was born and our little house in Marrickville became too small, we moved to a bigger, better Federation house in Petersham.
At night, Pina appeared to me in my dreams, but I was doing quite a good job of forgetting her. Or I tried to think I was. I was happy being back home and having Australians living all around me, sunny weather, wide streets, lots of green trees, vast blue skies and hearing the Aussie accent again. Home sweet home. I knew my way around, felt the wind blowing through my hair, knew exactly what flavour milkshake I was about to drink and even ate some of those ghastly cream buns, which I had forbidden myself to eat for years as a dancer.
I took my husband into the city, down to Circular Quay and brought him some fresh fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper and then showed him around our glorious harbour. Afterwards, we hopped onto the ferry and continued to Sydney’s spectacular Manly Beach. More than ever, I wanted him to finally understand why I needed to come home and just be me. Best of all, was mum living round in the next suburb.
This left me about five months to recover from my exhaustion and even less months to get myself into shape after giving birth to the baby before joining the company in Japan which was part of the deal I had made with Pina. We found ourselves on the plane to Japan: Clare six years, baby Josef four months old, Ferdinand and me. A ten-hour trip from Sydney. I must have been mad to agree but I did. A promise is a promise, but it was a nightmare, Sacre of all pieces as breast-feeding mother of a five-month-old baby. Pina was no doubt expecting me to dance the solo. Madness! Anyway, to cut a long story short I made it thanks to my husband’s help. He did the babysitting while I had continual danced. I remember this tour very well. It was my first time to Japan, so I didn’t really know what to expect. In 1986, it was difficult walking through the crowded busy streets of Tokyo wheeling a little baby in a pram. Very few Japanese people spoke English. If you asked them, they all answered “Yes, I speak English,” but they couldn’t. If we needed something at the supermarket, no-one seemed to understand. If I ordered something to eat in a restaurant, I had no idea what it was about to arrive on my plate. Sushi wasn’t as in back then. Nowadays, you can buy everything to anything even German bread. Even McDonald’s has spread its wings. People all over the world seem to live off those burgers. Before burger, chubby Japanese didn’t exist but in 2010 on our second tour to Japan I saw many.

Tokyo is loud, huge with masses of people and chock-a-block traffic everywhere. Shortly before each performance, Ferdinand would bring baby Josef to drink his mother-made milk shake. One day however, he got lost and could not find the theatre. He asked many Japanese, “Can you please tell me where the theatre is?” and most of them said “Yes, that way” another said “No, that way,” another answered, “Yes. Yes,” while patting the baby on his head. I was worried not only about them but also about the milk and my breasts. No way could I go on stage in my transparent Sacre dress with those “gigantic” breasts. It would’ve been too painful to dance. I squeezed, pumped and bottled as much milk as I could until they arrived. I had a continual breast infection, mastitis, the whole tour long. But thank God, the Japanese had wonderful creams, oils, drops and hot baths for this. The Japanese men and women working in the theatre were all so very kind to us. They loved baby Josef and daughter Clare.
For Kontakthof performances, I bound my breasts underneath my dress. This was a little easier than dancing Sacre as a mother, but not much.
After Japan, I married Ferdinand. But I still wasn’t really finished with the AGREEMENT I had made with Pina being: “Jo would participate in one last new creation.” Between Pina and me, it was clear that after Japan I would return home to my little house in Australia but after some four months of recovery we would fly back to Wuppertal to complete my promise to dance in one last creation which was titled Ahnen premiere in 1987. As if Australia was around the next corner of the world.

Ferdinand and me


P.S. And if I may say something important here is that my greatest achievement in life so far is that I managed to not only to do all that but that I came out sane and have not separated from my husband, divorced, not given him the flick off as my mother would say. Without his understanding this multi-tasking life of constant change between dancer and mother and wife and then from wife, mother and back to dancer (there is a difference) would have been impossible. There were times when I felt he doubted who I loved more. Of course, I suffered from a guilty conscience when I was absent from home for longer periods. I love my family.

“Ahnen” by Pina Bausch, 1987

Ursula Kaufmann


In my mind, I have weird, vivid images of the piece and the dancers of that time. A stage full of exotic, oversized cacti. I see face masks and a couple in plastic leopard-skin trench coats, one punky looking man in dark sunglasses wearing a Scottish kilt and black leather jacket and boots, another sitting with naked torso, spectacles, and blue leather boots with a white tutu on his head like some kind of Indian squaw, three other odd-looking men sitting or lying-in sundeck chairs and covered with warm blankets. One of the men sings Carmen’s Habanera by Bizet while the other translates and the third listens, a walrus; a girl sitting cross-legged in a chair in a summer dress with a large red lipstick heart drawn over her face stares provocatively into the audience, while holding a large piece of white chalk with a breakfast-sized board resting on her lap and rubbing the chalk there and back for ages. Julie Stanzak couldn’t understand what Pina found so interesting in this chalk movement moment, but in context of the piece, it was impressive and artistically strong. Upside down in front of one of the cactus plants, a girl in bra and underpants stood in a handstand position for quite some time. Strange mundane things happening on stage.
I liked the unusual new kinds of music mixtures, from harsh aggressive punk, African tribal beating of drums, opera, Japanese rock and others. It gave the piece yet another ground or basis. I had a long, dynamic solo, feeling somewhat like a wingless bird or a chicken who had just had its head chopped off while a wind machine blew me in all directions over the stage in a forest full of big green cactuses. I danced over the music, my long windswept hair flying with me in all directions, the quicker I was in my movements the better.
Ahnen was Pina’s 20th piece. Slowly she had become a cult figure.
After Ahnen my contractual agreement was completed and we flew back to Australia. I thought that was the end of my story with Pina but…. but my husband had a turn of acute homesickness and we were struggling to pay our bills. In our third year we decided to return to Germany. Oh, my God, was it never going to end. The almost 40-hour flight was terrible with all the trimmings: passport control, customs, lugging suitcases and calming three small children. It was freezing winter on arrival. We had more or less nothing and had to start from almost scratch. I stayed home and looked after the children while Ferdinand search for a job. I worked a few days per week in the kitchen of the Waldorf School and learned to make the best pizza dough ever It was fun. I was kind of happy without her until one fine day the telephone rang, and fate stepped in. For a moment my voice failed me. It was Pina asking if I could dance Orpheus and Eurydice in Genoa in three weeks. In my stomach I was feeling kind of sick, elated and scared all at once. Ferdinand’s chin dropped almost to his knees as he knew exactly how out of training I was and how long I’d been fighting against myself for the day when this very moment arrived.

Jo once again under Pina’s spell. It was tough torturing myself in three weeks back in to dancing shape. When I turned up in the Lichtburg with shoulder-length hair, and before Pina’s face could drop any lower than it already had, I explained to her that I had spoken already with the hairdresser from the theatre, and it was no big deal to add hair extensions or wear a false bun. “Don’t worry, Pina.” If there was a hair length, she despised it was shoulder length. It implied “secretary length,” which meant I looked like a secretary. Anyway, the rehearsals commenced and from the expression on her face I could see that she was quite satisfied with me. I wobbled home afterwards like a wounded soldier too exhausted to speak or eat with every bone and muscle in my body aching. I slept on my back like a sack of potatoes without moving a hair.
And so, Jo danced Eurydice as if she had never taken her dancing shoes off. I was in heaven. I felt reborn. Sounds like a fairy tale almost. This was the last time the Wuppertal Dance theatre performed Orpheus and Eurydice.
I realized once again how valuable and important working with Pina and the Company still was for me and that there was so much left which I had to say and give on stage. I was amazed with myself and the fact that I danced this piece again after so many years. Yes – the human body is such an exceptional gift.


Would I be right to describe artists as loners? Particularly dancers! Dancers who have chosen to live this life often unconsciously seek for affection and attention, to find a form of replacement family or a home within the theatre. Yes, I would say so, and Pina gave each of us a caring feeling of understanding and security, which led automatically to a development in trust and helped to overcome introversion or anxiety. As she treated each person as an individual, she gave me the feeling that I was someone special. She gave us a home away from home, even if she was poking us around or using us as her “tools” while at the same time she cleverly dived deeply into one’s most private feelings, into one’s soul, far beyond the physical and psychological limits of resilience, then using what she had discovered about us in her pieces. I loved this way of working, knowing that Pina sensed that a deep feeling of loneliness formed me and made me strong. This bound me to her for decades, privately and through her choreographic process.
It took Pina and me years to get to know each other well as there were so many sides to us both. Until I met her, I had no idea just how many sides there were to me. My acting range and scale of talents were broad: quiet to loud, pretty to ugly, normal to crazy, shy to dominant, young to old, snob to diva, and sweet to sour. This was good for Pina’s work as it never got boring. We searched, we found, we shared, and searched for more. I enjoyed our new adventures and jumping into unknown cold waters, but with Pina, the water was always icy cold. Don’t forget to breathe, Jo.

Faithful dancers were in return rewarded and loved by Pina. When you love someone, you can be driven to extremes to please that person. The life of any dancer is or was never easy. It requires hard work, making sacrifices, forgoing a lot, iron discipline, and a passion to dance, move, be seen and understood. A natural, inborn sense of musicality is for any dancer of extreme importance, but not all dancers have this gift of filling the music till the end fingertips of a note. I would be lost as a dancer without music and my sensitivity to it.
Normally a woman dancer’s career has ended by the time she turns forty or perhaps to exception at forty-five years, but for Pina and her authentic way of working, none of her dancers seemed too old for her liking. With age, muscles melt and disappear faster, so the build-up is slower, and I have realized there is no forever youth for Jo, but never mind. Jo just goes on. It wasn’t till the age of sixty-five, that I underwent my first hip replacement – quite a typical procedure for a dancer due to all those strange, twisted, over-exerted muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons used in the job. In general, a dancer will dance or perform come what may unless it’s a serious injury like a broken foot or arm, or pain becomes unbearable, which it did in my case. I could hardly walk and so went limping into the hospital where I heard the chief doctor say just as I was about to slip into the arms of anesthesia before the operation: “My God, she resembles a farmer’s Mona Lisa and with hips like hers she never should have become a dancer; she would have been more fitting as a saleswoman in Coles or Woolworths.” I would have loved to answer him back: “With hands like yours and the way you actually cut me, you’d be better off as a butcher.” But I held my tongue.

Sorry, just one more short story about Jo and madness 2017. I flew from rehearsing dancers of the Paris Opera for Sacre to Berlin for a quick three-day workshop which couldn’t be cancelled just because Jo still hadn’t learnt to say “no” when I broke my foot while showing the simplest of steps. It was so embarrassing! And painful. The first two doctors I saw x-rayed my foot and were positive there was no way around an immediate operation. I was not keen about having screws inserted into my feet, so I went to an alternative doctor for another opinion. He advised me to wear an orthopaedic shoe for seven weeks with strict orders to take it easy and go slow. However, I was under contract with the Paris Opera, and no one else was available to teach Sacre. So, Jo limped her way back to Paris to conclude her duties rehearsing Sacre for the remaining six weeks in the revolting orthopaedic shoe she despised and hoped never to wear again in her life. You should have seen me limping through the movements in rehearsal. My foot healed perfectly without the screws.
If I add up the years I worked at the Paris Opera, I come to 25 years. I even get a monthly pension of 200 euros from the French government.
On stage, dancers have something timeless about them, not all, but I would like to think I was one of them. Some of my roles I danced ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty and forty years later and hopefully had everyone believing that I was still that beautiful young girl from the 1970s. I never gave age much thought. It was something that happened to everyone else but not to me. How does the saying go? “You’re only as old as you feel.” I found little time to stand in front of mirrors examining skin smoothness, wrinkles or hanging jowls, which were on the march. Face lifts out of a bottle or Botox injections were out of the question. With my kind of multi-tasking life, I never learned to pamper myself. The word “limit” was just not on my agenda. I just did everything, and things got done. And I guess I still do.
I believe I became one of Pina’s favorite dancers for her most used theme of the early years, which were mostly based on haunting human relationships: male power, female manipulation, complex love scenes of misunderstandings, sexual violence, and meaningful or meaningless words and promises. Pina trusted me and allowed me a margin of freedom of emotions within the piece so that I was able to live, my life, and my long-standing relationship into it. That was particularly so in Come dance with me, which seemed to mature and improve the older and wiser I became. Beautiful, old, sad German love songs were sung by the dancers throughout the piece.
Nothing went on stage until she was satisfied – no dancer ever felt uncomfortable in what he was doing or what she was portraying. Never be who you are not. You always take yourself with you on stage. Pieces don’t work if they are not authentic. This is something I have learned from working with Pina. The boundary between reality and art is so closely interwoven in her works that I easily put myself in these roles.

“Komm tanz mit mir” by Pina Bausch, 1977 and resumption

Ursula Kaufmann


The first time I danced this piece, I was 26 years old and the last time I danced it, 60. It was in Japan to the most attentive, respectful, thankful audience. There was no Pina anymore. In my heart I was missing her badly. This Come dance with me turned out to be the most unforgettable performance I had ever danced in my whole life. I knew it was to be my last, but also, while I was dancing, I had the feeling that Pina was somehow alive inside me, existent, as if she were the one directing and moving me throughout the whole piece. I could feel, hear, and see her in each movement I made. It was as if by dancing I could keep her alive a while longer. Or dance her back to life through me. I loved and danced my part as I had never treasured it before. I understood my pain, the loss, and my love for her.
To begin, the dancers are either lying down on stage in between a large bare branched tree or wandering around barefooted in their dresses singing fragments of old, beautiful, forgotten German love songs. Men in long black winter woolen coats, heavy black boots, dark colored felt hats, black trousers. Icy cold atmospheres and images. From offstage a musician plays the lute. A man is sitting leisurely in a white deck chair watching through the doorway of the iron curtain. He wears a spotless white suit, white shoes, dark sunglasses, and a black, felt hat. Suddenly the door is banged and slammed shut and the singing behind ceases. The iron fire wall curtain rises, and we see men and woman sliding frantically down from a steep, high, white icy looking mountain. Chaos. Panic. Action. Those not sliding are wildly running. Suddenly everyone disappears and I am left alone standing in deadly silence opposite the man in the deck chair. He looks at me. I look at him. He speaks. I am silent. I sit. He sits. I stand up. He stands up. I begin to dance. He walks away ignoring me completely. All too familiar themes with cruel twists. Genders clash, and an impossible love story of mistrust, rebellion, despair, terror, drama, with a few moments of love, and then hate begins. I try to escape by climbing up the slippery white mountain on all fours, but it is too steep and with each attempt I slip back down, my dress soaking wet in my sweat and tears.

“Komm tanz mit mir” by Pina Bausch, 1977

Ursula Kaufmann

An enormous barren tree dangerously hangs from the ceiling above the huge white slippery-slide stage, until the final breakdown of the two protagonists when the tree comes crashing down into the scene.
After a long 90 minutes I ended up wiped out, not only emotionally but also physically. Oh, did I feel lonely? Often there was no one afterwards to take me into their arms after this twisted love torture journey of a show to comfort me. Yes, Pina for a short moment gave me a hug after the applause but otherwise no one. I drove home, struggled to find sleep and tomorrow is or was just another working day. It was hard.
Most of these leading roles were so demanding I not only needed complete control over my body and mind but also over my feelings. The movements were not necessarily as important as the conviction of the person behind the role one was playing. The person is the role, and without this person the role would not exist. It was mostly my feelings which took me wherever I needed to go on stage. Yet had I not been such a well-trained classical dancer, I never would have been able to dance these killer roles to Pina’s liking. The only correction Pina ever gave me in all our years together was when she quietly hinted once, not to forget to turn out that right foot at the beginning. and that was it.
Pina had me crying, screaming, and laughing in many of the early pieces. If only you could imagine how exhausting those old pieces were. Tears were always real and wet, never crocodile tears. Crying is easier than laughing. Come dance with me ended with a kind of laughing-crying your guts out. You would dance till you almost dropped. And yes, if you dance often and are true to yourself, I can assure you that when the curtain falls you can be happy to stand up with enough energy left to laugh or even raise a glass to your mouth. Only after the shower are you responsive again and so proud and happy inside because you know that what we showed on stage is important and true.


Motherhood goes hand in hand with worry. My children taught me new layers of being and living in the very moment of every minute of every day, lacing my days with joy and everything else wrapped up to go with it. It was lovely to see my children taking their first steps, putting food in their mouths, smiling innocently, making those funny little noises that babies make, saying mummy and daddy, starting to talk, celebrating their birthdays and growing into little boys and girls. At the same time, feelings of joy, love and happiness returned to me. I felt needed and loved.
Love, a big four letter, but with so many hidden meanings.

From dancer to mother wasn’t easy. I had lots to learn. For instance, cooking and baking. I had never baked a cake or biscuits in my whole life and not even an Italian can live on spaghetti every day. Ironing is a nightmare, and thank God my husband doesn’t wear shirts, and no, I don’t iron T-shirts, perhaps once in a blue moon. Washing! If I don’t wash every day then it only piles up and waits for me. If I’ve been absent from home for let’s say six days, then this means on my return I have six loads of washing awaiting me. At least now I have a dryer. A cleaning lady is next on my list. Windows! Some women love cleaning windows. I despise it and if you pictured my many windows you’d understand.

Before leaving my home, I put myself into even more stress asking: “Is there enough food in the house? Oh, better go shopping quickly and stock up so the family won’t starve.” How stupid, the cupboards were full. I cooked, portioned, and froze food to ease my conscience. I even managed to water the plants and filled up on toilet rolls. Madness! Madness! With my multitasking life, I had no time for small talk or chit-chat. Thank God the children are all grown and out of the house. At present, I am happy the way life is going, home often, now and again Tanztheater, and sometimes I just love and need to do nothing but calm down.

Now I have learned to bake my own healthy “stollen” with spelt flour with half the required amount of sugar, and it is so delicious that you can eat lots of slices of it. That’s one good thing about getting older, the craving for sweet things passes. But I don’t want to start talking about that word “old” yet. I can wait a few years more for that. Let everyone else rave about it and get old first. For my age, I can’t complain.
Don’t ask me how many passports my children had renewed by the time they became teenagers. I tried to take them on tour as often as possible. This was expensive as you needed a babysitter as well. By the time Clare was seven, she needed a new passport. I tried to take her on every tour we did: Israel, Paris, Avignon, Toronto, Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam, Australia, Japan, Venice, Hamburg, Switzerland. I cannot remember all the countries.
None of my children was planned. I’m not one good at planning but when my daughter Clare came into the world in April 1980, I felt like one of the happiest mothers on this earth. I had read lots about pregnancy and mothers-to-be and babies and thought I knew everything one needed to know, but when D-Day arrived, all I could remember was “heckeln, heckeln, heckeln” – breathe, breathe, breathe is what the German midwife said. Babies are so tiny, helpless, and cute when they are born, and they smell so good, their skin so silky soft. Giving birth is just amazing, but getting back into shape after nine months’ maternity leave was hard. Working with a baby was demanding having to get up often in the middle of the night to breastfeed and early in the morning for nappies, and more nappies, without a lovely grandma to come and help.
Finding the right name for newly born babies is difficult. Clare was clear, because my mother’s forefathers were from County Clare in Ireland, and I loved the sound of the name. Josef was named after the Bible and his mother Josephine, and our third child Simon, who was born prematurely, and as fate would have it, on the same day as Pina. What a coincidence? My husband insisted on naming him Fritz at birth, but I said, “In Australia, you just can’t call a child Fritz. It might be nice and cute in Germany but not in Australia! Fritz is a sausage, all greasy and fat. We just can’t.”

We reconsidered and named him Simon Frederick, when he just kicked himself out of my stomach and into the world, in Sydney. I had become somewhat of an overcautious mother whenever it came to little Simon. Three weeks he remained in the hospital in an incubator until he had a good weight. Luckily, we weren’t living far away so every four hours on the dot and even in the middle of the night, I drove to King George Hospital in Glebe, and either gave him or brought him his personal milk. The fridge at the hospital was full of Milk for Simon. The nurses probably thought I was crazy when I walked in at all hours of the night, as if they were expecting me to moo like a cow.

Love, a big four letter, but with so many hidden meanings.
My relationship with Pina shifted slightly after motherhood.


If I think back to the beginning years in colours, I will say the first 7 years were the black and white years of Tanztheater. In the 1980s, the pieces began to take a different path. It was a bizarre, mundane, blurry time. Gone were principals and leading roles. Roles were more divided or shared throughout the piece. New Generations of dancers replaced the many dancers who had left. New faces and persons were now being faced with answering Pina’s questions – dancers from other countries and cultures, from Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Costa Rica, Belgium, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Italy, Poland, and Greece. I wasn’t quite sure what Pina was aiming at anymore. Her curiosity and openness seemed endless. She stuck with her question/answer method with the dancer, still taking risks, and diving further into other unknown spheres. Over a period of 36 years, this unique artist led this great dance company to the top of the dance world and held it together. Pina was unstoppable and untouchable. And she did accomplish all that she promised me in our first talk together in London.

Choreography and dance were not Pina’s only responsibility. She felt responsible for each person working for Tanztheater. All were valued and loved by her. She reigned like a queen over all fields of the Tanztheater with so much charm, knowledge, and skill, working with office workers, dancers, technicians, assistants. The non-dancers she had somehow interwoven into the success of Tanztheater as each played an important role for her and her feelings – from personal assistant to cleaning lady – the co-workers who stood behind her in good times and bad times.

It would be wrong to say who was the most important working person beside Pina, as all were and are vital. The managing director. Stage manager. Pina’s two longstanding musical collaborators. The loyal technical staff. Head of lighting. Sound. Props. Merchandising. Wardrobe. Together they have carried the Tanztheater “without Pina” for the past 15 years. But not to forget her loyal dancers, her pearls, as she named them.

No one worked either in or for the Tanztheater who did not fit in, because the ethos was built on deep trust, honesty, reliability, and emotional solidarity. The fact that so many dancers and staff remained for such long times with the company gave the Tanztheater its stability. In any case, we all did what we did because it was important. We all cared.

Pina was a notorious collector, a master of organization and a perfectionist in all she did. Wisely, she started to build up, collect, and preserve her archive many years ago. For each piece there were handwritten notes with keywords, instructions, photos, posters, documents, program booklet, and text. She sorted and categorized every DVD, and much later she had help from others. Nothing went out of the Tanztheater that she had not previously authorised. Nothing! Pina and her videos: they were all locked up, counted, numbered, either at her home or her office. Any video or DVD you took home you had to sign for, and if you mislaid or lost it, you were in trouble, big trouble. She avoided sending videos by post for fear they would be lost, stolen, broken, or copied. Pina was also a control freak.

Sometimes, she wrote me short notes or cards of admiration. These little messages gave me the courage needed in the many difficult times to continue with her. I have no idea if other dancers received such notes from Pina.

To me Pina was the most important spectator in the audience, something like a good luck charm. The last thing I did before going on stage was to collect Pina’s kiss and hug and listen to her whispered words: “You will be beautiful, Joeylein,” and that was it. I had what I needed from Pina.

Musically Pina was a genius, born and blessed with a deep, natural instinct for and understanding of music. Theoretically, she couldn’t read notes or play an instrument but WOW! Pina was open to all styles and melodies, traditional and untraditional, to classical, modern, pop, tango, national anthems, bandoneon, disco-beat, baroque, soundtracks from well-known and barely known composers. Musical layers of emotion were woven into one another while dance melted into the music, or was it the other way around, the music in with the dance and then, on top of all that she melded it once again into the hearts of the audience.

As in dance I don’t think musical sensitivity is something you can teach. I wonder if it has something to do with the sound of the beating heart rhythm already as an unborn baby in the womb. No idea.

A fortune of music’s and ideas were brought back from the 15 collaboration and Co- production countries which Pina began in 1986 in Rome, Italy with her dancers and long-standing musical collaborators Matthias Burkert and Andreas Eisenschneider and which she continued thru 23 years later till her death and final piece in Chile titled “Como el musguito en la Piedra, ay si, si, si… Traditions, impressions, daily lives of the peoples, new musical collages or potpourris were infused in to her creations. This added excitement, vitality, colour, freshness and flavour to the pieces, stimulated moods and atmospheres. Her sensitivity to sound, rhythmic patterns, timing, melodies, sensitivities increased. Not only new dancers allowed Pina more food for thought but also these new countries, cultures and human beings.
There wasn’t one musical selection she made that I disliked. If I hadn’t been a dancer, I would never have heard these wonderful works let alone danced to them.
Ironically, the older Pina became, the more fascinated she seemed to be by the normal and simpler everyday lives of normal people.


I made a point of watching as many creations as possible; some I liked more than others. Palermo, Ten Chi and Vollmond were just three of my favourites with startling, amazing solos. Mostly, I could only wonder at the dancers who transformed movement into something so ferociously powerful and meaningful. The new dance co-production theatre years were no longer my years for creations. I was more needed for revivals of the older works. It was as if Pina had said enough about the older themes of women as bruised victims and men as brutal macho monsters. Pina placed more emphasis on beautiful, sensual and feminine. I often heard her say “But it’s not beautiful enough.” Insanely beautiful, lush, and lovely dancers danced, tripped across the stage in crazy high heels, dressed in insanely, elegant, sensuous evening dresses in intoxicating, colours, looking more beautiful than the most beautiful models, their dresses moving in unison with the movements. Long hair, long dresses, long arms. There were breath taking, unforgettable solos from my long-standing colleagues Julie Shanahan, Helena Pikon, Nazareth Panadero, Fernando Suels, among others. The pieces shifted into lighter, more colourful, and entertaining modus with an added touch of luxury even though you could still feel Pina’s underlying search for thematic truth.

There were more solos and cherished themes of love and desire. A dancer who was choreographically talented became his or her own choreographer. Each solo was unique and created with an insane amount of patience and perseverance from the dancers in close collaboration with Pina who added the finishing touches and cream. Together, they made dance solos that belong to their own body, which they direct and master right down to their small finger and toe so their dance could flaunt and flow out of their body in unbelievably powerful ways. The music was selected when the solo was almost finished. Most choreographers create to the music, but not Pina.

“Palermo, Palermo” by Pina Bausch, 1989

Ursula Kaufmann

Some solo variations I witnessed from out front were so explosive, excessive, and powerful, that I almost couldn’t sit still on my seat out of admiration for my new colleagues and Pina. For example, in 1989 they were preforming a co-production piece with the Teatro Biondo on Via Roma in the heart of the old city theatre. No sooner did the curtain go up that an entire wall collapsed with a huge cracking sound! The ground shook as billowing clouds began to rise, leaving brick crumble and other rubble on stage. By coincidence, this happened in the same year as the Berlin Wall fell. Wow what a way to open a show, with a massive BOOM, BANG. The title of this wonderful, iconic piece is Palermo. Palermo.
Another scene in Palermo is when five piano players push their five pianos on stage, each sits down on his piano stool with his back to the audience, and all five-start playing the same theme, the famous motif from Tchaikovsky’s first Piano Concerto in B flat minor. At the same time, white clouds start moving back and forth on a kitschy painted blue-sky canvas drop. It’s unique and hilariously funny. Magical, heavenly moments. Strong images. How could anyone come up with the genius idea of making the clouds move and dance? Or the idea of Peter Pabst to end the final scene with flowering cherry trees which are lowered to the stage.
Musical choices once again genial: church bells, wailing cicadas, traditional music from Sicily, Renaissance, Blues, Jazz. The whole performance has a choreographic rhythm to it.

On the other hand, Pina was always one for surprises, so some pieces were puzzling to audiences; but on the other hand, did you really have to understand? One learnt over the years to expect unexpected masterpieces. It seemed Pina conjured up the pieces out of nowhere! Like magic, a world full of wondrous things.
So, for anyone who is keen or curious to see the Tanztheater in action, I would suggest you buy your ticket, go to the theatre, take your seat, and let it happen. The piece will take you wherever you let it take you. One thing is certain: you immediately recognize “Bausch.”


My first “assistant to Pina” job was in 1997: Sacre with dancers of the Paris Opera! The company is one of the biggest in the world with about 156 dancers. Don’t ask me how many studios we rehearsed in: Petipa, Nureyev, Lifar, Chauvir¬é, Zambelli, and more with great names. Pina and I often got lost searching for the studios. I was thankful for those lost minutes of searching days, because the views were gorgeous from all angles, and it meant commencing the rehearsal a bit later. There I was up there among the rooves and domes of the Neo-Baroque, golden Paris Opéra, built between 1861 and 1875, rehearsing in the most beautiful studios in the world.

The first few weeks of teaching were killing as I had to repeat the movements over and over in front of Pina’s hawk eyes, and each time she expected me to show the dance full out. Pina gave corrections, explained, or stopped the rehearsal to talk a little about the piece while my colleague Mariko and I worked like pack horses with the women. Dancers were showing up for rehearsal wearing scarves around their necks as protection. The entire Paris Opera began to smell of Tiger Balm and Voltaren. I, who never touched tablets, downed down one or two Ibuprofen, but no way would anyone dare not appear for rehearsal.

Pina, who otherwise had the memory of an elephant, was not a great one for remembering the names of the dancers, but I always knew who she meant; she’d whisper to me “the one with the big eyes”, or “the one with the short hands” or “the one who resembles a doll”. There was an Amelie, an Aurelie, Aurelia, an Ann, an Alice, a Miteki, an Eleonore, a Lenore and a Letizia among others. They were all so pretty and mostly very thin, but that is how it is in the dance world of the Paris Opera. I felt close to each of the dancers and at the same time and simultaneously an enormous help to Pina.

In the long corridors dancers blew kisses to us, to each other, and anyone passing, kiss, kiss, kiss. It was lovely to see the dancers’ eyes light up whenever Pina spoke. Her words were golden. I remember Pina telling the dancers after rehearsals how much she loved them, and how beautiful they were. She was so encouraging with that little smile of hers. And I was treated like a V.I.P. and recognized as one! I ran into many famous choreographers at the Opera too, but missed bumping into Nureyev who, sadly, passed away in 1993.
During the 8 weeks I was in Paris, each weekend I came home to the family thinner and thinner. It was worth it; the performances went well. The French public adored Pina. Tickets sold like hot cakes, or they stood with their signposts in long queues for hours in the cold hoping to get one of those leftover tickets.
Paris grew on me the longer I stayed. The city was so full of history, amazing architecture, parks, shops, museums, cafes, and thousands of different multicultural looking people everywhere. Food-wise I just loved those Tartes au Citron. Unfortunately, my French is a no-no. It is one language I just cannot learn. Pina either. Pardon!

PS If I add up the years that I have been working at the Paris Opera, it sums up to 26 years. I even get a monthly pension from the French government. Who’d have thought? Ah Paris…


I have been working as assistant from 1997 until today, which makes 26 years. As assistant you are mostly there for everyone else but foremostly for Pina. It was an almost 24-hour job, every day at her beck and call or often reading her mind. And it was one story working with her as a dancer but another working as her assistant or rehearsal director.
As assistant you were obliged to sit next to her. If she heard the slightest sniff, cough, or sneeze she uttered immediately “Please, sit further away.” She was terrified of catching a cold. The job as rehearsal director or as artist director has become monstrous since Pina’s absence. “How can you call it a job, Jo? It’s more than a job, Jo!” A good assistant lives somehow in the past, present and future all at the same time, and in each rehearsal, she is aware of the connection to Pina. The trio of choreography, creator and you, is binding, of course. It helped my being a dancer before becoming an assistant, as it brought me much closer to myself and to understanding the roots beneath the works. Each time you teach you find something else that you have not noticed before you have learned to better understand the intention of the various sequences or scenes.
Being in the service of art means taking a different perspective. It is a vocation. It is a bottomless pit of having to know the insides and outsides of the piece, the placing of every dancer, while having an eye on costumes, lighting, props, checking the sound, speaking with the orchestra conductor and, and understanding the dancer’s problems, compensating for weaknesses, organizing rehearsals in minute detail from week to week and having an abundance of patience. There is no space left for distance. It involves a lot of time-consuming paperwork, notation, watching videos, dealing with the creator’s expectations, and recognizing the meanings of her poker face.

I think I preferred being one of Pinas dancers than her assistant but there were times when Pina needed me more as dancer and other times more as her assistant. There were many years where I was both. This meant teaching the dancers their roles until the end of rehearsals and then you jumped into your own role, which was mostly the lead role. At least this was the case for pieces like Seven deadly sins or Come dance with me. Pina then came to add the cream and final shine.

Over the years since her death, I have gained distance and learned how to organize rehearsals, deal with dancers and other people as humans, and how to foresee and use the time given me. None of my rehearsals should become routine. Routine can lead to boredom and can be dangerous. I do try to start on time and end on time and I am a firm believer of “You receive back what you give.” I try to share my happiness with the dancers by being who I am and by being honest and respectful. Those who love are happy people. The love you give is always noticed, never ignored. I have also learnt that words of criticism require eloquence and warmth. When it is over and done and I see happy dancers and viewers too, and when I receive messages or letters of love and thanks it makes it all worthwhile. Of course, some judgmental situations cause me to be very serious and strict, but I do still have lots of humour.

There is quiet a difference between working with a fully new cast from scratch on a piece and working with an older cast where even three or four dancers have danced it before and are old hands at it. My only honest tools are my existing memories of how the original looked and felt when it was first created because you were there watching, an eyewitness to the happening. My body and my mind are my chief archival sources, the blueprint, and not videos, although they are a supportive source. All my roles are stored in my gut somewhere, forever existing.

Pina Bausch’s aesthetic and creative practice are not everybody’s cup of tea, and you will always find the odd one or two journalists who are super critical about the reconstruction of old, provocative, disturbing yet great Tanztheater dance evenings. Normally, I avoid reading dance critics reviews, even if they are sent to me, as I tend to take it personally if they are negative. As rehearsal directors, we do what we can as well as we can to produce and safeguard Pina’s art so that the pieces can survive over the course of time. Of course, there is a risk of failing but we do try to do our best. The person I am most critical and hard with is my one and only self.

One day I arrived home tired from a long day of rehearsals thinking my day was finally over when I saw an urgent email waiting for Jo to go through asap. I could see by the size of the attachment that it was huge – hundreds of photos for the selection for Kontakthof with footnote that tomorrow I would receive another batch from another 10 photographers. Deadline in 24 hours. “Is this automatically included now in my job?” But after such a long working day in the studio! Oh no, I just want to relax and free my head of work. When Pina was alive, she did all this selecting and sorting of photos. Today they are double controlled by either Salomon or the Tanztheater’s press officer.

Photographers these days come to the general rehearsal on a first in first served basis and even quarrel among themselves to sit in specific rows of seats. Back then only two photographers had permission; one of them was Ulli Weiss who mostly photographed in black and white, the other was Gert Weigelt. Some dancers are more photogenic than others and some photographers are better than others. I wouldn’t say we are all photogenic, but good shots depend on the photographer’s ability to catch the exact milli-second of the moment. The continual clicking sound of cameras is not helpful for the dancers on stage.


Each new piece was a world of its own. Macbeth was a 1978 co-production with the Bochum Playhouse with exciting collages of music composed by Peer Raben, who had worked closely with the well-known German director and moviemaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. We were seven dancers from Tanztheater Wuppertal with three actors from Bochum, one opera singer and a baker. Three months we drove roughly 40 km per day from Wuppertal to Bochum. It was hard getting up early in winter and driving there with my colleague Vivienne in her old VW Beetle and then returning home tired and hungry late at night. Our rehearsal room was a freezing cold, rundown factory building. The only thing that kept us warm was the hot coffee which Hans Dieter made for us. Hans Dieter was neither dancer, actor nor singer but a learned baker and confectioner, and responsible for the props. Strangely enough, when any one of us was ill, he jumped in. Pina got so used to him replacing people that he ended up with a rather large role in the piece. He was somehow so normal and gentleman-like. He was part of it.
The Production was based on The Story of Macbeth and was titled Er nimmt sie an der Hand und führt sie in das Schloss, die anderen folgen. (He takes her by the hand and leads her into the Castle, the others follow). The stage was a shabby looking junk yard with dumpy pieces of second-hand furniture, an inbuilt shower, an old wrought iron bed at the back, a juke box, a cupboard, a long piece of lolly pink plastic draped over the iron bed, and see-through, dusty plastic bits hung unevenly like dirty cobwebs from the back wall, and a garden hose which leaked water throughout the evening. The piece began with various sleeping positions, first slow, then quick, tossing, twitching, turning, and accelerating until the positions resembled a murderous nightmare. Fragments of text and dialogue were said in all kinds of positions, from under a bed, lying on the floor, in a cupboard, from the top of a cupboard, or while sitting in a row of old red velvet movie chairs, in the shower, while being carried, or while painting your lips.

“Macbeth” by Pina Bausch, 1978

Ursula Kaufmann

Invited to the premiere were a team of Shakespeare Society specialists all dressed up in dark suits and ties and waiting for a conventional Macbeth performance, which ours definitely was not.
Those Shakespearians just did not like what they were seeing. After 20 minutes my stomach began to feel like I had swallowed bricks. There was booing and yelling. It felt like we were back to the uproar, scandalous years of 1973. My sleep-walking nightmare position ended up stage front and quite close to the audience. I waited, hoping Mechthild would say or do something to stop the near-to-uncontrollable chaos but she didn’t. I got angry, stood up and said in a shaky, quivering voice “It’s impossible to go on. Either you stop your yelling or you go home and watch television, but no way can we the artists go on like this.” I left the stage with my heart pounding and counted to ten to myself. While ‘off’ I thought Pina would kill me. You won’t believe it, but when I returned to take my position back on stage there was a short storm of applause and then complete silence. Amazing! And so, the show continued. My next text was “Take me away.” Which is rather funny and brought me some more rounds of applause.

And no, Pina didn’t kill me but thanked me for being so courageous. And, of course, Hans Dieter was then engaged as a company member.

In 2019, I received another one of those “out of the blue” calls from the Tanztheater asking if I could take over the rehearsal direction for Macbeth, which hadn’t been performed since 1990. That meant for me rehearsing with a completely new cast and no Mechthild! Hello! That’s 30 years ago! That day they called it just happened to be Pina’s Birthday. What a coincidence. So as a firm believer of fate I said “yes” and to myself “Happy Birthday, dearest Pina.”
Of course, I had my doubts as to who could replace the irreplaceable Mechthild Grossmann. Pina could, “yes”, but me? It was glass-clear to me that there was no way I could turn Johanna Wokalek into a copy of Mechthild. As the saying goes “Patience is a Virtue” but I needed pocketsful of it with the new replacement actress, until we found exactly where the key to her sensitivity for the role lay. Finding the roots to roles is rewarding but at the same time, a risk. It takes the time it takes, and the time needed.
In the end, Johanna found her way surprisingly well into the role without the deep, smoky bass voice. Of course, it wasn’t easy trying out this and tinkering around with that then back to this or back to that. The new male actor in the role of Macbeth, Maik Solbach, was a pleasure to work with. In fact, I thought all nine performers fitted delightfully into their roles and this timeless piece. Not a hint or whiff of scandal. Delightfully is not the ideal word here. Who wants to be called delightful? They were fantastic!
This time round, I even showed my new Macbeth colleagues a video of the “famous moment” with Jo and the Shakespearians or is “infamous” more, correct? It is indeed a strange feeling when you see yourself on video so young and beautiful and so convincing and human. I was 28 years old. Don’t get melancholic now, Jo, that’s life.


With the ever-increasing fame and success of the Tanztheater, Pina’s life became full of work and a race against time. In later pieces, she no longer cast her new dance evenings with all the dancers, but with only half of the ensemble. A dancer, who had been in the last new piece, was then normally not cast in the following new piece. But there were always exceptions, and as Pina never really adhered to any fixed rules, and as she did have favourites, some dancers remained in every piece. It was a little relief for everyone, but especially for Pina.
The Tanztheater had to function well and from the outside, it seemed to function, but from inside, Pina seemed trapped, weighed down with work and decisions that only she could make. She couldn’t leave her office. Tiredness crept slowly into her being. Her personal assistant brought lunch to her office where she ate it while listening to the news on a little radio, or talked to us about work issues of importance.
On tour, restaurants had to be within walking distance, around the block, or no more than 99 steps from the theatre, or we called a cab. One night I heard her say in the taxi that she had so much to do she’d like to stay in her room and pretend she wasn’t there. She seemed so very, very tired, her head and eyes downcast, in her own, private world.
For decades, it seemed that Pina’s passionate nature, which was always obsessive, could make her immune to breakdowns and illness, but it was all adding up. Just as Pina knew no boundaries for herself, she, too, wished the same of her dancers. “Work is the best medicine, Joeylein.”
Pina normally left nothing to chance. The only theme this super-committed person didn’t occupy herself with was the finiteness of her being. She didn’t bother about important things like how the company should continue or exist in case of death, nor did she name a successor. Pina was the Tanztheater and the Tanztheater Pina.
She was always reserved, well mannered, quiet, and serene.
In the many years I spent working for her I never heard her raise her voice, swear or scream. At least not until she received the diagnosis from her doctor that she had interminable cancer; then I was told she uttered “shit”.


This 3D Film was a tribute to Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders and released in 2011. Preparations for shooting began shortly after her death. This was good as we were briefly distracted from the miserable truth of Pina’s absence while Wim slipped into the role of father figure at a time when everyone was most vulnerable. There are lots of lovely scenes and intimate interviews of reflection with the dancers and excerpts from The Rite of Spring, Cafe Müller, Vollmond and the three generation Kontakthofs. Wim asked me to select a scene from any piece. I decided on Arien as it is such a dear piece to me. In the film you can see me in the freezing cold water under the Müngstener Bridge, in Solingen, splashing, cuddling, caressing, and whispering words of love into the ear of my hippopotamus. The scene is short. Fortunately, a little ray of sunlight shone down upon us just for filming time. Not only I was freezing and too the two persons inside the hippo.

“Pina. Der Film und die Tänzer”, 2011

Wim und Donata Wenders

PINA had its world premiere at the elite, 61st International Berlinale Film Festival where it was nominated for an Oscar. Celebrities from the film world, from politics and society were lined up everywhere. No way did I want to miss taking a stroll on the red carpet at Potsdamer Platz nor did I want to miss the hustle and hubbub of being surrounded by the many photographers with their click-click-click cameras. The official invitation said, Black Tie. I had just arrived back home weary from St. Nazaire in France after an exhausting tour of Kontakthof with senior citizens. I had nothing close to black tie-ish or appropriate to wear to PINA and was definitely not in the mood for dressing up, and no way did I want to borrow a body-hugging evening dress from a Tanztheater piece as did many of the dancers who like to show their bodies and who still have worthwhile bodies to exhibit. I was hesitant to be seen with the beautiful dancers of the Tanztheater Wuppertal. My hair was half gray, and I was feeling pretty much an emotionally fragile old ugly duck. I would have liked to have been in better shape and in a better state of mind, but the loss of Pina was still eating and choking me.
It was a real hassle for me to get to PINA and meant I had to get up on Saturday at 5.15. As usual my train was delayed which meant I had to run to catch my connecting next ICE train. If there is one thing I hate, it is running with a suitcase and breaking out in a fit of sweat. I had eaten nothing and drunk nothing. Train coffee is not worth drinking. Eeeeh!
My biggest problem with going to see PINA was that I was afraid of what this film might do to me, or what grieving memories and guilty feelings might pop up again. I chose to let sleeping dogs lie. Anyway, I sat there half absently, and let PINA pass over me.
Later, I got to shake hands with the ever so charming Berlinale director, Mr. Dieter Kosslick, known for wearing a hat, red scarf, and dark rimmed spectacles throughout his 20 years as Mr. Berlinale. Frau Angela Merkel and the then Federal President Christian Wulff sat diagonally in front of me. I couldn’t have cared less. The applause was huge, but I wasn’t enthusiastic; the dreaded dead dogs had been set loose. I forced myself to attend the after party and made a twenty-minute appearance, then took the first train to Karlsruhe to spend four precious days and nights with my family before my next rehearsals with the teenagers and Tanztheater dancers too. So, Jo dragged herself and her pink suitcase to board her next ICE to Frankfurt Airport to fly to Rennes, France, for guest performances of the Teenager “Kontakthof.”

Tanztheater was doing a great job of keeping Jo on her toes, but it was exhausting me emotionally. On the road with the thirty raucous teenagers is another story; they can drive you round the bend when what you need is peace and quiet. Not all the thirty were difficult. Some were real angels. On tour, in our hotels, the older, clever teenagers would party with some of the younger ones till three in the morning. Somewhere, the clever ones managed to smuggle alcohol into their rooms. There was no way you could control them unless you stayed awake all night like a police patrol woman or you partied on with them. I guess teenagers will be teenagers.
PINA was shown in all German and international cinemas. With this film, dance was suddenly on everyone’s lips. Some of my neighbors asked me in disbelief: “Are you playing in it, Jo?” Until then, hardly anyone knew that a member of the Pina Bausch dance theatre lived in Baden Württemberg. Pina was my secret. Here at home, I could be just Jo with my children, husband, house, and dog. Incognito, that is how I like and want to keep it. I never really looked like a dancer so there were no questions. My neighbours were kind to me. “Are you coming for tea Jo.? I have apples for you. Walnuts. Jam. Oil.” Ever since Tanzt, Tanzt there is a photo of me from the Karlsruhe newspaper hanging in the local vegetable shop.

“Pina. Der Film und die Tänzer”, 2011

Wim und Donata Wenders

Since the release of Wenders film, the name of Pina Bausch has been boosted full on to new viewers in all corners of the world making Tanztheater even more popular. But one day during the award a bottle of champagne arrived in the post, and it seemed like Wim was about to win the Oscar but sadly, PINA just missed out.
Sorry my telephone is buzzing. It is Saturday 22nd March 2023. Salomon! Shall I answer it! It´s becoming a habit. This he also inherited from his mother.


In years when I was not under contract with Pina, I took the freedom of working with opera singers, musicians, actors, children, and disabled people. I choreographed two musicals, gave workshops and acted in well-known theatres in roles with little text, for example, a slimy, boneless, half-decayed body dressed in torn layers of sheer stockings or in a gorgeous tutu, the one I never got to wear with Tanztheater. I gained confidence and felt new energy returning to me. In the end these refreshing breaks good for me, and useful for Pina too, as I was simultaneously renewing things inside me that had been lost under the stress of working and giving to her. Her demands had their price, leaving visible and invisible damage. Later, when I returned to her, I was once again the positive, sparkling Jo which I could then present to her.

One of my favorite films is Coffee with Pina by the Israeli filmmaker and visual artist Lee Yanor. Lots of close shots of quiet a few pieces, one of Pina’s hands, another of an intense rehearsal of Pina working with one of the dancers on the Sacre solo. We see Pina in the Lichtburg rehearsing her beautiful solo from Danzon too. There’s also a fascinating film One day, Pina asked, by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman, with exciting interviews and nice peeks into other pieces and behind-the-scenes moments.
Other productions include a behind-the-scenes film of the Teenager Kontakthof called Dancing Dreams by Anne Linsel. Added to the French DVD Les Reve Dansant is a booklet which I wrote especially for the Teenagers in form of a diary so that they would never forget this amazing experience and their youth as a once in a lifetime happening.
There is a documentary DVD about Kontakthof with Ladies and Gentlemen by film maker Lilo Mangelsdorff (2002.) Watch it if you can; it’s so touching and funny listening to some of the 26 seniors speaking. An interesting documentary to watch it Was tun Pina Bausch und ihre Tänzer in Wuppertal (What Pina Bausch does with her dancers in Wuppertal) by Klaus Wildenhahn 1982.
I heard there is a new worldwide website of the Foundation available for all peoples of the world with the opportunity to watch three of the forty historic pieces: Fritz, Café Müller and Palermo, Palermo. Other treasure works will come later.
One important, revelatory film missing (which I almost forgot) is Die Klage der Kaiserin – The Lament of the Empress. A playground for Pina’s fantasy and imagination – no high gloss film with high-tech camera work. In 1989, Pina ventured on directing a feature film in which she tried to capture what she usually did so excellently on stage. A daunting task. A film shot outside between glittering, new falling snow, snow-covered trees, fields, green meadows with fragile emotional moments of dance – in and surrounded by the amazing beauty and colors of nature. Everything was real and alive – leaves, earth, foliage, dogs, sheep and shepherds, empty abandoned rooms and freezing cold, wet dancers. In one scene, the dancer Julie Stanzak runs crying, screaming, desperate and barefoot across a crunching, creaking snowfield. She runs on and on and on and on . . . and does not even notice how her feet start bleeding. While shooting this film, Pina caught a nasty case of pneumonia. But, of course, she kept on working.


Most couples split up these days, especially those working in the theatre world. Family and Theatre is like a flashing red signpost! Working hours make family life difficult and I know very few actors, dancers, singers whose relationship or marriage lasted. I wondered to myself at times, if Pina ever thought at all about how Jo managed everything. Jo came. Jo went running to the station to catch her train home. No-one asked. Now you see her, now you don’t. Private problems and Pina were better left unspoken or used and processed into the pieces. In general, this is the attitude taken in any theatre. Breaking up is never easy especially when children are involved.
In Wuppertal, our morning rehearsals went from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. and the evening rehearsal from 6 p.m. till 10 p.m. That is, if Pina was satisfied. I can’t remember one rehearsal when we started or ended on time. By the time you finally arrived home either bodily exhausted or morally upturned or both all you wanted to do was eat, drink, relax and sleep, but somehow, you just couldn’t leave the working process behind hanging in the Lichtburg – shut off the music, movements, text, those haunting Pina “questions” or the unsolved “answers.”
Each delayed rehearsal cost me extra money for a babysitter. There was no such thing as a watch or clock in the room or on Pina’s table. In the 1970s and 1980s, bringing your children to rehearsals was just out of the question! Over the years, Pina softened on this aspect. These days there are more mothers and fathers with children in the company. My two grandchildren are as old as their children. Now it bothers me when they bring their small children to rehearsals, or when they forget to turn off their buzzing mobile phones. If I am rehearsing one of my leading roles, I need one hundred percent concentration.

The rehearsals made me nervous, and it disturbed me terribly when we started late or went overtime. Waiting around for the few dancers to arrive who always arrived late with their paper cup of coffee in hand and nothing ever said. We sat around sometimes for hours on our bottoms, waiting for Pina’s next question, as if we had all the time in the world. This began to bug me. Pina was always slow, sensitive and everything took the time it took, or the time she needed. There was no forcing her into changing her ways, but this undisciplined attitude of company dancers, which never bothered me before, now certainly did.


My shattered, breakdown and abandoned feelings were well used by Pina in “Walzer” which was my first new piece after motherhood. For me this was undoubtedly the first time in my life I had someone more important than my work and Pina.

To write now about this special solo I must wait for the core of that feeling to return, which is originating from somewhere so deep down inside me gut that I could only outlive it in my native tongue. There was a lot of text. My text.
My costume was an old- fashioned, striking royal blue swimsuit. The high black patent leather heels made my legs look even longer and more beautiful than they were. My hair was thick and waist-long.
Dancers and some of the public sat on the side of the stage during the performance. A black piano stood in the right corner. Some big bunches of flowers on the sides.
Questions my solo was based on were.


If looks could kill. With reproach I looked with my piercing green eyes at each of my colleagues until they felt uncomfortable and awkward. I waited either till they lowered their eyes, looked away or lowered their heads before I moved on to the next person.


I walked to centre stage and stood like a signpost where everyone could see me. I began with an impatient tapping of my foot and a clearing of my throat with a coughing noise – hmm, ahem – repeatedly. Then I walked straight forward in a sleezy deliberate way wanting to be seen by absolute everyone. Got the message. Me here. You there. Have you forgotten? Me. Jo. Remember. I was here before you. What do you know? If only you knew!


Then I yelled out “I don’t need your help or anyone else’s. Thank you!” Slowly but surely, I strolled down from the stage and placed myself right in the middle and in front of the first row of the audience so that no-one would miss me. Looked at them in the same degrading manner I did with my colleagues on stage. If someone dared laugh, I shot back verbally shouting: “I don’t need your help or anyone else’s.” After crossing the entire front row, I stormed up some stairs and yelled out: “I want more light. One spotlight is not enough. I want two! One! Can’t you count? Two! I said “Two! Thank you!”

Josephine Ann Endicott in “Walzer” by Pina Bausch, 1982

Gert Weigelt

For a split second, I went offstage and returned carrying a huge table which obviously was much too heavy for any single woman. I yelled at any dancer who attempted to get up and help me. Too late! I walked across the front of the stage carrying that table as if I were superman and superwoman together. I placed the table down carefully and went off again, returning with a large piece of white chalk and a bright green crunchy Granny Smith apple. If I felt like letting out more steam, I stopped and yelled out that text again, or gave dirty, sour looks. I can do this very well. Ask my frightened colleagues. I sat downstage near the public; while on the floor, I outlined the shape of my gorgeous legs, otherwise Pina would never have put me in that royal blue swimsuit with chalk, while taking huge chunky bites of that crunchy apple and throwing the bitten pieces at the public. Between throws I yelled again: “I don’t need your help or anybody else’s help. Thank you!” Like a tiger raging in a cage, I stood up and paced the stage – raving words about body parts and knocking over chairs or anything else in my way.
The solo went on and on until I’d let off enough steam, and the underlying truth for my impossible behaviour was about to surface and burst from my mouth. I was next to choking, so full and fed up with my own emotions and feelings of disappointment, of loneliness and misunderstanding and everyone saying “yes” to Pina and no-one speaking up for themselves. Deep down in my stomach, l began to shake. I could feel the solo was about to snap.

I stormed over to stand dead centre of the stage naming some of my colleagues personally: “Dear, dear, dear Dominique.” “Dear, dear, dear Jan.” As I began to utter the name of Pina: “Dear, dear, dear Pina,” something tore to pieces inside me, and I went wild with rage, bonkers. I began throwing my legs back and forward, kicking chairs over. By this time, I was boiling mad. I don’t know if I was lost or finally “honest.” All I could do was go then to sit at the big table and stuff my mouth full of the remains of that green apple taking so many quick consecutive bites while flicking the apple pieces in all directions. I almost choked. I stood up with my head lowered, while uttering three pleading words, “I want people! People! People please! And I want music! Music please!” I left the stage holding back a well of tears. Oh, my God, it must have been about twenty minutes that solo.

On reflection, I knew I never could have put that solo together without Pina, nor Pina without me. Being able to play with these human feelings seemed to be my strongest quality and at the same time my emotional downfall.

I shocked myself with this solo, but it brought me somehow back on my feet, a bit like “therapy.” No way did I want to be like that. It was a counter reaction to cover up the pressure I was under with Pina and my desolate private situation. Private problems and Pina were better left unspoken. After the show, I dressed quickly. Feeling terribly lonely I drove home twenty-five km to Düsseldorf to my darling child. There was no comfort from anyone really, but at least I had let off steam.

In a parallel way, it was always a problem for Pina when any of her main dancers found herself pregnant as it meant extra work re-studying a piece. Nowadays, company members who have children come to me for advice; perhaps they think they can understand me a little more. One or two even asked “Jo, how did you manage to do all that, be a mother, housewife as well as dance all those demanding superwoman roles?” I have no answer to this question, but nowadays, there are many super mothers out there balancing the tightrope between a good home life and the tough pressures of work. I wish them all good luck, especially as they are now able to bring their babies to the Lichtburg and studios during rehearsals.


My life, I have finally realized, is something very special, not easy, but whose life is? And not ordinary, so what is ordinary these days anyway, in this ever-faster rotating world. The perfect, intact world is from the past, or the day before yesterday, or from television. I like to be normal and happy and feel the connection to nature, watch how flowers blossom, how nature awakens each springtime from its sleep. I wonder to myself where have the sweet honeybees disappeared to this year, or just stand in the kitchen in an apron and try out new recipes or bake delicious pancakes “without raisins” for the grandchildren, or wonderful Wiener Kaiserschmarrn, (The Kaiser’s scrambled pancakes). Maybe even try-out handicrafts, or painting, although I never was as talented with my hands as with my feet. I feel human again, back to the roots and on track. I like being at home in my every day, other life. My home is my castle, my refuge. Finally, I want to be there for my husband and my family and make up for what I missed out on all those past years, to appease my bad conscience without bitterness or remorse. I want my life, even without you, Pina.
And who knows? Maybe I was born to dance like everyone was telling me all those years ago. And it is only now that I realize this, almost 45 years later, while I teach younger dancers my old roles from the early 1970s. Movements still come quite easily to me, fitting like a glove. Now that I am aware of it, the feeling is rather weird. I think “It’s not normal, Jo,” to still be able to show those movements so Pina-perfectly well. Maybe it’s mind over matter? Whatever it is, I just do it.
Strangely enough, I don’t see myself as an ambitious career woman. If I asked my colleagues, they would probably laugh on reading this, but Pina was pushing and challenging me and like I’ve said already I just couldn’t say “No” to her.


It was the first time I saw Pina crying more than once. Yes, it was perhaps the most difficult, upsetting year ever, with thick airs of great dissatisfaction among company dancers, which lasted for months with unbearable situations of misunderstanding and tears. Many of us had lost trust in Pina. It was tough to see her so down, but the Bluebeard creative process was torturous.

“Bluebeard, Listening to a Tape Recording of Bela Bártok’s Opera, ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’; A Piece by Pina Bausch.” This title belongs to what could be called Pina’s most contentious production of her life. Her inspiration was Hungarian composer Bela Bartok’s emotionally loaded Modern opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, with a libretto by his friend and poet Bela Balazs. It’s derived from a French literary folk legend of a cruel Duke Bluebeard who tortures and locks up his wives one after the other. The opera premiered in Hungary in 1918, and very slowly accepted across the world. Having often danced Pina’s Bluebeard since 1977, the title alone sends oceans of shivers and icy memories down my backbone. Normally, the opera has a duration of one hour, but Pina’s Bluebeard swelled into two hours. Due to the repeats, the singers’ voices became distorted and shriller than they already were. If the opera was tough and cruel, this piece surpassed it. Bartok’s beautiful music came from a large, mobile rollable tape recorder used by the figure playing Bluebeard, –as if it were his weapon of power with which he carried his moods of violence to all extremes.

She had us improvising a lot more than usual, and the twisted, warped, overly intimate questions she asked to stir us, became too personal for me. I found myself closing up more every day instead of opening up to her. I felt like I was in an insane asylum, almost maniacal. Pina had us laughing like lunatics, screaming, giggling, coughing, groaning, sobbing, squealing like pigs, crying. Women were pushed, tortured, and shoved repeatedly by the men. I remember taking my partners hand in a scene called torture chamber and twisting it several times so that his elbow banged into his stomach and after that I fell to the ground squealing like a pig. It was the most brutal, bleak, radical, violent, masochistic, ferocious, and dysfunctional piece I had ever been part of, with only a few tender moments.

„Bluebeard,. Listening to a tape recording of Béla Bartók’s opera ‘Duke Bluebeard’s Castle’” by Pina Bausch, 1977

Ursula Kaufmann

The white stage floor was layered with dry, dead leaves. To begin, Judith lay on the floor with both hands lifted above her body. Bluebeard stood barefooted behind his tape machine in a thick, black woollen overcoat, black trousers, and white shirt. In the silence, he walked over to Judith and laid himself onto her stomach – his head fitting perfectly into her hands. Judith was a small woman wearing a light blueberry- coloured dress. It was very open at the back with just a hat elastic holding it across her shoulders so it wouldn’t fall off. Bluebeard was a largely built man. With her feet she pushed herself with the weight of his body little by little backwards until he stood up and ran to his machine to press start. Then stop. Then rewind. Then start. This went on for some time before she started to push him off her.

More than half of the audience left during the performance, and by the end I could count on my hands those who stayed. Despite Pina’s ingenious interpretation, Bluebeard drove the audience to rage, and many of the dancers round the bend. It was a great piece, but given the blatant brutality, just how far is art allowed to go? In the shower after the performance, I saw the back of the ballet’s Judith; it was full of bruises. Jan Minarik played a brilliant, unforgettable Bluebeard, and Marlis Alt was his Judith. 1985 was, I think, the last time I danced in Bluebeard. It was filmed.

In 1994, we heard that the Bartok estate rescinded the Tanztheater’s performance rights, displeased by Pinas use of Bartok’s famous music. Twenty-six years later, Tanztheater was permitted to perform Bluebeard again. Historically, it was important to revive Bluebeard as so many people may not have known this dark side of Pina’s early works. For interest-sake I forced myself to watch the general rehearsal but personally found it weakened in its intensity. The Judith and Bluebeard dancers were good. Perhaps the group of dancers just needed more time to grow in to this intense, disturbing masterpiece piece. As an insider I was disappointed. Perhaps it is unfair to say as I know from my own experience with Pina that miracles can happen between what you see in a general rehearsal and what you see in a premiere but I decided not to stay for it. Nevertheless, I decided not to watch the premiere. Viewers who do not know the older Bluebeard of course found it powerful and liberating. Perhaps the group of dancers just needed more time to grow in to this intense, disturbing masterpiece piece. Or Jo should stop being so critical.

One day after a Bluebeard tour in Paris in 1985, I received a long letter by post at my home, from an unknown viewer who had seen Bluebeard. It was a letter of the deepest gratitude to Pina and me for the impact and miraculous healing affect Bluebeard had on this man, and from what he wrote it saved his destroyed life as it put an end to any further thoughts of suicide.
Several years later, a woman with a very deep voice came to visit me at my home. She was holding a bunch of flowers in her hands. I said, “Come in and I’ll make coffee.” Her hands seemed too large, feet too big, her size too tall for a woman. She began to tell of her coming out, and how, at the age of eleven, she took hormone blockers to avoid male puberty. Several years later she was given female hormones to enable gender assignment surgery. She also said that she had stumbled on to a photo of Pina, which fascinated and attracted her so much that she wanted to know more about this woman and Tanztheater. She did research on the internet, listened regularly to the music of the pieces, Sacre, Todsünden, Bluebeard, Kontakthof, and read my books. All this Pina research gave her the courage and strength to go through with her outing operation instead of attempting a fourth suicide. She thanked me deeply.
Amazing what Pina’s works set free.


I am now writing about the year of 1998. The sun-drenched city of Aix-en-Provence. Let me make myself a cup of tea and after my tea, I will try to write about this other Bluebeard – a Bluebeard, which Pina was not happy with and which was as far as I know, not listed anywhere later in her biography. Two well-known opera singers were engaged to sing; Laszlo Polgar as Bluebeard and Violetta Urmana as Judith and this time instead of tape recorder music it was to be conducted by the one and only Pierre Boulez with live orchestra and hopefully, without repeats!

Twenty-one years had passed since Pina first staged her Bluebeard in 1977, and for me it was 11 years since doing any new creation. Pina had chosen nine dancers from Tanztheater to accompany her on this new mission – three of which had danced in Pina’s first Bluebeard. Marlis Alt who was the original Judith and Jan Minarik Bluebeard and me. I hadn’t seen or heard from Marlis since she left the company twenty years ago. Dominique Mercy was asked, Julie Shanahan, Raphaelle Delaunay, Rainer Behr, Fernando Suels, and Andrey Berezine.

Starting seemed difficult for Pina. She admitted her uncertainties at attempting a second Bluebeard, the complexes she had about working with such famous opera stars, whether they would understand her unusual way of not speaking but most of all her dread of the moment Mr. Boulez would sit in for rehearsal.

I tried to convince myself that I was looking forward to this new adventure, but instead I found myself asking, “Why Jo, why are you doing this again. Can’t you just leave it?” Exactly! And why Bluebeard? It was giving me nightmares. Bluebeard almost drove me bonkers once already. Yes, I know and exactly for that reason I really wanted to get to the bottom of it and find the solution. I admit I was a wee bit frightened about getting into deep waters with her again as we always had our ups and downs but who knows maybe she changed her ways a bit over the years? And because Pina asked me and as always, I could not say no! One thing for sure, I refused to let the work eat me up as it did in former days and any new questions I must answer as I am now and not how I was back then. I was there solely for Pina.

It was time to pack my suitcase for Bluebeard rehearsals, what to take, winter or summer. The weather is crazy these days with temperature drops from ten degrees from week to week. Half my suitcase will be full of ballet clothes, and, no, I definitely won’t forget the sunscreen and sun hat and, yes, my hair was long enough for Pina’s liking. Slowly the outside world became smaller and smaller.

Mornings I got up, ate, and went to rehearsal. I went home during the break. Ate. Drank. Lay down fifteen minutes only to return to rehearse again. Rehearsals went for hours. It was pitch black some nights when we returned home. Those who wanted to cook cooked. Those who felt like eating ate. Those who wanted to be alone went to their room. I ate and drank with the others. And had more nightmares. We were working under a tight schedule and already behind schedule. Days went by. Nights went by. One week. Two weeks. Four weeks! Whatever happened to the third week? I ended up not knowing which day nor which date it was, and it didn’t seem to matter. I was right with my fear as it ended up being exactly how I suspected it to be in Aix-en-Provence but had hoped and prayed it would not be.

It occurred to me how seldom Pina actually stood up from behind her table to show movements and that the greater part of any dance movements was now found by the dancers themselves. This was strange and new for me. Pina seemed less mobile. Still smoking, notating everything down in paper and pencil like always and as curious as ever. Some of the questions were the same as way back then and even some of the scenes we tried as well. She seemed to be in a dither, imprisoned by her first Bluebeard creation and from all the papers lying around her. They were everywhere. Normally she was a detailed perfectionist. Never had I experienced her so tense, anxious, nervous, uncertain about something I could not put my finger on yet. She was obviously having trouble freeing herself from her first Bluebeard. The whole process was turning into the nightmare I’d been dreading.

Question and question control time was over. Blocks of questions to blocks of answers gradually began to form a scaffolding for the piece. Each dancer was given his or her “holy” page on which the answers, which were of interest to Pina, had been listed. Everything was examined upside down and inside again by Pina. She had to see it to believe it would function – anything written on paper didn’t necessarily mean that what she had thought was going to work. Incredible.
“Please do it now and I’d like to try this, and then that, and then maybe with that and that added on at the end. I’m not too sure. Help me to remember.”
„Could you all come a little closer and listen, perhaps let’s change this and this and put in that instead.”
Another variation. “The problem is I had hoped, what I am thinking now is, what I wanted to try was, maybe that’s more like it. The problem is though I had hoped to try, maybe that’s more like it. I’d like to see it done, somehow, once again.”
“Wait a minute. I’d like to see. O.K. Just now I thought. Try. Let’s have another go at it, have we actually tried? ”
„Dancers, dancers, come here please.“
At one moment, I heard Pina say: “I cannot direct opera.”
Everything was so confusing.
Pina had a hotel somewhere in town, and the rest of us were staying a few kilometres out of Aix in an old sandstone castle surrounded by wine fields, old trees, climbing pink roses, lavender, thyme and with a swimming pool in the garden. I love those typical South of France old houses. Temperatures were soaring around 42 degrees, but those old stones kept cool. Jumping into that pool early in the morning, between rehearsals or late at night was the only thing that caressed and healed my wrecked body and mind. I missed my family terribly, but they were coming to visit me soon. Hoorah!

We had very few free days, and even those were spent with a guilty conscience because I knew Pina was probably in panic since she was not really coping well with Bluebeard. Instinctively, I suppose, she never wanted to do this second time Bluebeard. The old Bluebeard was haunting her, and she had tied herself into knots. I felt sorry for her. Her head hung so low the last few days I could hardly see her eyes. The dancers were working to their limits. If I could, I would help more – but how? I wondered if she envied us having a free day. Pina’s head must be exhausted from all the thinking and thinking.
After our free day, I took her in my arms and gave her a hug, but she was so fragile I think I almost hurt her. At snail tempo, we resumed work. It was mistral weather, the strong wind which blew now and again in the south of France.
“Quickly, quickly save my papers,” Pina said to Peter, our stage designer.
The “Torture Chamber” in the piece was less than four minutes long, but we spent days working on it – chopping and changing it. The “Garden Scene” had been completely changed four times. The sequences just didn’t seem to fit together. I couldn’t understand what she was really looking for, but she certainly was not content.

“What is being produced is not what I want to see,” said Pina while shaking her head, putting on her blue glasses and notating something on paper. „Something is wrong. I feel pushed into a corner where words don’t help.”

“I first must feel if what we have done till now is right.”
Pina spoke so quietly I could hardly understand a word.
Over and over again, she thought her way through everything.
Three days long we fiddled with this chamber then that chamber. “I’m not too sure where we’ve landed in the music.” “First I have to feel if we’re on the right track.” “What I thought now was in this order.”

On the way home after rehearsal, I remember saying to Rainer who was driving the car “Stop! Stop the car immediately. Now! Stop! Please.” I got out and screamed a scream of such utter desperation and frustration that I could hardly recognize the voice as mine. I’m sorry but I just had to. The whole forest was still. I hope I didn’t frighten any of the animals. Not a soul spoke when I got back into the Peugeot. Of course, they were shocked, but they understood completely. I felt better afterwards.
Another day, Pina entered, smiling a little and actually said: “Hello.” I wondered if we could all start breathing again and if the panic and despair time was over? I hoped so. I really did hope so. No changes in the “Torture Chamber” Hoorah! But changes in the “Weapon Chamber.”
“Crocodiles must go. Cut.” Shame, I loved all those men crocodiling around on the floor chasing after Julie and “devouring” her. In fact, lots had been thrown out which I liked. Even all the lovely dance movements were “Out.”
Only Rainer’s dance remained. That is, what was left of Rainer’s dance. “Still, I must change a big part of the beginning,” said Pina. “I’m missing something vital.”
Let me fiddle around again. I must think and re-think it over. I need to take time for each individual figure.”
Pina was never the type for tempo-tempo and could not force ideas to come if they didn’t feel right.
“I’ve only progressed as far as I’ve progressed, and I’m not really impressed. I don’t feel what I am searching for.” “I’m lost,” she cried out.
The “Garden Scene” was changed once again.

“Now, it is beginning to look clearer.”
“I let myself be irritated.”
“Let me see if it feels better than yesterday.”
“Repeat it again, please.”
“Don’t wait, Marlis.”
“Once again.”
“No, I’m not sure.”
“I’m lost … let you down.”
“My world is breaking down.”

It wasn’t till after hearing these words that things got better. Maybe she had to reach that low point before finding the light. Next day, she was more positive. We were still nowhere near finished, but I think she had it now! One week left till the premiere. Now and again, Mr. Boulez sat in to watch our rehearsal. He seemed nice and friendly. When I could escape, I went to watch his rehearsals with the orchestra. Wonderful.

My husband and children arrived two days before the premiere. I asked them to pack in their suitcase a loaf of healthy, delicious German bread; six weeks of everyday baguette was enough.
Till the last minute, Pina had been changing little things here and there. She was still not content. No, not at all, and I had never experienced her like this before.
“The emotional curve must be filled.” And it wasn’t! This meant for us that more changes would follow. Peter Pabst had gone to so much trouble with the costumes and stage design, but after the general rehearsal, Pina decided to take out the mirrors and the elegant dresses, which had been sewn especially for the piece. I loved my elegant dress! To each of the four performances Pina made little changes, and if we ever performed it again, she wanted to keep working on it!! But for now, it is over. I’m so tired. Exhausted. None of us was happy. I have nothing more to say, nothing!
Pina and I were supposed to find time to talk in Aix about the possibility of my becoming one of her full-time assistants in the near future, but rather than confront me on any one of the 42 days when we saw each other every day at rehearsal, she left it open till the very last day, hoping that decisions would be made in heaven or for fear I might say “no.” Unbelievable, but this was typical of Pina. This was an important decision for me and my life.


In 2007 I was presented with my new fulltime, open-ended, multi-tasking contract. On the one side of course I felt honoured, important, and even quite proud that she asked but…! Who wouldn’t be. I was given my own office with my own Pina Bausch email address and service mobile, but I never stopped working. Seldom did I treat myself to a break. It was tougher than I ever thought it would be. I travelled back and forth to and from home at my own expense whenever I could. By the end of month there was little of my wage left over. To make life a little easier I did rent a tiny apartment in Wuppertal but had to give it up after three months as I couldn’t afford it. I ended up staying downstairs at one of the Seniors houses. Neither economically feasible nor reasonable however there was something about the excitement, the risk, the danger, and the switch in those two lives that I loved. Mad. Mad. Verrückt!
That year in the playhouse Karlsruhe, the new director fired everyone, opera singers, dancers, and actors. The orchestra had a better union, so they remained protected. This is a quite normal process today in Germany. It is called tabula rasa, a blank slate or empty page, and I truly hope no other mother will have to experience it. This is called artistic freedom. After 14 years you reach a status of permanency which means you can’t be dismissed in years to follow. What kind of morals do these “new directors” have? I’m sure Pina would never do this. Never. As a wife it was not easy for me to see my husband suffering while he tried to swallow his pride and the sad fact of being sacked after 13 years as a true-blood, well-loved actor, and father of three children.

And in Wuppertal? Any attempts of speaking to Pina about wages or money were always Taboo but when I did try the answer I received was: “The Tanztheater is a poor theatre, Jo, we cannot pay more, every roll of tape costs money.” I felt trapped into accepting the offered salary, as I had no choice, and she knew it. She knew Jo won’t say “no.” So Jo accepted.
These were the multiple duties listed in my contract and signed in 2007: dancer, assistant, rehearsal director, teaching class when required, archives and to assist Pina in any other wishes she had. What the hell! I signed the contract.
I had lots of positive energy to begin. Pina’s priority for me was to settle down in my new office, nine to twelve hours a day studying archives and documenting older pieces. I sat and sat until one day she came and said she is not convinced of being finished on time for her upcoming premier and wants to add Come dance with me to the schedule. Just like that! Apart from being 58 years old, I hadn’t taken a class for I don’t know how long. “You must be joking Pina”. I should have said “no”, but I didn’t, did I? I was left with just three weeks to get into shape and fasten my seat belt. So, I danced it. I did the impossible, but I had to pay the price.
At the end of 2008 I danced my role in Seven deadly sins. This I was prepared for, and in the meantime I did have a second cast, Julie Shanahan. In the intermission there was a silent knock at my dressing room door. It was Pina. She wanted to talk about my situation. We were standing opposite one another, close, eye to eye, face to face. She began with her “Joeylein” and a long list of amazing, lavish compliments and even ended with saying “Jo, this is your evening.” Pina, who was known for never giving compliments. I wasn’t in the mood for hearing compliments. Something felt disturbingly weird and very un-Pina. Pina visiting me in my dressing room during the break. She looked at me with a different kind of secretive, sickly, bemused half of a smile. Something felt wrong: the pale-ish colour of her skin, something in her gaze, a deathly tiredness in her voice, a smell which I did not know how to place or dare put a name to it yet. Something which sent shudders down my spine. At the same time, I felt she was testing her power over me. As usual she came out at the end with her “I love you” words, which until then I had always fallen for but this time I said “No, Pina. You don’t love anyone but yourself.” These were my words,

the words I had to live with once she had passed away and couldn’t erase. Anyway, she ended up saying “Let’s meet for talks after the premiere of the new piece, Wie das Moos auf dem Stein.” But! Our meeting never took place, unfortunately, as she passed away 30 June 2009 just a few days after the last show. And I had to live with those words of mine! Judas. Betrayal. I felt guilty and somehow responsible for her death. Like a helpless guardian angel who had failed to protect you or as if I had broken a vow.
Don’t ask how I was able to combine my two worlds for so long. I couldn’t have helped Pina more than I already had but all those duties listed in the contract were slowly taking their toll.

“Silently concentrated I tried to do and accomplish everything, as perfectly as possible to please and help you. I did the same at home, trying to be everywhere for everyone else but there were too many responsibilities on my plate. I hadn’t heard about the 4D rule: ditch, defer, delegate, and do. But even if I had, it boiled always down to 1 D, and that was DO. I saw and felt how fragile and dangerously weak, weighed down and exhausted you had become – fading away before my very eyes.”

For the first time in my life, I was officially on sick leave. And for the first time in my life, I sent my sick note by registered mail to the dance theatre. Even before the news of Pina’s death, I was weak and shaken, but once Pina left us, my heart, my soul, and my mind just broke down and I gave up. Puff! I was an utter wreck. I was sent to the hospital or call it sanatorium on a three-week cure. I left a message at the front desk – no visitors and no calls except from my husband. I rejected any connection to the outside world and just let myself fall and fall and fall. For weeks, I barely spoke. Like a robot, I managed to do the things I had to do but without any desire. I wasn’t interested in anything or anyone. I barely recognized myself in the mirror. I looked pale, sick, and old, almost frightening. I slept and slept. My body felt heavier than stone. It was a state of purgatory. I wished that Pina had taken me with her into the grave.


My seemingly inexhaustible sources of strength and energy had faded down to NULL. No way was I able to fly to Russia for a guest performance and dance “Seven deadly sins” as was originally planned. “Not only you were exhausted Pina but so was I.” “Of course, your state of prolonged exhaustion was much graver and more serious than mine but……!!

“I heard your flight to Russia had also been cancelled as you were too weak to travel. “If only you had had a little more time to listen to my burdens and eyes to see that I was losing it,” – but to things as normal as this, Pina was blind. And too busy.
Ferdinand couldn’t bear to see me any longer in this endless-tiredness, burnt-out modus and said: “Let’s go away for a week.” Sun, beach, air, sea, a change of scenery – it will do us all the world of good. A break-away from Pina and work. After our long trip we landed in the idyllic village of Rosas on the Spanish French border. A sweltering hot day with stained underarm t-shirt and wet, sweaty hands when one day later to be exact. my cell phone rang. It was my colleague and friend Bénédicte Billiet who brought me the devastating news of your death. Guess what I was doing when the phone rang. “Guess, Pina.” Still with scissors in hand, the bangs already cut off and about to radically snip off the rest of my long Pina hair, I took the call. “Pina has passed away, Jo.” My first reaction was – nothing. Then again – nothing. Then “Yes” and quite formal, “Well, that doesn’t surprise me.”

The scissors then fell and clattered to the ground. Again nothing. Then I fell into an armchair. And again nothing. My first thought: I felt it. I knew it and then: so now I am finally free, and: now I don’t have to leave you anymore because now you have left me/us. It was only later that I understood the shock and reality, the meaning, and the truth of this news. The loss. The loss of Pina Bausch from my life. Her eyes closed forever.
As if numb, I walked down the stairs which were not far from the house to the sea, ALONE. I swam and swam and swam out so far that no one could hear my sobs and howls anymore. I kept swimming and crying and crying and swimming while the waves kept pushing me further and further down under the water. I didn’t care if a shark was waiting hungrily for me. I thought if I swim out far enough, I’ll find her. If not, I’ll go with her, to the other bank or to wherever. Completely dissolved, I gave up the search and began my lost and lonely swim back to shore with the last of my strength. Yes, it was like that, Pina.
Later, I looked from the balcony and the sky was ablaze with the most beautiful, stunning, colourful rainbow that I have even seen appear on the horizon and I began to hum silently myself Somewhere over the rainbow. Skies are blue. There’s a place that I’ll find you. Oh, why, oh, why can’t I?
We remained in Rosas, Spain for two days then travelled our long, heavy hearted 1000km journey home with me feeling like an old hag. No, I am not exaggerating this time. I will never forget this moment in my life.
I could not bear to look at a single photo of her. I just couldn’t. …. hear, see, or sense her. I even dug a hole in our home garden and placed everything that vaguely reminded me of her in it. I wanted to freeze my feelings, but can you do that after so many years of togetherness?


I really wanted to be present and on-stage dancing for Pina’s Memorial performance regardless of my doctor’s admonishing, ugly but probably truthful, hideous words which rang in my ears on my release from the sanatorium: “Retire, Mrs. Endicott, you are finished as a dancer, it won’t work anymore.” “Just give up.”
Of course, I wasn’t feeling up to dancing as I still felt wobbly on my feet, with tinnitus in my ear and memories of her funeral, still sticking to my bones and every pore of me, yet I wanted desperately to be somehow involved.
I hadn’t seen the dancers of Tanztheater for at least 6 months. It was incredibly difficult for me to enter Lichtburg. I felt like an intruder or alien, but one of them. How strange and empty seemed this old familiar place without her. No one seemed interested or cared to know how I felt, so I isolated myself by watching the rehearsal from a far back corner.

I hadn’t seen Pina’s last new creation, Sweet Mambo. Azusa began her solo, a dance full of strength and weakness, of desperation and agony, with falling and getting up to fight death for survival. I watched as if mesmerized. My stomach was twisting with torture in memory. Mentally I wasn’t coping well. I admired the strength of the dancers, how they carried this stroke of fate with one hundred per cent conviction, as a family welded together in their wish to keep Pina alive in memory. All were convinced her spirit would stay with us. I had chosen to dance my three-minute “Angel Dance” for the performance wearing my old, historical costume from the piece called Cantata of 1976, when I was round, curvaceous, plump and young; it was a simple transparent green dress. In 1976 a male colleague advised me to shade my waist with a darker skin coloured makeup to give the impression that I had a waist. How very nice of him! But Jo now no longer young and plump now old and thin wanted to wear exactly this historical dress regardless of what anyone thought. Pina had assured me often enough “Joeylein, you are so beautiful.”

At the end of the memorial performance, the audience began to clap and clap and clap and clap. No Pina Bausch appeared, for she will never appear again as she did in the decades of before, when she bowed so humbly on stage with her dancers. We, the dancers, didn’t give or take any applause that evening. Nobody could fill this hole; everyone was aware of that. Pina’s genius will remain a secret for the world. An infinite number of tears flowed behind the stage. Everyone hugged everyone. Nobody hugged me, except Pina’s son Salomon, because I stood a little apart, avoiding any contact, like a grey mouse in a dark corner. Afterwards, all employees, dancers and close friends were invited to dinner. I went home on the train to Karlsruhe. Oh Pina. I still miss you.

Some months later I was doing class when I noticed three black wooden containers standing at the very back of the Lichtburg. In front of them, there were three racks of hanging clothes, covered with plastic sheets. I wondered as I passed by what might be in the containers or what was hanging beneath that plastic. I took a tiny peek when recognizing her blue cashmere scarf: “Oh, my God, these are Pina’s clothes.” For a tiny second, I considered taking something in memory, but I couldn’t touch any one item of her clothing. Pina had many beautiful dresses, coats, jackets, trousers, scarves, pullovers, even evening dresses, mostly black with an occasional blue. I left the class. I just couldn’t continue.


Getting back onto my feet seemed to take forever and a day, and there were times I thought I would never laugh or be myself again. You can’t imagine how sick and tired of myself I was living in that tunnel of darkness, sadness, and depression. I wrote bits and pieces here and there. It helped a little to sort myself out but at night, as soon as I had closed my eyes, Pina would appear in my sleep and talk to me in her weak, soft voice: “Dance again, Jo, one last time for me in Berlin Todsünden and one last time in Japan Komm tanz mit mir.” Her voice never let up until it bugged me so much that I decided to listen and take action.

I forced myself to do a few exercises in the kitchen. Next day, on the floor in the living room, I made myself stretch those tired aching limbs and bones of mine. I ran through woods and valleys and fields till my body gradually adjusted. I progressed little by little, from day to day. I then decided to take a dance class for beginners. I placed myself at the very back. Everything seemed to function even though it hurt but it felt so good to be moving again. After three weeks, I then took the train to Wuppertal and went through the whole piece of Todsünden by myself in the studio. I told no one that I was there. The minute I put the music on, it all came back to me, and I was sure I would make it. As if in a trance, my body took me where it needed to be. I cried. I was all alone. It didn’t matter. Sobbing in happiness, I returned home and rang the dance theatre to inform them that I would be there the following week for rehearsal with everyone.

I had not realized, but step for step and thanks to Pina I managed to drag myself out of that big black hole, which had spread over and consumed, contaminating my whole person.
For me, it was like coming out stark naked from being lost in the driest of deserts.
Anna was my lifetime role or role of a lifetime, an emotional “killer role” as the intermission was short with very little time to recover from all those “sins.” Jo danced her first Anna in 1976 in Wuppertal when she was 26 years old and her last Anna at age 59 in Berlin!!!


Ursula Kaufmann

And at 69 years old, while directing the restaging of the Todsünden evening, I decided to join the current company of dancers onstage in the second half. It was 2019. Pure madness, but what fun I had with all those new company members and all those males onstage as tatty drag queens in bright colourful dresses, bras, corsets, sheer stockings, tight skirts, heels, make-up, lipstick, feathers, beauty spots, petticoats, wigs. With this appearance it made me the only remaining original dancer/singer/ actress left performing in this piece. I could hear the audience mumbling to each other “Is it really Jo up there on stage?” My 50-year-old costumes still fitted me, which I am rather proud to confess – a lifetime figure as well ha-ha!

Already during the first 13 years of Tanztheater I don’t know what I didn’t do on stage, apart from being naked. Standing there in bra and underpants in Todsünden was hard enough for me, but naked was a no-no, leave that for the others.

My “Anna” role was passed on to my young and beautiful successor Stephanie Troyak, not only the role but also my “Anna” dresses, and to the second cast dancer Tsai Chin my old “Anna”, also 50 years old. It felt not only good but right. I was more than pleased with how Stephanie merged herself into the sins of pride, anger, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, and sloth, and dug deeper and deeper into the role. Stephanie’s mother came from Texas to watch her “lovely innocent daughter” go through “my” sins, and what my own mother had gone through, her feelings were identical. We spoke, drank, laughed, and cried together at the end of the show.

Josephine Ann Endicott in “Die Sieben Todsünden” by Pina Bausch, 1976 and in Resumptions.

Helmut Drinhaus (5), Ursula Kaufmann (11)

I suppose Todsünden was the piece I loved to teach and dance most. It was so special to me as it somehow brought me very close to Pina. Anna1 and Anna 2. The two sisters earning their way to fortune.
After one of the performances years later and by chance a colleague mentioned to me “Jo, Pina was searching, asking after you during her last 4 days before passing away.” If only he could have told me this some years before!
In the meantime, I begin only now to understand what an extraordinary artistic working relationship I had found with Pina. It was something so big, which I don’t have to define, let alone justify. Pina gave me the feeling that I was so fundamentally important to her for her goal, her work, her well-being and her Tanztheater. And this was also very important to me. This feeling of mutual inspiration was like an elixir, my drug, to keep me going.
Pina’s favourite flowers were a bunch of forget me knots, daisies and weeping hearts.
Nothing is eternal yet what remains – your works, our love, memories, dance. And YOU.
Happy 50th anniversary, dearest Pina.
With love. Joeylein.


if there ever is one.

PS I’m not done yet…

After the excitement of the German Dance Award, my only other planned activity in 2023 is taking part in a film with a small group of four different generation dancers from Tanztheater, and six wonderful physical-theatre-singer- musical-actors. They have the power of physical expression from the well know, authentic and inspiring Polish group called TeatrZAR, and their connection to the Jerzy Grotowski Institute. Their names are Ditte Berkeley, Kamila Klamut, Mertcan Semerci, Aleksandra Kugasz and the polish originated freelancers Lukasz Przytarski and Anthony Nikolchev.

That’s great, doing something for myself. I hope they won’t want me to sing! The multidisciplinary artist of theatre and film, Samantha Shay is directing. I like her rather instigating way of working, providing space for each one of the artists present and her search for realness. Let’s see. Till now it has been fun. Icelandic entrepreneur Áslaug Magnúsdóttir is responsible for the music. We call her Slugs. Honestly an amazing young talented woman composer, music programmer. I don’t know her that well but the I am fascinated by her and her beauty. In fact, I find them all in their own way beautiful and in no way boring. I can’t wait!

The author

Josephine Ann Endicott was born on 14th March 1950, in Sydney, Australia. She was schooled at the Australian Ballet School from 1966 to 1968 and accepted thereafter into the prestigious Australian Ballet. Jo moved to London at the beginning of 1973 when she was discovered by Pina Bausch, who engaged her for the Tanztheater Wuppertal. From 1973 until 2023, with some breakaway years for pause, Jo worked as dancer, director’s assistant, rehearsal director, and in the archives of the Tanztheater. Since 2010 she has worked as a freelance re-stager for the Pina Bausch Foundation. Jo has written three books and lives near Karlsruhe.


I would like to thank the many people who populated my many years of working in Tanztheater Wuppertal. In particular a special thanks to the 161 dear, dancing, acting, artists and colleagues with whom I performed and sinned with as Anna in Pina’s masterpiece “The seven deadly Sins”.

In different circumstances, my special thanks to the 64 Teenagers and 44 Seniors, mostly untrained, to whom I taught Kontakthof; and the many African dancers, Paris Opera Ballet and English National Ballet dancers to whom I taught Sacre. I also want to thank all the employees and collaborators across all of the Tanztheater’s departments.

In Australia, many thanks to Julie Dyson for introducing me to Lee Christofis who happily agreed to become my editor. I thank them both for their support, and for Lee’s patience and humour with my never-ending versions of Chapters of Change.

To Arnd Wesemann at, thank you for encouraging me to finish the book, and for your enthusiasm to take on the production. Thanks also to Christy Sheffield Sanford (English) and Birgit Adler-Conrad (German) for their early editorial help.

My enormous thanks to my husband Ferdinand and our three children Clare, Josef and Simon and to my two close friends whose approval of the first and final drafts kept me going.

The editor

Lee Christofis is nationally known as a dance critic, writer, interviewer and commentator in ABC Arts programs (1981 – 2021) and art and news journals. He is a former Curator of Dance at the National Library of Australia (NLA), Melbourne Dance Critic for The Australian, and Coordinator, Arts Management and Multicultural Arts Marketing at the University of Melbourne, where he was also a researcher and lecturer in dance history and arts criticism. At NLA he curated the exhibition Ballets Russes in Australia (1936-1940) and a symposium, and contributed chapters to the associated book. With volunteers, he led the establishment of the NLA’s first Indigenous Contemporary Dance Collection. Since retirement Lee has written essays for The Australian Ballet and reviewed for several journals.

The advocate

Julie Dyson works in a voluntary capacity across several organisations. She is the former National Executive Officer of Ausdance, where her work included policy development, advice to funding bodies, companies, and individual artists. This includes the first Australian publication on Safe Dance practice for dancers and advocacy for contemporary dance collections at the National Film and Sound Archive and at the National Library of Australia (NLA). She has edited many publications, including Routledge’s Shaping the Landscape – Celebrating Dance in Australia, Asia-Pacific Channels, and Ausdance’s quarterly magazine Dance Forum. She has initiated partnerships to promote and support contemporary dance in Australia and been an important advocate for dance to governments and the Australia Council for the Arts (now Creative Australia).