Posts Tagged ‘Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’

  • As a writer, sharing my point of view of life with others is my duty and my pleasure.
  • As an educator, my perennial goal is to generate appreciation for and understanding of the arts and of artists.
  • As a choreographer, I investigate the interior logic of performance and the role of a dancer in our culture today, redefining the parameters of dance and theater.

My work reflects my experience as a Latina/European artist living in New York and comes from a deep examination of my motivations as a woman, mother, and immigrant.

My aim is to integrate mind + body + spirit. That’s why I write, choreograph & teach.  

Anabella Lenzu

On Saturday, September 16,  I had the honor and pleasure to interview Dominique Mercy in Brooklyn, after the show at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) where the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch presented Café Müller/The Rite of Spring. (SEP 14—SEP 24, 2017)

Dominique is a former member of the Pina Bausch Company (since 1973) and is presently the Rehearsal Director of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch as well as Vice Chairman of The Advisory Board of Pina Bausch Foundation.

He received me and spoke to me with open heart. Throughout our conversation he showed a deep self awareness as well as honest transparency.  After seeing him all my life on stage and in videos, I can say that he is as generous a dancer as he is a person.

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Anabella Lenzu: So I want to ask you about politics.

Dominique Mercy: Ahh that’s a trap! It is a trap!

AL: I know we should not talk about politics and religion, but how can we separate them when we are artists?

DM: I know, I know, it is part of our life, of course.

AL: That’s my question, do you think your career, your work, you as Dominique the person are a political act? Or how do you separate from that idea?

DM: If you relate or translate or describe being in society as a political one, which is probably the fact, conscious or unconscious, then yes. But I have never been some kind of conceptual artist. It is something that never, maybe it’s bad, but never really interested me to be involved in directly  —the political side of thinking in my career. It’s difficult to say why I chose this. I think it’s something which is so deep inside.

Until now, dancing has been a way of living. There were no questions. I did have some doubt on the way, maybe wished to do something else like singing or playing an instrument, but it (dancing) has always been a necessity and I never knew where it came from.

AL: The fact is that we are artists, we rebel. We show another level of consciousness  to the audience –that is what I’m talking about. What do you feel is your responsibility as an artist? Talk about Dominique in the world we are living in now.

DM: Well, we are exposed, and our responsibility is no more or less than what you have as a normal human being in society. Of course we are more exposed. I’ve always been very lazy to ask myself questions. I’ve been following my flows and my instincts because I really had an enormous chance to meet the right people in the right moment. Things have always been very organic for me. Even if I decided to quit or make a choice, I had the possibility to do it. I wasn’t forced to do it. It was just the moment to do it when it happened. So I consider myself very lucky in that way, and maybe that’s why I didn’t have to fight somehow. I had the chance to just concentrate on my work and what was inside me.

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AL: But how do you feel politically? Because as a member of a younger generation, I see different government approaches  —like in this country, we don’t have a minister of culture, never have and never will. How do you feel about getting support from the government? How does it influence your work?

DM: It doesn’t influence me. Of course in Europe, we are very lucky because there is this recognition in most countries of the importance of art for all of us. For the ones who do it and the ones who receive it and share it. I think it is incredible. On the other hand, of course on a different level, if you have to struggle for certain things and really struggle to achieve them, it gives art a tremendous value. In Europe, it’s not like money comes from the sky. There are a lot of young people we call freelance artists that are struggling. It’s not easy. You have to look for money and rent a place, and people aren’t being paid because there isn’t enough money. You know we all went through this somehow, more or less. If I understood your question, in the case of Pina, there is support from the city that hasn’t always been obvious, but has been incredible, even when she passed away. But it never ever influenced any of our work. Pina always did her work with sincerity and honesty. She didn’t try to please or provoke anyone. That’s why I’m always looking to express new things.

AL: Can you talk a little bit about how the idea of dance companies disappearing? Now most choreographers are freelance, or we see pick-up companies. How do you feel about how you became part of this artistic family, part of the magic?

DM: Well, the destiny of a family —you don’t choose it. It goes back to what we were talking about a little bit ago. The incredible luck she had to have this theater invite her to take over this ballet company. She brought people that she knew and had worked with and some other people she had worked with like me. Since the beginning it’s been people coming and going. In reality, we are together not because we want to be together —we are here because of Pina’s work.  It’s by being together and working in the studio, being as open as you can, trying to look into yourself, you get to know each other a little bit better. I think somehow the company is probably much more… let’s say consciously responsible, and together now that Pina passed away. When she was alive she was a magnet. It’s not like all of us like each other, we’re a normal group of people, but she was the one solving problems and disagreements or whatever it was. And suddenly she left us and right away there were less difficulties. Mourning is not an easy thing to do, but I think there was this responsibility we felt for her legacy. We sort of fit all together, as a part of something and don’t want to lose it.


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AL: So we talked about politics, we talked about family, what about religion? Last night I saw Rite of Spring and I see this community, and I was thinking —for you, is dance your religion?

DM: What connects us more is a spirituality. It’s being connected and being aware of something we’re still looking for, and we don’t really know what it is. I think in modern religion, there is something we don’t know. We all still look for it and try to understand.

AL: Did working with Pina give you this sense of spirituality?

DM: I don’t know if it gave me more than what I think I had myself. Well anyway, when you go through a collaboration with someone like Pina, you try to be honest, you go into a lot of introspection.

AL: What have you discovered within yourself while working with Pina?

DM: You know, for me it’s on different levels. I didn’t want to dance because I wanted to use it as a tool or because I discovered something, it’s always been there since I was a baby. So I think without knowing it, there is something spiritual about it. It came from inside. My mother and people around me could sense that and encourage it. And of course after a while you try to understand why. I’m not sure I know why yet. Also working with Pina makes you discover yourself because it’s so much about how she was working with us as individuals. It’s also like trying to understand why I dance, what makes me go in such a specific direction in most of my dancing. It’s something I haven’t really put my finger on yet. It’s strange because I’m aging, I sometimes feel the need to rest a bit. It is a strange spot, I don’t know.


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AL: Let’s talk about the dance audience. How do you feel the work is being received in the different countries?

DM: Well you know if you talk about New York, I think it’s one of the first cities where we really realized we didn’t have only a dance audience. There were actors, artists, I think it was an incredible mixture.

AL: But talking about worldwide…

DM: You cannot deny that there is an audience coming to BAM and coming for Pina. But I don’t know, maybe there is something magic about the audience and the company. When people talk to me in the street, they’re not dancers, and in the last few years I’m more in the audience, people come to talk to me and they’re not dancers, but they love dance. They are people looking for something in their life, it’s more than entertainment. There are so many people who say the company changed their life.

AL: How do you feel audiences in different countries nurture the work? How do the audiences in different countries influence the work?

DM: It’s different in a way. It’s always difficult to say this country or that one. Very often within a season in a city, sometimes you have a different audience every night so it’s difficult. But we were talking last night about a laugh in the audience, it’s always been like this since the beginning. I will never forget this, the very first time we did Café Müller, I was so concerned. We were shocked on stage, Pina didn’t understand either why people in that moment started to laugh. It stopped quite quickly, but they laughed. That’s happened almost everywhere because I think the audience doesn’t know what to do with it, and refuses to relate to what this means. I must say here in United States, this happens much more than anywhere else.

AL:  How do things penetrate the 4th wall on stage? Because at the beginning not everyone liked Pina, how did you take that?

DM: Well let’s be honest, you’re not looking for Boos or people leaving the house. When you believe in what you do, it can make you sad, it can make you angry, it can make you wise, but somewhere there is something that tells you, ‘whatever, I’m on the right path’ and that’s what I meant before. Pina never did anything to provoke or influence, because she had a lot of respect for the audience and was sad when things didn’t work. If we are there, sharing those things with the audience, of course we believe in it and we hope to connect with them in one way or another.

AL: And there was always a respectful dialogue…

DM: Yes. For instance, there is a piece which we did in Paris three or four times. The first time, the reviews and the audience were arguing between who liked it and who hated it. We came back 3 years later, and they all loved it. We went back again, and it was just like the first time, the same misunderstandings, people leaving, people loving it, audience members arguing. It was amazing that the piece still had the power to provoke questions! They don’t just clap, there is something sincere about it, but it was very strange. I think it was in the nineties, we were invited to Madrid for the re-opening of the opera, and we had two different programs there and with our first piece —people loved it, immense success. The next week we went back and did Carnation, it was amazing, people were boo-ing, leaving, clapping, some said that it wasn’t dance, people were screaming. That was amazing.

AL: How do you feel about continuing Pina’s legacy and honoring her work?

DM: Well I think, first of all I’m very happy we are where we are and to realize that the company is still here. I think the work has so many layers because we have this responsibility and I think it’s a deserved one. Pina’s work is so incredible, I think it has to be kept alive for as long as possible. For myself, after Pina passed away, co-directing the company has been a real struggle. Because it was an immense responsibility and on the other side, people need time to mourn. We had Pina as this magnet, sort of in the center of everything. It was a very pyramidal composition of people. And suddenly there were these two men chosen to hold the company. It was very difficult because Pina had the capacity to have this personal relationship with each one of us, and to give confidence in many different fields while pushing you to ask questions. By trying to carry all of this, we’re comforting all those sensitivities. It made things very complicated, to make choices and decisions. But still nevertheless, we were still aware of not damaging the legacy. This is the idea on top of everything else, and I think we are becoming a little bit wiser somehow, and I think there is a very beautiful dynamic within the company to take care of the work.

It’s so strange because of course sometimes just the fact that people know Pina is not here anymore, the artists say “yeah but.” Always “yeah but”. Yeah but, what? Because what we do now, is something that Pina taught us. Of course we don’t have her eyes, we don’t have her tremendous talent and instinct. But I think each one of us is receptive differently. I think she really did prepare for this, she started making revivals very early. She educated us so we could understand why she would suddenly split a role, or fix specific details, because for her it was important. She had been teaching us how to see and react. Of course there might always be something missing, and anyway I think it’s something you can’t change, because until Pina went, everybody more or less had the chance to work with her, see her thinking, struggling, choosing, and now we have about 15 dancers. And of course when you look in from the outside it’s a piece of Pina, but it’s becoming another company. You cannot deny this. It’s part of the process. I think it’s beautiful because it’s not always easy for these young people to compare. But nevertheless I think it’s amazing to realize how this new generation is consumed by the work and that’s fantastic, I think.


To see selections of Dominique Mercy dancing Pina Bausch’s works, click the following links:

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