In the 1990s, Bausch made pieces that can be seen as snapshots in an album or video clips—with images and sounds inspired by cities to which Wuppertal Tanztheater had toured, or by a country that intrigued her. The last one seen here, in December of 2008, was Bamboo Blues (2007), with its allusions to India (draping fabrics, the cooling power of water, Bollywood films) mixing with her familiar visions of ordeal and absurd tasks. In these works, Bausch returned to dancing. One after another, her company members would appear in fluid solos that reminded me that Bausch had studied with José Limón while at Juilliard. It was as if each dancer had been given a theme to develop in individual ways.

Bausch's "Nelken" ("Carnations"), 1982
Ulli Weiss
Bausch's "Nelken" ("Carnations"), 1982

Oh those dancers! Bausch’s oeuvre cannot be considered without their input. In the studio in Wuppertal, they responded to her leading questions, dredged up memories of childhood, of passions, of their most embarrassing experiences. She chose, edited, added to, and orchestrated the facts of their lives and their desires and fears. Meryl Tankard, Dominique Mercy, Beatrice Libonati, Jan Minarek, Lutz Forster, Nazareth Panadero, Josephine Ann Endicott, and many many more; they brought her work to unforgettable life. In a work never seen here, Action for Dancers, made before Bausch took over the company in Wuppertal, the action centered on a woman lying shrouded on a white hospital bed, which, wrote Schmidt, “sooner or later the entire ensemble will climb into.” The image haunts me now, of course, in relation to her death, but also because I feel for the brilliant performers who, in another sense, climbed into bed with her and helped her work to become the phenomenon it is. Their loss is ours too, and in losing her, we lose them. Although never—not ever—our memories.

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