Tales from the Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal Audition
A Dance Enthusiastic Auditioner's European Adventure
Dance Enthusiast Contributor and dancer Trina Mannino traveled to Germany in February to audition for Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal. She shared excerpts from her travel journal with The Dance Enthusiast as a POSTCARD.
February 20, 2014
After the seven hour plan ride to Dusseldorf and two train rides, I arrived in Wuppertal this morning. I immediately recognized the Schwebebahn (the city’s monorail system) from many of the scenes in Wim Wenders’ film “Pina.”
To avoid surrendering to jet lag, I headed straight to Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden in the city’s Barmen district. The sculpture park was empty on the drizzly afternoon, leaving me to peacefully wander its many acres.
As I followed the moss-covered path, I made a serendipitous discovery. Projected into several windows of the Waldfrieden Villa were films of Pina Bausch’s famous dances. Designed by longtime Bausch collaborator and set designer, Peter Pabst, ‘Vorsichtshalber Vorsichtig’ (Caution as a Precaution) was a retrospective of the company’s visually complex works, including Vollmond and Carnations. I was reminded that these artists didn’t only collaborate in making dance theatre pieces: Bausch and Pabst created a singular world that audiences could lose themselves in.
February 21, 2014
Before traveling to Germany, I was relieved to know that fellow New Yorker, Kelly Garone, was attending the audition too. Together we took the train to Dusseldorf today to check out the city’s dance scene. Although it is a small dance community, Dusseldorf has a state-of-the-art performance and studio space: Tanzhaus NRW. The space houses dance classes, performances and rehearsals, similar to many of the studios in New York. We found a mix of classical and contemporary dancers in the ballet class we attended, which was led by Nicolas Robillard, assistant to the ballet master at the Dortmund Ballet.
We left class sweaty and in search of a big delicious lunch. Taking a break from rigors of preparing for the audition, we spent the afternoon milling about in the old part of the city and its charming Carlstadt market. My favorite part was the German candy vendor!
Tomorrow is the big day. We’re turning in early, after we watch Bausch’s Rite of Spring for inspiration.
February 22, 2014
I woke up with a jolt this morning. My body sensing what was to come in only a few hours. When we arrived at the Opera House at 9am, the 200 or so other women congregated in small groups waiting for further instructions.
We were then led to a large holding space near the company’s rehearsal studios. Dancers from all over -- California, England, Japan, even Ohio — stretched, slept and read to ease their bodies and minds. We made small talk about our lives back home and speculated what the company was looking for while noshing on nuts and fruit and wrapping our bodies in countless layers of clothing.
After waiting several hours for my group to be seen, we were lead to the company’s studio. My nervousness was washed away and an overwhelming sense of excitement took over. Nestled between a sex shop and a McDonalds are the company’s studio and offices. The rehearsal space is a cavernous old theater where Pina and her cohort made their dance theater, testing ideas as if in a laboratory. The room’s history electrified me.
Several members of the company, many of whom are prominently featured in “Pina,” dotted the space languidly sitting on chairs or peering down from the balcony. I observed them, trying to see their “Pina-isms.” Before my imagination could run further, Lutz Förster, longtime company member and now artistic director, welcomed us and we got down to business.
The ballet portion wasn’t technically too challenging, but my adrenaline was kicked into high gear. Reminding myself to breathe relieved my senses.
After ballet, Fernando Suels Mendoza took charge. He instructed us to run with “urgency and graciousness.” We had to do this one by one. It was moving to watch my fellow dancers reveal themselves in this simple and emotional task. Once we finished the zooming runs, Julie Shanahan led us into presentational yet understated walks. At first glance, the walk Julie wanted didn’t seem difficult, but its subtlety was challenging – it’s what made it Pina.
As my heart beat out of my chest, I realized the moment I’d been waiting for weeks was upon me. Would I go on to the next round of auditions for the famed Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal in Germany? Unfortunately, I would not. The verdict hit me like a ton of bricks. Despite my disappointment, I was excited for my friends who were called back tomorrow. To celebrate we went out for a traditional German meal of schnitzel and beer.
February 23, 2014
The aftermath of the audition left me feeling a little sad. I also felt hopeful, though, despite my journey having come to a close sooner than I wanted. Meeting dancers from around the world, working with the company (albeit for only a brief spell), and experiencing the European dance scene have left an indelible impression on me. I’m returning to New York tomorrow with a renewed sense of purpose and hunger for moving and creating. I’m eager to find out what lies ahead.