Israeli artists remember modern dance pioneer Pina Bausch, who has died in Germany at 68

Israeli dancer and choreographer Rina Schenfeld says Bausch "loved Israel."

pina bausch 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
pina bausch 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
World famous choreographer Pina Bausch, who died of cancer in Wuppertal, Germany, on Tuesday, "loved Israel and was based in Israel in a way," Israeli dancer and choreographer Rina Schenfeld said of her longtime friend on Thursday. Schenfeld and Bausch, who was 68 when she died, met half a century ago at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. "She came from Germany and I came from Israel, and we became very friendly," Schenfeld said. "We became like sisters." Performing together at Juilliard, they eventually both chose to pursue dance careers in their home countries. Bausch returned to Germany to work with choreographer Kurt Jooss and later became director of the Wuppertaler Tanztheater Ballet Company in North Rhine-Westphalia, which was eventually renamed the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Schenfeld returned to Israel and helped found and performed with the Batsheva Dance Company and then formed the Rina Schenfeld Dance Theater based in Tel Aviv. Through her collaboration with Jooss and her choreography with the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Bausch was a prominent performer in Tanztheater (dance theater), leaving a lasting impression on the international dance community. Tanztheater helped shape modern dance, and elements of Bausch's style can be seen in many of the productions featured in Israel's performance halls, both by Israeli and international dancers alike. She danced in Israel several times, at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center and at the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea. Bausch's and Schenfeld's paths crossed many times over the years. When asked Thursday about her friendship with Bausch after they left New York, Schenfeld said, "After Juilliard, we met many times. She came to Israel and asked me to direct the Kurt Jooss Company in Essen. I was going to go, but at the last minute I declined. I wanted to stay here and develop dance in Israel." Even so, they continued to work together. "Pina invited me to perform in her theater. In 1980 or 1982, I went and performed a solo dance. She also performed in Israel several times." It is possible their friendship attributed to the frequency with which Bausch's company traveled to Israel, particularly in the early 1990s. Bausch's influence over Israeli arts has not been limited to dance. "Working with Pina was very intimate, she gave me the freedom to do what I liked," said Lee Yanor, an Israeli photographer and filmmaker whose documentary Coffee with Pina features Bausch. Yanor and Bausch were introduced to each other by Bausch's agent. "I lived in Paris for nine years," said Yanor. "Her agent saw my pictures and thought that we should meet." Their first meeting took place in Café Mistral in 1993. They held an ongoing dialogue for 12 years and the outcome was the idea for the film. Coffee with Pina, filmed in Paris in 2002 and Wuppertal in 2005, features dancers performing Bausch's choreography as well as Bausch dancing and speaking about her work. "It looks very chaotic, but somehow it makes sense," Bausch says to Yanor in the documentary, speaking in her rehearsal studio, where she dances parts of her solo from Danzon especially for the film. Talking about the filming process, Yanor said, "The best part was the last week, in Germany - spending a week together, sometimes in her studio while she was dancing." The film was very successful, appearing in the Jerusalem Film Festival and throughout the world. In the film, Bausch is calm. Dancing in front of her studio mirror, she draws the viewer in. Yanor commented, "When I was present in a few screenings, it always felt like she was there, dancing in the room. She was a very true person."