Tanztheater Wuppertal to restage Pina Bausch’s The Piece with the Ship

David Mead

Tanztheater Wuppertal has announced the November will see an ambitious restaging of Pina Bausch’s 1983 work, The Piece with the Ship. Rarely seen, it was last performed in Saitama, Japan, 24 years ago.

Characterised by sweet melancholy, delicate humour and typically zestful dancing, the piece depicts a community stranded in an abandoned place. A beach without an ocean, a ship without water. People who have been torn from everyday life, poised between extreme vulnerability and a strong will to survive, dance as if their lives depended on it. Rarely seen, the piece premiered in Wuppertal in 1993 and

This latest revival continues the process of transformation in how to cultivate and engage with Pina Bausch’s choreographic legacy that the Tanztheater Wuppertal is now going through. This began in 2019 with Bluebeard and continued in 2020 with He Takes Her By The Hand And Leads Her To The Castle, The Others Follow. That process not only includes rethinking how it rehearses, casts and performs Bausch’s pieces, but also re-evaluating how roles and repertoire can be passed on.

For The Piece with the Ship, artistic director Bettina Wagner-Bergelt was able to enlist the Israeli artist Saar Magal as an ‘outside eye’. Magal is a choreographer and director with an unusual approach, whose productions explore the interstices between dance, opera, theatre and performance. She has developed projects for Batsheva Dance Company, the Bavarian State Opera, and the Staatsoper unter den Linden in Berlin. Together with Barbara Kaufmann, Héléna Pikon and Julie Anne Stanzak as rehearsal directors she will help to bring the piece back to the stage. Several other dancers from the original 1993 cast are directly passing on their roles to the new cast.

The extraordinary stage set by Peter Pabst, featuring sand dunes and the hull of a stranded ship, is being restored to its original state under his supervision.

The score includes birdsong, the sound of raindrops, jungle noises, strains of a harp punctuated by heavy storms and rolling thunder, alongside arias by Walther von der Vogelweide, Georg Frideric Handel and Christoph Willibald Gluck; as well as medieval and renaissance music and songs from India, Morocco and Namibia.

The restaging of The Piece with the Ship launches the performance series Pina Bausch Centre under construction, which will take place at the Altes Schauspielhaus in Wuppertal from November 21-29, 2020.

A few more details are now on www.pina-bausch.de, with further information to be published there and on www.pinabauschzentrum.de at the end of October.