A new beginning? Well, sort of...
Four years after the passing of Pina Bausch, Lutz Förster will take over as Artistic Director of Tanztheater Wuppertal this summer, with a contract that runs to 2015.
Since Bausch's death in 2009, the company has been guided by Bausch's assistant, Robert Sturm, and long-time dancer and friend, Dominique Mercy. In that time the company has been performing only Bausch's historic works, although including some that had not been danced for some time. Following Förster's appointment, Sturm and mMercy will remain on board as director of operations and consultant respectively.
Tanztheater Wuppertal Managing Director Dirk Hesse says the dance theater's decision to select Förster was unanimous. Förster takes over the reigns with great respect, but says, "I'm not afraid."
Förster joined the company in 1975. He has danced in most of the repertory. He presently holds a professorship in contemporary dance at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen. For now, that will be put on hold so he can devote his time fully to the company.
It seems that for two years at least, there will be little obvious change. Förster is not a choreographer and has no immediate plans to add new pieces to the repertoire. "There will be no new productions until 2015," he stated. That is of some concern to those who already recognise some lessening of the power of Bausch's work. Continuing to dance only her work was always likely to lead to staleness and dancers feeling a lack of artistic challenge. Recent performances I saw in Taipei, however, suggest all is not well. There were issues with both Cafe Muller, and especially with Rite of Spring, the latter losing some of its essential earthiness and raw energy.
Top of Förster's priorities at the moment is the autumn 2013 celebration of Tanztheater Wuppertal's 40th anniversary (although it shoul dbe recognised that the company previously existed under a different name and dancing a different style).
Consideration of the future development and direction of the company must be pretty much next of his list, though. It is my view that what has become something of a closed circle within the company needs opening up. Bausch's ideals and philosophies need to be respected but new concepts, ideas and choreographies are needed. One name who may become increasingly influential in that is Stefan Hilterhaus, a Folkwang graduate, and now director of Pact, a choreographic centre in nearby Essen. Pact has a reputation for experimental and contemporary work, often cross-genre, by international choreographers.
Regardless of who teams up with Lütz, change is necessary. The company must not lose its historic works but equally must not be allowed to become merely a museum of old pieces.