‘Nelken has lost none of its power’ - The Guardian


Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

It’s regarded as one of her most beautiful works. Premiered in 1982, Pina Bausch’ Nelken (carnations) has never been out of repertoire since. After an absence of five years, Bausch’ Tanztheater Wuppertal are back in the Netherlands, performing this timeless classic by their former artistic leader, who passed away in 2009. Nelken is a world in itself. If you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget the famous set design by Bausch’ scenographer Peter Pabst. Thousands of carnations which seem to grow from the stage – and the dancers roaming through them, traversing Bausch’ eternal battlefields of love.


Background information

The Wuppertal Tanztheater, founded by legendary dance innovator Pina Bausch (1940-2009), returns to the Holland Festival to stage a reprise of Nelken. The piece is Bausch's evocation of Arcadia, the eternally sunny paradise from Greek mythology where flowers were always in bloom; a dreamland that was lost before the dawn of history. 

The ensemble's twenty-three dancers and four stunt men sweep the audience along in a kaleidoscope of different forms of innocence and repression. With its collage of ritual, dance, text (spoken, shouted, sung and gestured), music and visual theatre, Nelken conveys the dismantling of a utopia, in part comical, gentle and disarming, but also morbid and dark. 

For Nelken, Bausch's regular scenographer Peter Pabst designed a stage carpeted with thousands of artificial knee-high white and pink carnations, which the dancers have to negotiate in all their movements. In this idyllic sea of flowers, the performers embody their own fantasies, dreams and fears to the music of Franz Schubert, George Gershwin, Franz Lehár, Louis Armstrong, Sophie Tucker, Quincy Jones and Richard Tauber, amongst others. Simultaneously, one can feel a forceful undercurrent of anger, repression and paranoia. Seemingly innocent children's games degenerate into cruel abuse of power. By the end of the performance, the dancers have trampled through thousands of carnations – leaving the audience with as many questions. Nelken dates from1982, when the Berlin Wall was still standing and the world looked very different from now, but the piece still retains its original poetic power and expressive force. 

The performers' body control and enthusiasm contrast with the gloomy themes Bausch explores. This demonstrates the timeless qualities of her choreographies – lifting situations from the anchors of time and place to express the universal essence in human nature. In Bausch' universe, dance is a quest for love as much as it is a battlefield. 

Pina Bausch rose to world fame as an innovator of contemporary dance. As a choreographer and a teacher she combined a range of different art forms to achieve a raw emotional and physical intensity which have become her trademark. Bausch focused on expressing longing, fantasy and the feeling of alienation in modern life, often using her dancers' personal experiences and input as a starting point. This intimate, almost family-like approach created an exceptionally close group of performers, who have stayed together after her death in 2009. This will be the fifteenth time the Wuppertal Tanztheater feature at the Holland Festival. The last time Nelken was performed at the Holland Festival was in 1995.



In her life and work, choreographer and dancer Philippine Bausch (1940-2009), better known as Pina, gained a legendary status as a radical innovator of dance. From 1973 until her death she was in charge of the Wuppertal Tanztheater, where she developed her unique style and became a leading influence in the field of dance. 

Bausch increasingly pushed aside conventional forms of dance to create room for pure, human movement and a multidisciplinary approach, using the personal experiences and emotions of her performers as a starting point. The use of hypnotic, exhausting (and sometimes painful) repetitions helped to lend her work a hallucinatory, almost transcendental quality. At the age of fourteen Bausch entered Kurt Joos' Folkwang School in Essen and then studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York – the Mecca for modern dance. After two years in New York she returned to the renamed Folkwang Tanzstudio, where she created her first choreographies, including Im Wind der Zeit, which earned her first prize at the International Choreographic Workshop in Cologne in 1969. She went on to create more than forty productions, receiving countless prestigious awards, including a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennial and the Kyoto Prize. As artistic director in charge of the Wuppertal Tanztheater she managed to forge a tight-knit group of performers committed to her work, which has been beautifully portrayed in Wim Wenders' documentary Pina (2011). After her passing, the ensemble stayed together. Under Lutz Förster's artistic direction they continue to perform her rich oeuvre; dance theatre which takes an unflinching look at reality, yet at the same time gives the audience the courage to stay true to their deepest dreams and desires. In May 2016 Adolphe Binder will take up the position as intendant for Tanztheater Wuppertal. Bausch' work has been staged fourteen times before at the Holland Festival. The reprise of Nelken will be the first time the group return without her.



a piece by
Pina Bausch
direction & choreography
Pina Bausch
Peter Pabst
Marion Cito
drama advice
Raimund Hoghe
Matthias Burkert, Hans Pop
artistic director
Lutz Förster
Barbara Kaufmann, Dominique Mercy
general manager
Dirk Hesse
Pablo Aran Gimeno, Emma Barrowman, Andrey Berezin, Michael Carter, Çağdaş Ermis, Eddie Martinez, Jonathan Fredrickson, Scott Jennings, Nayoung Kim, Blanca Noguerol Ramírez, Breanna O'Mara, Franko Schmidt, Julie Shanahan, Julie Anne Stanzak, Julian Stierle, Michael Strecker, Fernando Suels Mendoza, Tsai-Chin Yu, Aida Vainieri, Anna Wehsarg, Paul White, Ophelia Young, Tsai-Chin Yu
stunt men
Bodo Haack, Jürgen Klein, Hendrik Mohr, n.n.
Franz Schubert, George Gershwin, Franz Lehár, Louis Armstrong, Sophie Tucker, Quincy Jones, Richard Tauber, and others
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

This performance was made possible with support by