Inspired encounters between different dance traditions

Le Sacre du printemps / common ground[s]

Pina Bausch / Germaine Acogny & Malou Airaudo
Pina Bausch Foundation, École des Sables, Sadler’s Wells

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A young woman is sacrificed changing the season from winter to spring. Pina Bausch made the world-famous choreography Le Sacre du printemps, set to the music of Igor Stravinsky in 1975. This pioneering work is now danced by a newly assembled company of dancers from various African countries. Also, the work common ground[s] is shown: a new choreography created and performed by Germaine Acogny, ‘the mother of contemporary African dance’ and founder of École des Sables, and Malou Airaudo a former member of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. This intimate work reflects their histories, emotional experiences and common ground. This is the first collaboration between the Pina Bausch Foundation (Germany), École des Sables (Senegal) and Sadler’s Wells (UK).

background information

Exchange is at the heart of the first creative collaboration between the Pina Bausch Foundation (Germany), École des Sables (Senegal) – the international centre for traditional and contemporary

African dance – and Sadler’s Wells London (UK). The double bill consists of an interpretation of the monumental work Le Sacre du printemps (1975) by Pina Bausch (1940–2009) and a wholly new piece of choreography: the duet common ground[s], by Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo.

Bausch’s iconic work Le Sacre du printemps will be performed by a newly assembled group of dancers from various African countries. The choreography explores the idea of a ritual, portraying the sacrifice of a ‘chosen one’ to usher in the spring. The audience is witness to an animistic ritual that involves the sacrifice of a young woman to the gods to mark the transition from winter to spring and restore harmony to the world. Although the production remains faithful to Igor Stravinsky’s composition and Bausch’s masterful choreography, the influence of the new dancers gives it an additional dimension.

Pina Bausch is known as a radical innovator of dance. She once said, ‘I’m not interested in how people move, but what moves them’. Le Sacre du printemps has been performed twice before by other dance companies (the Paris Opera Balletand the English National Ballet). After these positive experiences, Salomon Bausch, Executive Director of the Pina Bausch Foundation, became interested in extending the realms of transmissions further. This will be the first time that work by Bausch is performed by a group of dancers who are mainly trained in traditional and contemporary African dances and hip hop. These dancers come together to introduce new influences to the piece. Former and current members of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch lead the rehearsals with the new ensemble, made up of dancers from 14 African countries.

Salomon Bausch: ´This production not only aims to introduce Pina Bausch’s choreography and ideas to a new group of dancers – we are also looking to introduce new influences into the movement, rhythm and emotions in the piece by drawing on the dancers’ personal creative experiences.’

The second piece, common ground[s], is a collaboration between Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo. Both women are choreographers, professors and mothers, and this work reflects their history, emotional experiences and the common ground they share. It’s an intimate duet that brings together two influential choreographers and dance pedagogues. Acogny (1944) is the founder of École des Sables and is known as the ‘mother of contemporary African dance’. Airaudo (1948) is a former member of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, where she played a key role in the development of a number of pieces. Their duet brings to life on the stage years of dance history, passion, culture and shared life experiences.

Both women also share a long-standing fascination with Le Sacre du printemps, In 2018 Acogny won a Bessie Award for her interpretation in the solo "Mon élue noire - Sacre no.2" (2015) choreographed by Olivier Dubois, which was party inspired by Bausch’s piece. Airaudo, meanwhile, danced the lead role in the 1978 video recording.

Pina Bausch’s work has featured at the Holland Festival many times. In 2016 her ensemble appeared at the festival with the classic Nelken (1982); two years later they presented a wholly new piece by choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou, Neues Stück I – Seit Sie (2018).



Pina Bausch was born 1940 in Solingen and died 2009 in Wuppertal. She received her dance training at the Folkwang School in Essen under Kurt Jooss, where she achieved technical excellence.

Soon after the director of Wuppertal's theatres, Arno Wüstenhöfer, engaged her as choreographer, from autumn 1973, she renamed the ensemble the Tanztheater Wuppertal. Under this name, although controversial at the beginning, the company gradually achieved international recognition. Its combination of poetic and everyday elements influenced the international development of dance decisively. Awarded some of the greatest prizes and honours world-wide, Pina Bausch is one of the most significant choreographers of our time.

The Pina Bausch Foundation was established in 2009 shortly after the death of Pina Bausch by her son Salomon Bausch. The charitable foundation based in Wuppertal owns the rights to the works and choreographies of Pina Bausch along with the set and costume designs of Rolf Borzik and the extensive Pina Bausch archive. The foundation’s role is to carry Pina Bausch’s oeuvre forward into the future, to disseminate it and enable its performance. Preserving a work of choreographic art requires much more ongoing work than most other forms, as no sooner is it realised, it is gone again, and must be brought back to life on stage again with each performance.

The Pina Bausch Archive, which consists first and foremost of production details and documentation, serves as a knowledge resource. This resource, combined with the unique knowledge of the Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble, is the basis for the continued performance of the pieces. For this process, it is not only important to pass on the knowledge continually to new dancers, but also to train people to pass this knowledge on.

In recent years, dancers took on the role of stagers, transmitting choreographies directly to dancers within and outside the Tanztheater Wuppertal. Thus pieces have been rehearsed with companies such as the Bavarian State Ballet, the English National Ballet, the Opera Ballet Vlaanderen and the Paris Opera. The positive experiences from these transmission projects encouraged the Pina Bausch Foundation to mark its 10th anniversary by looking to the future and searching for new forms and objectives for the transferal of Pina Bausch’s works, thus widening access to them, under the heading ‘Reimagining Transmission’.

French dancer, choreographer and dance pedagogue Malou Airaudo (Marseille, 1948) was only eight years old when she began dancing with the Opéra de Marseille. At the age of seventeen, she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo, where she became a soloist alongside Léonide Massine. In 1968 she transferred to Françoise Adret’s Ballet-Théâtre Contemporain. Two years later she met Pina Bausch in New York. She returned to Germany and, in 1973, joined the newly founded Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Airaudo became one of the key figures of the ensemble and starred in various productions, such as Iphigenie auf Tauris, Orpheus und Eurydike, Café Müller and Le Sacre du Printemps. She was also a founding member of the Parisian dance company La Main, along with Jacques Patarozzi, Dominique Mercy, Helena Pikon, Dana Sapiro and worked with choreographer Carolyn Carlson at the Teatrodanza La Fenice in Venice.

Between 1984 and 2018 she taught at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen-Werden, and in 2012 she became director of the university’s Institute of Contemporary Dance. Her choreographies include Le jardin des souvenirs, Jane, Je voudrais tant, Black Is the Color, Schwarze Katze and If You Knew, created for companies such as the Folkwang Tanzstudio, the Ballet de Nancy, the Venice Biennale, the Pottporus Renegade Theatre, the Ballet de Genève and theBallet du Nord – Centre Chorégraphique National. Airaudo also appeared in the films Hable con ella (2002, dir. Pedro Almodóvar) and Pina (2011, dir. Wim Wenders).

Senegalese-French dancer and choreographer Germaine Acogny (Benin, 1944) is known as the ‘mother of contemporary African dance’. She studied at the École Simon Siegel in Paris and established her first dance studio in Dakar in 1968. Here she developed her own technique for contemporary African dance, combining the influence of the dances she had inherited from her grandmother, a Yoruba priestess, with the knowledge of traditional African and occidental dance (both classical and modern) that she had acquired in Paris and New York. Between 1977 and 1982, Acogny was the artistic director of Mudra Afrique, a contemporary dance school in Dakar founded by Maurice Béjart and Senegal’s founding president, Leopold Sedar Senghor. After Mudra Afrique closed she followed Béjart to Brussels, where she continued to build her career as a dancer and choreographer. In 1985 she ended up in Toulouse, where she and her German husband Helmut Vogt founded the ‘Studio-École-Ballet-Théâtre du 3è Monde’ dance institute.

In 1995 she returned to Senegal to establish an international education centre for traditional and contemporary African dance – what became École des Sables. Three years later she started her own dance company, Jant-Bi, which was followed in 2006 by the all-women Jant-Bi Jigeen ensemble. The following year she co-created the choreography for Bintou Were, a Sahel Opera (Holland Festival, 2007). Acogny has received various prestigious awards, including in 2009 the title of Commander of France’s Order of Arts and Letters (Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres). In 2018 she earned a Bessie Award for the solo "Mon élue noire – Sacre no.2", partly inspired by Bausch’s Le Sacre du printemps.

École des Sables is an international centre for traditional and contemporary African dances, a school for theoretical and practical teaching, a laboratory for research, and a space for meetings and exchanges, conferences and artistic residences.

The school is dedicated to professional training for dancers from all over Africa in traditional and contemporary African dances. Its objectives are to professionalise African dancers, allowing them to be able to live from their art, and to encourage communication and collaboration between dancers, choreographers and companies from Africa and with the rest of the world; in short, to develop and promote contemporary African dance. Since 1998, the school has regularly organised professional training workshops gathering dancers and choreographers from Africa, the African diaspora and all over the world.

École des Sables was created in 1998 by Germaine Acogny, and her husband Helmut Vogt. Germaine Acogny is the former director of Mudra Afrique (1977-1982), a pan-African school founded by Leopold Sedar Senghor and Maurice Béjart, which has the objective of giving a professional education to African dancers and citizens to make them become responsible and autonomous through the art.

Sadler’s Wells is a world-leading creative organisation based in London committed to the making of dance, with over three centuries of theatrical heritage. Since 2005, Sadler’s Wells has created award-winning dance productions, co-productions and touring projects in collaboration with its portfolio of Associate Artists, as well as international dance companies and partners.

These include Russell Maliphant’s multi award-winning production PUSH with Sylvie Guillem; Crystal Pite’s Polaris with Thomas Adès; Gravity Fatigue, directed by fashion designer Hussein Chalayan; Sutra by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and sculptor Antony Gormley; Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake / Loch na hEala; productions by Carlos Acosta’s company Acosta Danza; Natalia Osipova’s Pure Dance; Botis Seva’s BLKDOG and William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance.

Sadler’s Wells plays a significant role in the development of dance, bringing innovative and inspiring works to worldwide audiences. In the last 14 years, it has created 48 productions that have been enjoyed by over 2 million people. Sadler’s Wells productions have toured to some of the most prestigious theatres and festivals around the world, such as the Sydney Opera House, the Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival in New York, the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing and the Chekhov International Theatre Festival in Moscow.

2020 sees the world premiere of four new major productions: Message In A Bottle, a Sadler’s Wells and Universal Music UK production by Kate Prince, based on the songs of Sting; Nico Muhly: Drawn Lines, featuring Britten Sinfonia and works by Julie Cunningham, Michael Keegan-Dolan and Justin Peck; Enter Achilles by Lloyd Newson, co-produced with Rambert; and Le Sacre du printemps / common ground[s] in partnership with the Pina Bausch Foundation and École des Sables.



Pina Bausch
(Le Sacre du printemps),
Germaine Acogny, Malou Airaudo (common ground[s])
Igor Stravinsky (Le Sacre du printemps), Fabrice Bouillon LaForest (common ground[s])
the production is funded by
German Federal Cultural Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Science of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia, International Coproduction Fund of the Goethe Institut
kindly supported by
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

This performance was made possible with support by