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Pina Bausch Syndrome-What We SHOULD Be Having

Pina Bausch’s dance company has done a magnificent thing since her passing in 2009: survived. In a recent article by The Telegraph, Sarah Crompton explores the past few years in the Tanztheater Wuppertal dance company and how the evolution of the company has not only continued, but thrived in bringing in young and new collaborators. This is due to the company’s desire not to exclusively mourn their creator and muse, but honor her artistic life through a continued development of new work in the mission which Bausch inspired.

The performance art world cannot survive as a stagnant entitiy. Rather, upon death or disillusionment, a creation of something new is not only exciting, but inevitable. Realism was born as a reaction to the flowery poetic nature of romantiscim; modern dance was born out of rebellion against ballet’s strict and isolated forms. In short, performance arts exist as a mirror to the world around us in many, many different forms. No one form is better than the rest, but in order to survive as a company whose job it is to reflect, companies must evolve as they grow and move foreward. The world of performance art cannot exist if the creator of said company experiences extreme founder’s syndrome.

Founder’s syndrome exists in many companies, artistic and not, where the creator(s) of said company are unwilling or unable to adapt and move forward in a way that is collaborative with other members they work with. Bausch, by all accounts, didn’t prescribe from the get-go what this company was going to do, but rather what it was going to explore, leaving the form open and the heart intent.

Pina Bausch made a universal need the key subject of her work: the need for love, for intimacy and emotional security. To this end she developed an artistic form which could incorporate highly diverse cultural influences. In consistently renewed poetic excursions she investigated what brings us closer to fulfilling our need for love, and what distances us from it.-Norbert Servos, Choreographer and Author

Bausch’s soul remains in the company always through the integrty and values she instilled during her time with Tanztheater Wupperal. This is not founder’s syndrome. Her investment into the soul of the company is better reflected as a creator’s capital rather than investment: she paid into the company it’s ethics and from then on, the company strives to exist under her intentions with different expositions of them.

Founder’s syndrome can tear apart collaborative communities. I’ve seen it happen in my own ensembles, among peers and also myself. I have extreme “founder’s syndrome” (used here as a term of art) as a playwright. I find critism extremely difficult and the moments where people offer new ideas that counter mine to be impossible to take in. I hardly ever do. But when I do, when I allow myself to not be the “founder” but be an ensemble member and collaborator on a piece, the path may not always be right, but it is always new. It is always creative, it is never something I would have thought of on my own. The “founder” of the text, being me, has to abandon her tight hold on the work and allow it to fly or fall with a collaborative effort for the former. Founder’s Syndrome, usually applied to the creator of a company in their tight hold on what they think should be going on, is a disease. The American Theatre has bouts of it, but through recognizing companies like Pina Bausch’s, I can see that there does not need to be.

Bausch understood that the format of dance changes: new styles emerge and fall. But, more than that, she understood that the heart of what she had created in her company was more important than the corporal structure. She said,

I’m not interested in how people move, I am interested in what moves them-Pina Bausch

The theatrical community needs to remember it is exactly that: a community. A collection of artists who inspire and hope to change the world. Founder’s Syndrome has no place in Contemporary American Theatre.


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