Avant-garde German choreographer Pina Bausch dies

BERLIN Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:16pm EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German choreographer Pina Bausch, whose work is credited with revolutionizing the language of modern dance, died on Tuesday after being diagnosed with cancer only days earlier. She was 68 years old.

Bausch, artistic director of the Wuppertal Dance Theater, earned world renown for her avant-garde performances and choreographies mixing dance, sound and fragmented narrative.

"Just the Sunday before last, she was standing on stage with her company in the Wuppertal Opera house," the dance-theater company, which she had led since 1973, said on its website.

It said Pausch had been diagnosed with cancer only five days before her death.

"Unlike almost no other, she broke out of traditional structures in dance, modernized classical ballet and coined her own, idiosyncratic style," German Vice-Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement.

Bausch choreographed and staged her own pieces, such as Cafe Mueller and Viktor, and performed in films by iconic film directors Federico Fellini and Pedro Almodovar.

The German choreographer had been preparing to work together with director Wim Wenders on what was being called the first 3-D dance feature, a project named "Pina."

From Paris, where Bausch often performed, the city's Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and France's Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand issued statements of condolence.

"The world of dance is in mourning today after the loss of one of its most brilliant representatives," Mitterrand said.

Pina Bausch began her dance studies at the age of 14 at the Folkwang School in Essen, where she studied with several teachers, including the German expressionist choreographer Kurt Jooss.

Bausch went to New York in 1960 to study at The Juilliard School, later becoming a member of the Metropolitan Opera's ballet company.

In 1962, Bausch returned to Germany where she became a soloist in the newly-formed Folkwang Ballett. In 1973 she became artistic director and choreographer at the newly founded Wuppertal dance-theater company.

"Pina Bausch continually pushed the boundaries of what we call dance," said John Neumeier, the director of the Hamburg ballet company. "I simply cannot imagine a successor to Pina Bausch." (Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Additional Reporting by James Mackenzie in Paris; Editing by Noah Barkin)

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