In an enchanting return to Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Pina Bausch’s seminal work Nelken (Carnations) will grace the stage again, marking its first appearance since 2005, from 14 to 22 February 2024. This production first unveiled in 1982, masterfully intertwines scenes of stark tragedy and cruelty with moments of tender beauty.
The audience is immersed in a visual spectacle, where 8000 silk carnations form a lush carpet across the stage, setting the scene for a narrative rich in emotional depth and artistic innovation. This striking portrayal of beauty and nature sets the scene for a mesmerising dance performance that delves into the human condition.
The production showcases the iconic “Nelken line,” a walking dance motif beautifully depicting the four seasons. Bausch’s choreography is a vibrant display of energy and emotion, with 20 dancers engaging in various actions on stage, from sitting and standing to more dynamic movements such as hopping, eating, and interacting with the carnations. This varied and rich choreography brings the stage to life, demonstrating the versatility and depth of the dancers’ skills.
“Nelken” in 2024 features a dynamic new generation of Tanztheater Wuppertal dancers under experienced company members Silvia Farias Heredia and Eddie Martinez as the rehearsal directors. This intergenerational collaboration adds a fresh perspective to the production while maintaining the essence of Bausch’s original vision.
Musically, the piece is a journey through time, featuring a mix of songs from the 1930s and 1940s. The soundtrack includes George Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” and other classics by Franz Lehár, Louis Armstrong, Sophie Tucker, Quincy Jones, and Richard Tauber. This musical selection complements the performance’s visual and emotional components, enhancing the audience’s overall experience.
Peter Pabst, the original set designer for “Nelken,” collaborated with Bausch for nearly 30 years. His innovative approach to using nature on stage was designed to surprise and engage the audience, turning the theatre into a space where the unexpected can unfold and dreams can come to life.
Pina Bausch, a renowned dancer and choreographer, revolutionised the dance world with her unique combination of dance and theatre. Appointed as the director of the Wuppertal Ballet in 1973, she transformed it into the “Tanztheater Wuppertal,” leaving a lasting impact on the dance world.
Sadler’s Wells has a rich history of collaboration with Bausch, starting in 1982 with “1980 – A piece by Pina Bausch.” Since then, the company has presented Bausch’s work 28 times, including the 2005 performance of “Nelken” and other significant works like “Café Müller” and “The Rite of Spring.”
Sir Alistair Spalding CBE, the Artistic Director and Co-Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells, holds a particular fondness for “Nelken,” appreciating its iconic imagery and the quintessential themes characteristic of Bausch’s work. He fondly recalls the exhilaration of attending premieres in Wuppertal and the intimate post-performance dinners with Bausch, a tradition that brought a unique closeness and understanding to their collaboration.
He said: “Nelken is one of my favourite pieces of Pina Bausch – full of iconic images and all the themes and characteristics that we know and love in her work. It’s always been a pleasure to remount these classic pieces, but I still miss the thrill of going to Wuppertal to see the premiere of a new work and sit with Pina into the small hours at the traditional post-performance dinner.”
Boris Charmatz, the new director of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain Boris Charmatz since August 2022, is bringing “Nelken” to Sadler’s Wells for the first time under his direction. He views “Nelken” as an integral part of his artistic journey and emphasises the collective dimension of the company’s work.
He said: “Nelken is for me, along with He Takes Her by The Hand and Leads Her Into the Castle, The Others Follow, the first piece and the first shock I had seeing a piece by Pina Bausch: I was 18. When I arrived at the head of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, I wanted to insist on the collective dimension of our work and of our company: what better than this mad mind party that throbs with the “performers’ life”? And the entire company wanted to dive into this masterpiece with its delicate dramaturgy again. It is a beautiful challenge, and to come to London with this work is a privilege.”
The production will run from 14 to 22 February 2024, with tickets available from £38.00. Additionally, Sadler’s Wells is offering an Audio Described Performance and a Touch Tour to enhance accessibility for visually impaired patrons.