When Pina Bausch sets the trend

Interview with Pierpaolo Piccioli from Valentino and Pierre Hardy — By Delphine Roche

With The Rite of Spring and Orpheus and Eurydice, two of the choreographer's legendary pieces, on the bill, our partner, Numéro asked two creators how their work has been influenced by Pina Bausch.

Pierpalolo Piccioli, artitic director of the fashion house Valentino

In the press, you spoke of your love for dance and, particularly with regard to your 2016 autumn and winter collection, the influence of Martha Graham. Looking at your work, it is Pina Bausch's influence that is rather more perceptible.

Pierpaolo Piccioli: Martha Graham said that “dance is the secret language of the soul”. I would add that fashion is the visible part, the surface that reveals our deep-seated emotional states. In that sense, one may consider dance and fashion to be complementary art forms that maintain a permanent dialogue with each other.

I feel very close to Pina Bausch’s artistic temperament. Her work helped to liberate the movement of the female body and to free female spirits. She opened up dance to new possibilities, applying her own vision to certain theatrical and ballet traditions. The co-existence of experimentation and tradition is part of my own method. I’ve adopted a similar approach by reinterpreting the Valentino heritage in my own collections.

Le Sacre du printemps par le Ballet de l’Opéra, 2017
Le Sacre du printemps par le Ballet de l’Opéra, 2017 © Sébastien Mathé / OnP

Did you find The Rite of Spring particularly striking?

Yes, because the fluidity of the dancers’ movements perfectly matched their dramatic emotions. I will never forget the first time I saw that piece, it moved me profoundly.

Clothes play an important role in the work of Pina Bausch. Women wear long, very light-weight dresses giving them a timeless look that reminds me particularly of your fashion shows which are interwoven with references to art history.

Grace is an aesthetic category that belongs to no one genre or period. To capture the moment at which it appears is a challenge for any creator. The women you just described embody the highest expression of feminine beauty: powerful but fragile, tormented yet delicate.

Her use of colour is highly symbolic and significant. Does that resonate with your own approach to colour?

I like to cultivate a clash between ethereal energy and other more punk forms of energy. Colour is the most powerful tool for expressing this contrast. The intensity of red fabric conversing with bare skin is the perfect example of this poetry. Contradictions are also tensions.

Two Cigarettes in the Dark à l’Opéra de Paris, par le Tanztheater Wuppertal, 2014
Two Cigarettes in the Dark à l’Opéra de Paris, par le Tanztheater Wuppertal, 2014 © Laurent Philippe / OnP

Pierre Hardy, shoe designer

Have you been influenced by Pina Bausch?

It took me a long time to learn to like Pina Bausch, her expressionism put me off at first, as did that violence of emotion. I don’t know if she has influenced me but clearly her relationship with clothes, and particularly with shoes, is very strong. The dresses are almost like characters that the dancers embody. As for the shoes, they take part in her dramatic writing: the dancers are constantly putting them on, taking them off and placing them on stage. They are often classic high heeled court shoes, black or red patent leather, and old shoes, as if they had once belonged to someone else.

In Café Müller, Meryl Tankard trots nervously along on fairly high heels. The shoe seems to be dictating the gestures of the character.

Exactly. Pina Bausch completely integrated the shoe into the body's movement. Something we can observe in everyday life returns in a theatricalised, exacerbated form. The same goes for colours, which she uses like signs.

Her pieces are nurtured by the almost daily reality of the social being, in particular by the complex relationships between men and women. Do you see a parallel with fashion design?

In effect, one would say that her heroines have been transplanted straight from the street to the stage, where they suddenly start dancing. Her pieces sublimate the confrontation between the masculine and the feminine and the use of “real clothes”, instead of stage costumes, plays an essential role. In my view, she was a sort of Martin Margiela of dance, with that very raw way of playing with reality. I am also fascinated by her way of creating a sort of timelessness in her discourse. We have seen her performers age on stage and, whilst incorporating biological, corporeal time, Pina Bausch took care to detach the clothes from the temporality of fashion, since we can’t tell to which decade they belong.

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