Warsaw, Marseille, Paris, Wuppertal - these were the most important places in the career of the choreographer, actor, and long-term dancer of the legendary Pina Bausch group, Janusz Subicz. He spent 15 years in the German Tanztheater Wuppertal, where he danced amongst others in the famous Cloves and Walzer.
Dancer, actor, choreographer and pedagogue. The only Pole in the legendary group of Pina Bausch.
The Need to Experiment
He is a dancer, actor and choreographer. He graduated from the Warsaw Ballet School, and early on in his career he was involved with the Grand Theatre in Warsaw. As a student he became disenchanted with the Polish ballet scene and found inspiration in the innovative techniques of the American dance revolutionary Martha Graham. He chose to take a risk - with the consent of the school authorities - and together with a group of young dancers he decided to conduct a creative experiment.
That was how the chamber performance Jak gdyby (As if) was created. It was performed on the 11th of October, 1974, in the Emil Młynarski room. In an interview conducted by Aleksandra Rembowska, which was included in the book Teatr Piny Baush. Sny i rzeczywistość (Pina Bausch’s Theatre. Dreams and Reality), Janusz Subicz reminisced about the work on his first authorial play:
The activity and creative freedom we proposed were considered politically incorrect and were badly looked upon by theatres. We quickly realized that we, the young ones, were merely given the opportunity to 'play around' in our 'little circle'.
In the mid 70s Subicz left communist Poland. He travelled to Marseille where he became a member of the renowned group of Roland Petit, who was known for his collaborations with the biggest international stars including Fred Astair. The career of the Polish dancer gained momentum when a few months later he was hired by the Ballet-Theatre Contemporain- a contemporary dance group from Angers. Subicz perfected his dance skills also in Paris, where he was involved with the Nurkil Dance Company and the Felix Blaska Dance Company.
In the capital of France he also danced under the watchful eye of the noted choreographer Peter Gross. When the Polish dancer was in Paris he worked especially hard to master the modern American dance style which was popular at that time. In 1979, in the most important dance venue in France, the Parisian Theatre de la Ville, Subicz encountered Pina Bausch’s group Wuppertal Tanztheater for the first time – he was greatly surprised with what he saw.
We saw a new, fascinating form of theatre, which we knew nothing about! – he told Aleksandra Rembowska. I was shocked when I discovered that instead of an actor there was a person on the stage. Additionally this person wasn’t really behaving like an actor (…)
Dancing with Pina
During his stay in Paris, Pina’s theatre not only gave performances but also organized a casting call for dancers which Subicz attended out of curiosity. After over a week of demanding auditions, out of the hundreds of participants, Pina Bausch chose only two people: Janusz Subicz and his Spanish wife Nazareth Pandero. The Polish dancer moved to Wuppertal, a German town in the Ruhr district, which started his productive 15-year long collaboration with the most important dance group in the history of world theatre.
I quickly noticed that I was taking part in something exceptional. Pina’s perfomances are like musical scores. Her shows have rhythms, themes and culmination moments. I realized at that time that I was never really interested in classical ballet. (…) To work with Pina was to discover. We were given the chance to evolve individually, we all worked on ourselves.
He performed in the most famous performance of the group: Sinobrody – Słuchając muzyki z opery Zamek Księcia Sinobrodego Béli Bartóka (Bluebeard – Listening to the Music from Béla Bartók’s Opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle), Goździki (Cloves), or Walzer. Subicz also worked on the group’s earlier pieces. He not only danced on stage but also sung and recited. The newspaper Dziennik Łódzki printed what he told Stefan Drajewski:
I was with Pina when we had to explain to the world that what we did made sense. Those were pioneering times, when the audiences shouted, protested and insulted us after the shows… Back then theatrical action had a lot in common with what was going on in the world. Every play by Pina is a part of our life, her plays aren’t products.
Rembowska’s book Teatr Piny Baush. Sny i rzeczywistość includes the following statement by the artist:
To dance is to carry one’s bodyweight. In dance I search for spirit, not for bodily geometry or some complicated and allegedly interesting figures. My body is my instrument. Thanks to motion I can understand better what others feel.
Janusz Subicz left Pina Bausch’s group in the 90s but he remained close with the Tanztheater. When the group was scheduled to perform in Warsaw he translated texts for them and worked with them on the Polish version of Vollmond. Presently, he still runs workshops that refer to the experience of working with Pina Bausch. Since 1994 he has been active as an independent pedagogue. He runs workshops for theatres and actors across the whole world and collaborates with arts institutions. He is the founder of the Creative Work Centre, which is located in Jagniątkowo near Jelenia Góra.
Sources: Teatr Tańca Piny Bausch. Sny i rzeczywistość (Pina Bausch’s Theatre. Dreams and Reality) by Aleksandra Rembowska, Dziennik Łódzki, taniecpolska.pl, GW, edited by: AL
Translated by: Marek Kępa