Vignettes Inspired by Pina Bausch


Agony cavorts nightly at the bar
while songs divulge lost dreams
and broken expectations.
Notes clatter to the floor
as waiters wobble.Tables and
stools collapse. Patrons continue
to enter careful not to step on
limbs and organs lying there.


Outside garlands festoon the roadway.
A girl in gray chiffon pirouettes along the avenue.
With her eyes shut, she sings lieder in toe shoes.
People move beside her forming a border to
her dance steps.


Random meets chaos forming art in the café.
lines overlay patterns –  abstractions of shapes
dissolving to nothing then reforming as something
else. Their shadows rise and fall disappearing
after they slither down the walls, moving to the
drum beat, they squat beneath occupied tables.


Blond man stands on an orange crate,
“Dance happy as trains
loud as a dog that’s barking
JaZZ at linden trees.”

His blue eyes pierce the grayness
shining like moonlight on a saxophone.
An old couple rumbas on a black lacquer floor.
Their hips transpose rhythms to signals.
Their movement transform time
into the value of pi.

Circles flatten
Spheres become cubes
the scene changes:

Sun drenched
the ballerina rotates in arabesque
(blood red) on a platform……………..
a clock flies by
a train stops
movement          glass
    design                            light
       structure                                 liquid

A green dress ripples and flows


En pointe she lifts factories
She pulls down dictators
Her hair reaches up to the gate that reads:
Arbeit macht frei”
The smokestacks are quiet
Their shapes darken our history


Their trails crossed
Their shoes multiplied
They drank French and Russian
from pottery cups
fired at 1300 degrees centigrade.

Meeting in skyscrapers
and on underground trains
noise wrapped them from view
yet branches of trees were
hung with silence.
Ancient fish awoke to
swim again.


Men began to fan their tails of a million eyes.
Girls hid all but their eyes behind large lace fans.
In a high school cafeteria,  a heavy black curtain
hides academic sins.


Workmen crowd at shop windows
Staring at undressed mannequins
Secretly they coveted their sisters’ dolls
and dreampt of undressing them.

The dolls could not sing, recite poetry,
skip rope, or turn cart-wheels.
They could never run away,
refuse them or call them names.
No fierce warriors, bringers of light
(or darkness)
They only open and close
their eyes and nod their heads.


I wake
covered with strings
Behind us roars a waterfall
A river below us leads to some sea
What puppet-master dances me there?


Red shoes stomp
Palms mop the floor
Paso dobles wrinkle with heat


Dressed in black
she dances through her pain
her stomach’s riddled with holes
swastikas plague her steps in vain.

The wall behind’s alive with the art
of Diego Rivera- guitars strumming
flamenco. Her dress outlines all

November men balance on beams.
The light shifts
they live their dance before they fall.







32 thoughts on “Vignettes Inspired by Pina Bausch

  1. This is like a dramatic story unfolding one scene at a time ~ The ending part is very powerful November dance but my favorite part is this:

    I wake
    covered with strings
    Behind us is a waterfall
    A river below us leads to some sea
    What puppet-master dances me there?

    Thanks for sharing Gay and looking forward to the next one ~

  2. I really like this, especially “En pointe she lifts factories” and “I wake covered with strings.”

    “her stomach’s riddled with holes” … Ooh, I sure do know stomach ulcers well. And riddles.

    Fantastic closing stanza.

    • Thank you Shawna. Yes..that interpretation works too. Her dancers throughout her ballets formed long queues where they walk on precarious ledges, dams, overhangs, sometimes with eyes shut and holding their bellies as if in pain.

  3. Your presentation is captivating and most assuredly is poetry. The first scene sets the stage for the telling of the tragic downfall that follows. I felt the dark and bleak messages strongly and certainly the references to dance were there as you described in the flow of the skirts, en pointe, paso dobles, the stomping of the floor, mopping of the floor with palms, etc.

    I don’t know if it was intentional or not but words leapt out at me me… “occupied”, “resistance”, “signals” words that have specific meaning (to me) attached to the circumstances. Of course this phrase caught my attention: “Arbeit macht frei”/The smokestacks are quiet/Their shapes darken our history/
    and this: Dressed in black/ she dances through her pain/ her stomach’s riddled with holes/swastikas plague her steps in vain

    The whole piece is rich with images that you used masterfully to illustrate a “dancing” toward annihilation. Anyway, that’s what I got out of it.

    I’m impressed, Gay. Bravo!
    Gayle ~

    • Really thank you Gayle. Her work doesn’t necessarily become that specific with a weltschmerz about WWII, Germany, Hitler, etc.; however viewing it as a child who came to the world in 1942 it certainly resonates with me and the horrors we grew up to learn about and were shaken by. It informed our youth and led to different actions taken by large groups of people in response to civil rights, women’s rights, and repression for many of us and the opposing reaction by others. I think it is a large part of what we’re dealing in geopolitical affairs today.

      Anyway I really appreciate your in depth consideration of the piece so far. It makes me trust in it more. Thank you again.

      • Those times resonated with me too, Gay. My mind ran with the image of the holocaust and the idea of people following (sometimes) blindly to their demise. I really appreciate your talent and look forward to your other offerings.

  4. I don’t think you need to worry about the length, because it is broken down in scenes, each with quite a different feel and rhythm to it, so it works. Your interpretation of Pina Bausch’s quite abstract works is personal and emotional, reflected in your choice of words and dramatic sense of colour and shapes. The circles, spheres, cubes… the green dress rippling, the black swastikas…. the tanglement of limbs. I can really see the scene.
    One small correction: ‘lieder’ is plural, so she either sings ‘a lied’ or else sings several ‘lieder’ – your choice!

    • Thank you so much for the notes. I will correct the “lied” reference. As you can see I know absolutely no German…a deficiency in my education that I regret. I should have picked that up from my musical background but regrettably I didn’t. I have to depend on help in these areas so thanks for that as well. Much appreciated.

    • Thank you Victoria. Yes..writing about dance which I have done so often hoping to match that vibrancy and quickness, I know it’s imperative to employ active verbs to snap that instant that relays the deeper meaning in dance. So difficult, so challenging a quest, but I think worth the effort. Your comment’s much appreciated!

  5. Powerful fare here, Gay. Some of them really moved me. One of them being the one that starts with “He stands on an orange crate” Another is the last one which begins with “Dressed in black.” I can see this series put together as a chapbook, Gay. Poems on even-numbered pages & (I picture) black and white drawings on the odd numbered pages. Really, I think you really have something here! Very moving.

    • Thank you Mary – that was my idea as well…the chapbook part. I like the idea about the illustrations too. There are as of now 20 vignettes and a full notebook of ideas and notes. The reason I wanted feedback was to see if there would be an audience for it. Your comments give me hope. I appreciate your taking the time to consider it.

  6. Gay…I haven’t read a piece of poetry that grabbed me by the heartstrings in a long time. This one had me crying from the first stanza. I thought immediately of Paris, November 13th. My son’s birthday will for me be forever also a memory of what happened that night.

    This is flowingly beautiful, but has such an emotional, dramatic death that I don’t think you have to worry about length. It was perfect in my opinion. It had a cadence , a rise and fall that was absolutely musical and the movement in this piece is so damn visual that it carries you forward.

    Brava, my beautiful friend. Regardless of interpretation, you have written something superb and memorial.

    With Love, Lady Nyo (Jane)

  7. Oh Jane, I just saw this. Thank you for your in-depth comment. It was your son’s birthday, and my son was there..thankfully not where everything happened. Well this work based on Bausch’s choreography has overtones of lots of modernity. I have a fairly long history of writing dance poems going back to when Greg was competing in dance and I wrote a poem for each of the compulsory dances for that year…waltz, paso, tango, and foxtrot. The only one that was good was Foxtrot but I became fascinated with whether I could convey in words the esoteric and ephemeral meanings of music plus movement. The emotion there is deep and immediate. I’m doing my best. I am going to try to put together a chapbook of these and maybe (?) (I am not an artist) illustrate them myself. We shall see. Thank you for putting up with my long lapses and absences. Things are still not too good here…but I just keep walking by the open windows, and putting one foot in front of another (smiles). Love you…..Gay

  8. Pingback: Vignettes Inspired by Pina Bausch | Beachanny's Texas

  9. This is such an interesting evolution here of your work — a wholly fresh (to me, at least) take on poetry-to-music. Without much more than a Wikipedean introduction to Bausch, I picked up immediately the jazzy European bistro swing of it, a movement heavily shadowed by the Reich and immense death. The maturity of your poetry finds a way to dance and explicate at the same time, each stanza like a lieder, one song from that book. These Part One vignettes were for me like the first encounters with that dance, they’re more sensual and emotional than Part Two, after the first night in that club, still smelling a bit of wine and smoke. Stung more deeply from all the realities of jazz in smoky places. The heart of the dance.

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