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Press Release: Pina Bausch’s Nelken (Carnations) returns to Sadler’s Wells Theatre this February

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Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain Boris Charmatz        

Nelken (Carnations)                                                   

Wednesday 14 February – Thursday 22 February 2024
Tickets: £15 – £85
Ticket Office: 020 7863 8000 or www.sadlerswells.com

© Oliver Look

Pina Bausch’s Nelken (Carnations) returns to Sadler’s Wells Theatre for the first time since 2005 from Wednesday 14 February – Thursday 22 February 2024.

Premiered in 1982, Nelken depicts tragic and cruel scenes, while holding a space for tenderness and beauty. The set design features 8000 silk carnations carpeting the entire stage floor. 

The iconic “Nelken line” is a walking dance motif reiterated throughout the piece, that illustrates the four seasons. Bausch’s work draws on an ensemble of 20 dancers’ indefatigable energy as they sit, stand, hop, eat on stage, scream, kiss and crush the carnations. 


Nelken in 2024 is performed by a new generation of Tanztheater Wuppertal dancers. They are supported by older company members Silvia Farias Heredia and Eddie Martinez as the rehearsal directors.


The piece features music from the 1930s and 1940s, including George Gershwin’s The Man I Love, amid other songs by Franz Lehár, Louis Armstrong, Sophie Tucker, Quincy Jones, Richard Tauber. 


Nelken was one of the first pieces of a nearly 30 year-long collaboration between Bausch and Peter Pabst, the original set designer for the piece. Pabst’s idea behind the set design was to use nature onstage to surprise the audience; in covering the floor with carnations, he sought to turn the theatre into an otherworldly space, where the unexpected can happen and dreams unfold.


Dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch (1940–2009) renamed the Wuppertal Ballet the “Tanztheater Wuppertal” upon her appointment as director in 1973. Her idea of combining dance and theatre revolutionised dance as we know it today. 

Sadler’s Wells and Pina Bausch first worked together in 1982, with 1980 – A piece by Pina Bausch. Tanztheater Wuppertal returned in 1999 with Viktor and since, the company has presented Bausch’s work 28 times on Sadler's Wells stages. These include Nelken in 2005, her seminal works Café Müller and The Rite of Spring in 2008, World Cities across London venues in 2012 and Kontakthof in 2022.


Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Co-Chief Executive Sir Alistair Spalding CBE 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 became the new director of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain Boris Charmatz in August 2022 and this is the first time since his appointment that he brings work to Sadler's Wells. 

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 years old. 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.”

Editors please note: Nelken is performed in Opera House Wuppertal in Wuppertal from 27 January – 4 February 2024, before its London run.

Notes to editors

Listing information
Company: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain Boris Charmatz
Show: Nelken (Carnations)
Run dates: Wednesday 14 February – Thursday 22 February 2024
Tickets: £15 – £85
Duration: 1h50 minutes, no interval
Audio Described Performances and Touch Tour: Mon 19 February at 7:30pm 

Performances of Pina Bausch’s works by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch on Sadler’s Wells stage:

1982, 2014

1980 – A piece by Pina Bausch 

1982, 2022


1999, 2012, 2018


2002, 2010

Kontakthof seniors 

2002, 2017

Masurca  Fogo 

2005, 2012

Palermo, Palermo

2005, 2024

(Nelken) Carnations 


Café Müller


Rite of Spring




Kontakthof Teenagers 






Window Washer 

2012, 2016

Como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si si... (Like Moss on a Stone)


Full Moon 


Two Cigarettes in the Dark




On the Mountain a Cry Was Heard


Blue Beard


About Pina Bausch
Pina Bausch was born 1940 in Solingen and died 2009 in Wuppertal. She received her dance training at the Folkwang School in Essen under Kurt Jooss, where she achieved technical excellence. Soon after the director of Wuppertal's theatres, Arno Wüstenhöfer, engaged her as choreographer, from autumn 1973, she renamed the ensemble the Tanztheater Wuppertal. Under this name, although controversial at the beginning, the company gradually achieved international recognition. Its combination of poetic and everyday elements influenced the international development of dance decisively. Awarded some of the greatest prizes and honours world-wide, Pina Bausch is one of the most significant choreographers of our time.


About Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain Boris Charmatz 
In 1968, the year of the student revolts, the dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch (1940–2009) begins to create her own pieces. When she is appointed as the director of the Wuppertal Ballet in 1973, she renames it “Tanztheater Wuppertal”. Her idea of combining dance and theatre revolutionises dance and makes her an icon of a new form of expressionism. She receives numerous international awards for her work. The company’s repertoire is world famous; to this day her pieces continue to tour all over the world. The Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch has made dance history. In 2023, it celebrates its 50th anniversary.


Repertoire begins with the syllable ‘re-’, which stands for repetition and return. Today we know that cultural memory requires both: an archive, where historical material is preserved, and the periodic recreation, or re-enactment, of what is held in the archive. Memories cannot live on without input from the outside world. For the archive and for Pina Bausch’s pieces this means that what is stored here must also be performed, restaged, exhibited, critically examined and confronted with our present-day reality.


The French dancer and choreographer Boris Charmatz (*1973) has been dedicating himself to this task since the beginning of the 2022/2023 season. His artistic directorship in Wuppertal is opening a new chapter, with him at the helm of a company that represents the personal style of Pina Bausch and still carries her name in its title. It is an unusual, hybrid situation that enables him to bring together several aspects of his work: his creative approach to our modern and postmodern dance heritage, his belief in the power of collectives and his reflections on the body as a carrier and transmitter of memories. For the restaging of Café Müller (1978/2023), Boris Charmatz is working with three casts and is thus making it possible for 18 young dancers to explore an important piece of dance history and bring its archaic characters into the present. “I would love that everyone could dance Café Müller in the future. The entire Tanztheater, the audience, perhaps even me at some point.”


How can movements with their own history be performed by bodies living in the present? Why do we dance? What is the “ground”, or reason, for our dance? “In a world that is constantly changing, in a society that is drifting apart, we have to ‘ground’ ourselves again”, says Boris Charmatz. With his French Association Terrain, he is working on a vision for an institution without roof or walls. Human bodies create a mobile architecture on a green ground. The French philosopher Bruno Latour wrote: “The path to a sheltered past is nothing but a fiction”. One of his last books, a kind of terrestrial manifesto, was entitled “Où atterrir?”, which can be translated as “Where can we land?”. Inspired by Latour’s political passion Boris Charmatz urges us to find new ways of relating to our planet and adapt our lives to its changed ecological conditions.

With the multi-day programme “WUNDERTAL” (2023) and the dance marathon “Wundertal/Sonnborner Straße”, he has succeeded in creating a spectacular launch for a Franco-German future project that will facilitate an open dialogue between the city, its residents and its urban landscape. With Café Müller and WUNDERTAL, Boris Charmatz is building the foundations for the 2023/2024 season, in which the Tanztheater Wuppertal and Terrain will work together to develop new creations. First in line is the long-awaited new ensemble piece Liberté Cathédrale (2023), which will premiere at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Neviges. The unique concrete structure is the magnum opus of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Gottfried Böhm (1920–2021).

This text is by Marietta Piekenbrock

About Sadler’s Wells
Sadler's Wells is a world-leading dance organisation. We strive to make and share dance that inspires us all. Our acclaimed year-round programme spans dance of every kind, from contemporary to flamenco, Bollywood to ballet, salsa to street dance and tango to tap. 

We commission, produce and present more dance than any other organisation in the world. Since 2005, we have helped to bring more than 200 new dance works to the stage, embracing both the popular and the unknown. Our acclaimed productions tour the world. Since 2005 we’ve produced 64 new full-length works and performed to audiences of more than two million, touring to 51 countries. 


Each year, over half a million people visit our three London theatres - Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Lilian Baylis Studio and Peacock Theatre. Millions more attend our touring productions nationally and internationally or explore our digital platforms, including Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage.  


Sadler’s Wells East  

In 2024 we’re opening a fourth London venue in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Sadler’s Wells East will house a 550-seat mid-scale theatre, as well as facilities for the new Rose Choreographic School and the hip hop theatre training centre, Academy Breakin’ Convention.  

Sadler’s Wells East joins the rich cultural heritage of Stratford, opening in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as part of the East Bank development alongside the BBC, UAL’s London College of Fashion, UCL and the V&A. Sadler’s Wells East will support artist development and training, and the creation of new work. It will build the infrastructure for dance and make it accessible to more people. Sadler’s Wells East will house a flexible theatre presenting a wide variety of dance performances. Community will be at the heart of Sadler’s Wells East with a large open foyer that can be used by everyone as a meeting or performance space. There will also be dance studios and world-class dance facilities for dancemakers to train, create and rehearse productions. 


Supporting artists

Supporting artists is at the heart of our work. We have associate artists and companies, which nurture some of the most exciting talent working in dance today. We host the National Youth Dance Company, which draws together some of the brightest young dancers from across the country. Sadler’s Wells Breakin' Convention runs professional development programmes to champion and develop the world’s best hip hop artists, as well as producing, programming and touring groundbreaking hip hop performances.   


Learning and community links

Around 30,000 people take part in our learning and engagement programmes every year. We support schools local to our theatres in Islington and Stratford, designing experiences for children and young people to watch, explore and critically engage with the arts. We also run Company of Elders, a resident performance company of dancers aged over 60 who rehearse with renowned artists to make new work for public performances locally, nationally and internationally.   


Sadler’s Wells is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.   

Stay up to date with everything Sadler’s Wells on social media    
Facebook: @SadlersWells    
Twitter: @Sadlers_Wells    
Instagram: @sadlers_wells    
YouTube: Sadler’s Wells Theatre    


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