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Julie Anne Stanzak is a dancer and choreographer born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and raised in New Orleans.
After moving to Minneapolis she continued to train ballet in an academy dedicated to the tradition of the Ballets Russes.
She attended the Childrens' Theater Company in Minneapolis, where she studied acting and performed in their productions.
In 1976 she went to Chicago and danced with the Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet from 1977 to 1979 under the direction of Maria Tallchief, who became the great mentor of her life.
From 1979 to 1985 she was part of the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam under the direction of Rudivan Danzig.
From 1986 to today she dances with Pina Bausch's Wuppertal Tanztheater.
She conducts seminars and works as a choreographer for different realities in Europe, the United States, Japan.
In this interview Julie Anne Stanzak tells us about the joy and energy that dancing with water in the historic show Vollmond still gives her, in particular in the visionary water stage by Pina Bausch, still on tour around the world, of which she reveals memories and anecdotes from its very first creation until today.


Pina loved water.

The relationship with water was always a question.

Especially for Vollmond.

It was the year of Hurricane Katrina, the great storm in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2006.

This event has greatly affected the world.

When something happened, like a natural disaster, Pina wanted it to enter her work, her research. 

Pina always tried to have it in her work involvement with what was important in the world: the wars in the Middle East, the tsunami ...

Whether it was suffering or joy, she tried to have current events enter her work, in a subtle way. 

While the hurricane was rocking the whole world, she came to the studio and asked us the question: "Katrina , what do you mean?".

Suffering, disaster, necessity, emergency, urgency.

This was in Pina's shows.


Urgency in movements, urgency in the relationship with oneself, with our desires, urgency of love.

All this urgency is within her shows.

But in Vollmond particularly.

Pina collected all our ideas about water, about Katrina, about this moment of emergency in the United States.

I was born in North Carolina in the United States, but I spent my childhood in New Orleans for 11 years.

When Hurricane Katrina hit I had already lived in Amsterdam and had worked with Pina for many years, but in my childhood I experienced a hurricane.

I was 6, it was Hurricane Betsy, it was an experience I have a terrible memory of.

I remember the feeling of saying: "Will it end?"

We were in a small corridor, my mother, my little brother and me, my father was not there because he was in another city for work that weekend.

What you would never want to happen to you, a tsunami, an earthquake, a hurricane and instead was happening in my life. 

So when she asked this question about Katrina, I started doing all the things I remembered: my mom filling the bathtub with water, we who take food in jars and fill the kitchen cupboard, we who we get ready to wait for this terrible nightmare that was to come.

An infinite rain.

Another question of her was: to write water with the body, the different words Water , Wasser, and then also all the possible variations to express water, a small drop of water falling for example.

In my solo there is a moment when there is only a tear falling and I do the movement and keep dancing.

A small element like this was the answer to a physical, choreographic question, but it is too strong a word "choreographic".

It is the poetry of space and of the body, it is the "human language".

How can I allow a body to express itself without words, with its sensitivity, its hands, its head, its feet, its person, its soul and all the emotions, how is it possible to speak and give a language to the whole humanity?

And Pina did this in all of her magnificent shows. 


Photo by Max Grobecker , The Nelken Line: Summer, Julie Anne Stanzak performs The Nelken Line in September 2016 in Wuppertal. Movement 3: Summer


The idea of having a low river flowing under this big stone, which would have been our stage, our playground, this awareness came at the last moment. 

Before Peter Pabst's scenography arrived her question was: " How are you when there is a river? What if the river is not very visible at first and then instead emerges and becomes an explosion, an ecstasy? What can you do with this rock? And what can you do with this water? ".

And we have begun to understand the idea a little.

But only two or three weeks before the debut did we really start dancing in the water. 
At the end of Volllmond there is this explosion, this ecstasy of movement and this is the language of urgency: perhaps it is Katrina, perhaps it is a catastrophe, perhaps it is the desire for love, the viewer has to decide, because Pina has never said: "We represent the drama of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans." 

This was her will, a small part, but in the end what you see is humanity dancing the necessity.

And water is an element that allows you to tell this.

We who dance in our tears, we who dance taking our last breath.

This was also one of her questions, I always dance thinking: "Now I'm going out of the water and taking my last breath".

And then the water invades the whole stage and we are always in danger of slipping: good!

Life is about slipping: slipping into the water, sliding over the snow.

Get up and move on, that's all you can do!

All Pina's shows have this element, falling and getting up is the most beautiful choreography there is, how many times have I done this ...

And then Rainer and the other were wondering how it was possible to move the water and then they imagined this game in which they took each other and turned to make the water go everywhere. 

Or another image is the woman who swims, swims, without going forward and tells this sense of uselessness. 

These are other small elements that were born towards the end of creation.

There is this other beautiful moment of a woman passing by in a canoe, the calm, the peace, the meditation, the stillness under the moon, on the bank of a river.

Then there is another moment in which Rainer takes a bucket with a rope and overturns it over his head, many small moments of human poetry.

It is like imagining a journey into the water of the world.

When Rainer takes the bucket and throws it over his head, I picture a South Pacific man on a rock in the evening.

I really like how Pina has always given us many indications that are not always clear, you are the spectator, with your mood, that you can decide how to interpret.



Photo by terafoto  Tanztheater Wuppertal of Pina Bausch, Masurca Fogo, Taipei, 2007 - Julie Anne Stanzack

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Photo by terafoto  Tanztheater Wuppertal of Pina Bausch, Masurca Fogo, Taipei, 2007 - Julie Anne Stanzack


We all thought: let's hope it's not cold ...

We foolish humans!

We really did this show all over the world, last time on 21 December 2021 in Montpellier.

From 2006 to now I think about how many times we have done this show, and I still feel that the water is very cold.
For example in Norway, in Oslo, in January ...

And you are sure that your dance will be even faster.


It was very interesting to me because we women have these long, elegant dresses made with a special water-resistant fabric that dries faster.

My dress has very large skirt and it is very difficult to get out of the water.

It is always a great challenge.

How can you pick up this dress and take it with you and try to run faster and faster to make room for the person who comes after you? 
Because we have a very precise choreography of alternation, of great precision, but there is also the ecstasy, the need and the desire, the desire, the aspiration, not the aggression, but the will

The water gives you a great desire to cross, to want to cross something.
It is also important not to overdo it, to stay in form, in purity, to remain faithful to the first idea, this is also an indication of Pina.

Do not overdo it.

Of course there is an urgency, of course it's horrible, of course you have to try hard, but don't do too much.

A good measure of things is very important.

This is a very important aspect of her work.
I can say that this is a show that we all loved very much.

Maybe I can interpret that this invitation to water was something we were happy to meet, to meet again, every time, for me certainly. 
The scene where all the men take a bucket and do as the wave does when it breaks on the rocks, this is another suggestion that Pina gave us: "How can we do it on stage? Get some buckets!".
In that moment I dance my solo, and I listen to the water, and this noise, this splash, gives me incredible energy, I mean this sound, in itself.

And then also the image of nature and men doing this and I imagine dancing on a beach in the night in a storm.


Photo by Bartolomeo Koczenasz - Pina Bausch


This theme of water inside of me comes back a lot for example in my seminars.

I work a lot on water...

Drops, tears, snow, rain, the river, drinking, glasses, the last drop, water precious. 

Water is a familiar or foreign presence that we always have there. 

Like the tears in our soul. 

They are there, in different form, they are a part of us.


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