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

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

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.”

Tickets to Nelken (Carnations) are £15 – £85. Visit to book now.