Pina Bausch on film at Yerba Buena

German choreographer Pina Bausch, who died last year, is one of the most famous and controversial figures on Europe’s modern-dance scene.

Her works taxed the patience of some, but compelled many others to become devoted fans.

Beginning Thursday and running through May 30, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents “To the Limit: Pina Bausch on Film,” a defining collection covering many aspects of her career and work.

One film, the U.S. premiere of “Dancing Dreams” (“Tanzträume”), screened to acclaim at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. It will be shown here May 27-29.

Just about everything Bausch did was different: Her timing, movements and disregard for linear rules guiding theatrical and dance traditions.

Those who have seen Pedro Almodóvar’s magnificent “Talk to Her” will never forget the film’s opening sequence featuring Bausch’s company in a performance that provides themes and meaning for the entire film.

She also worked with Federico Fellini, Chantal Akerman, José Limón and Paul Taylor, among top artists in film, theater and dance.

On Thursday, the first film in the series is “On Tour with Pina Bausch” (“Un Jour Pina a Demandé”), which provides a close-up of the choreographer’s work with her dancers.

On May 13, “The Empress’ Complaint” (“Die Klage der Kaiserin”) screens. The film shows Bausch developing her method with the Wuppertal Theatre of Dance in an early period of her career. At the time, she already was opening up the confines of theater, performing in the woods and fields around town, in the city center, the suspension railway, a carpet shop or a greenhouse.

May 23 will bring two performance films: “Walzer,” an irreverent work from 1982, and “Café Müller,” probably her most famous choreography, about post-war Germany. It reflects her experiences in her family’s café, where she spent many hours watching adults struggling to survive in a war-devastated society.

Another film in the YBCA series is a strange, unforgettable realization of Bartók’s opera, 1977’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” (“Blaubart”) on May 30. Also an early work, it demonstrates Bausch’s challenge to the boundaries between dance and theater through collaborative improvisation and verbal expression.

Pina Bausch on Film

Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., San Francisco
When: Opens Thursday; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; closes May 30
Tickets: $6 to $8, includes admission to the galleries
Contact: (415) 978-2700,

Art & MuseumsartsentertainmentfilmPina Bausch

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