Philippina "Pina" Bausch was born in Solingen, Germany. Her parents owned a restaurant/hotel, and she began performing for the guests at a very young age. At age 15, she was accepted into the school headed by Kurt Jooss, one of the pioneers of a new dance theater form called Tanztheater that connected dance and drama.
After graduating in 1959, she won a scholarship to continue her studies at the Juilliard School in New York City, where her teachers included Antony Tudor, José Limón, and Paul Taylor. She performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, New American Ballet, and the Paul Sanasardo and Donya Feuer Dance Company.
In 1962, she joined Jooss' new Folkwang Ballet as a soloist and assisted Jooss on many pieces of choreography. In 1968, she created her first independent piece, "Fragmente" (Fragments), to music by Béla Bartók. She succeeded Jooss as artistic director of the company in 1969 and became a leading influence in the field of modern dance. In 1984, she created the company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, which continues to perform worldwide. She appeared in, or was the subject of, numerous documentaries, including Pina – Dance Dance Otherwise We Are Lost by Wim Wenders (2011).