Monday, 5 April 2010

Kontakthof, Van Gogh... and tango

(The connection is linear: they came one after the other.)

Kontakthof ('courtyard for meeting') is the first Pina Bausch piece I've seen on stage. The setting is a bare dance hall. Originally (1978) it was created for 27 untrained performers aged 65 and over, just local people. Untrained but not unrehearsed: the piece, which is 'dance theatre', is long and complex. The gestures and acts we perform in dance halls, the preening, clothing adjustments, plays for attention, rejections, even our unexpressed thoughts and desires, which would normally remain unnoticed, are the substance of the piece. [PS. There's little actual dancing.] It wasn't made clear at booking that two groups were performing at separate performances, and I found I'd booked for a group of teenagers, 14+, a later idea, it seems. I'm not sure the bare dance hall and the music, German 1930s dance music, sounding (except for the vocals) rather like tango vals, really suited them, and they have much less 'history' to bring to the performance. Pina Bausch grew through the harsh post-war years, and her vision of human nature is unsentimental and unsettling.

Van Gogh I could hardly see, they've packed the show with so many 'customers'. You see the backs of heads of people trying to see beyond the backs of the heads of people crammed together looking at a Van Gogh. The drawings were easier to see, and I liked them. There's a kind of compulsiveness in them, skies filled with thousands of tiny dots, but I suspect that these textures are an attempt to suggest colour in monochrome drawing. The energy in the drawings is magnificent. The drawing of a cypress seemed much more direct and forceful than the modelling (literally) of it in paint. I was surprised to be less impressed by the paintings. I can't help thinking of Cezanne, who also looked at southern landscapes and people. But Van Gogh died at 37, at which age Cezanne was still a relatively clumsy painter. Only in his 50s did Cezanne start to make those astonishing constructions of line and colour, which seem both solid and insubstantial, and which take my breath away.

& tango (at the Crypt) confirmed my observation a while back that dark and unevenly lit dance floors host the most careless dancing. I was told there was a lot of bumping and a lot of complaining about bumping, and I was hit by people taking long steps backwards. I'm all for the socialising area being dark, but the floor needs adequate lighting. It's so obvious! It's not rock'n'roll, where people dance on the spot! Leaders need to be able to register clearly and in brief glimpses, and often out of the corner of an eye, where all the nearby dancers are, what they are doing, and even their skill levels. In the dark, with a partner, people can ignore the possibility of other people being around, but that adds to no-one's comfort. & the (recent) addition of a glitter ball is truly depressing...


msHedgehog said...

The glitter ball can't be all that recent - I remember it and I haven't been there for ages. One time I remember there was smoke as well, and the machine made a very surprising noise. See you on Friday perhaps ;)

Tangocommuter said...

Yes! I remember the magic dragon in the corner, hissing and belching smoke, and I'm glad it's been retired. But the glitter ball? Maybe it was something I just didn't want to remember.

I must be easily satisfied: some good music, a partner I like to dance with, and being able to see where I'm going! What more could I ask for?