Saturday, 7 May 2011
Back in the mid-1980s, when UK TV still showed contemporary dance, I watched Cafe Muller, fascinated, on a small, black-and-white TV; Pina Bausch dancing with those extraordinarily expressive arms. It seemed too 'angst-focused', the dancers throwing themselves at the walls, the floor, the furniture and each other, but it imprinted itself irrevocably on my memory. I tried to book twice for Bausch company performances at Sadlers Wells, always too late to get a seat, even six weeks before a performance.
3D is a revelation in Pina. Dance is physical, Pina Bausch dance is particularly physical, and 3D conveys physicality, the roundness of the body, and the space surrounding it. You get even more than the best seat, since the camera follows performers around onstage. Sometimes it's filmed in the theatre: extracts from Rite of Spring are featured at the start, and the impact of moving bodies, in both tight and open groups, really is palpable. Elsewhere, the industrial landscape of Wuppertal is the background, including the wonderful, futuristic overhead railway, and 3D brings out the vulnerability, strength, weakness, sexiness, grace, elegance, power of the human body against these backgrounds.
Dancers weren't Pina Bausch's marionettes. Her work seems to have come from questioning and challenging them, as much from them as from her; from their desires, fears, joys, loves, hatreds, too, and from their intelligence and humour and creativity. We meet them close up: they talk about her, to her, they remember her, they create brief performances for her. 'She told us to keep on searching. & so you keep on searching, never knowing what you are looking for, or whether you are on the right track.'
She met 'Tete' Rusconi in BsAs, and immediately found herself dancing tango. He and Silvia were invited to Wuppertal, and added their experience of dance to a new production. There's nothing of this in Pina but there is one tango, La Cachilla, written and performed (it says) by Eduardo Arolas, but the recording sounds more recent, and I've been unable to find an Arolas recording of it. But the dance isn't tango: it's a man, dressed in a ballerina's dress, trying to perform a ballerina's step and repeatedly falling over, while being pushed along a dark, graffiti-scrawled train tunnel on a flat railway bogie. It's funny, absurd, and touching, too, as is the dance of the hippo monster and the ballerina in mid-river...
'I'm not interested in how people move but in what moves them' she said. You could think of that in connection with tango, too, couldn't you?
Extracts from Kontakthof, meeting place, the dance hall, are also featured, dramatising the rituals of the social dance, as well as the many layers of fears, desires and fantasies beneath it; written for performance by two 'teams' of ordinary people, teenagers and over-65s. Pina also shows extracts from Vollmond (Full Moon) with the astonishing rainstorm, and some of the most ecstatic dancing I've ever seen. It really is staggering to watch dance at this level, at this intensity, from so close.
To some degree I judge work by the extent to which it changes the way I see the world I emerge into: children and parents moving in the streets, the spaces you walk through, even the pigeons strutting and the airplanes overhead, it all seemed part of a dance, because her dance doesn't seem to be some world apart, but it is in us, it's our own fears and love.
The website for Pina with a (2D) trailer is here. There will be a Pina Bausch retrospective in London in June and July 2012 as a highlight of the Cultural Olympiad preceding the 2012 Olympic Games.