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A CurtainUp London Review
World Cities Pina Bausch Season
by Tim Macavoy
German-born Bausch is well known for her blend of ballet and modern dance, performed around prominent sets inspired by sculpture. She worked very closely with her company, which can be seen clearly in the touching film Pina. Ten Chi demonstrates her typically mixed style well in its UK premiere.
“Next time”, as it would be translated in English, was produced in 2004 during a residency in Saitama, just outside Tokyo. It features an array of iconic Japanese imagery: cherry blossom, kimonos, kabuki, manga and horror films. The set is dominated by an enormous whale fin, as though the stage is an ocean and the massive marine mammal has only just submerged. It’s a strikingly beautiful picture, and yet disturbing given the reputation Japan has for its treatment of whales.
The graceful flow of costumes and hair give a constant sweep across the stage, arousing the fallen blossoms into little whirlwinds. Men strike martial arts poses and a woman gives a sorrowful dance to a poem about the atomic bomb. Technically brilliant dancing is interrupted by comic skits - the performers are very playful with the audience and aren’t afraid to speak to them directly: “I was in Japan and we did a lot of research! We did rice research... errr.... sake factory.” An older performer asks the front row whether they can snore, and then does his own impression. A woman practices speaking cliched Japanese words. Dancers run in and out giggling and apologising.
For me, Ten Chi is a collection of snapshots by tourists. If you’ve ever looked at a friend’s holiday snaps you’ll see some that show stunning landscapes and old buildings, but sometimes it’s just a guy in a funny costume or a shop sign that translates into something rude. You might not think it’s an insightful piece, but there’s certainly something for everyone, and the quality of dance is superb.
The dancers: Regina Advento, Pablo Aran Gimeno, Mechthild Grossman, Ditta Miranda Jasjfi, Eddie Martinez, Dominique Mercy, Thusnelda Mercy, Pascal Merighi, Nazareth Panadero, Helena Pikon, Jorge Puerta Armenta, Azusa Seyama, Julie Shanahan, Julie Anne Stanzak, Fernando Suels Mendoza, Kenji Takagi, Aidi Vainieri.
Set Design: Peter Pabst
Costume Design: Marion Cito
Sound: Karsten Fischer
Lighting: Fernando Jacon
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes with an interval
Bamboo Blues draws on Indian inspiration from 2007, choreographed by Pina Bausch in association with the Goethe Institute of India.
A dynamic white cotton backdrop billows in the constant breeze, adding an ethereal shimmer to the dreamlike stage. Projections occasionally break the whiteness with forest and Kathakali dance drama. Apart from this the stage is unusually sparse, giving room for fast paced dancing, as the performers run blindly around the stage leaping off each other with injury-defying trust and grace. Hair and floating costume whips about in the wind, while water sprayed over naked torsos, branches balanced on bulging bodies and fire lighters lit under toughened feet make up the other elements that are constant to Pina’s work.
The “otherness” of this piece is countered by moments of humour, playful audience interaction and illusion: a man goes to sleep beneath the canopy of a glamorous woman’s dress; a girl offers a long ribbon to the audience, scented with cardamom; and clear liquid turns pink as it is poured into an empty glass. Bamboo Blues features several iconic moments that you might recognize from the recent documentary, and the standing ovation that was given to Tanztheater Wuppertal after the two-hour spectacular was rapturous, long, and heartfelt.
Nefes brings our Pina Bausch reviews to a close with joyous energy. The usual pained representation of women in Pina’s choreography is given a lighter lift with hope, love, confidence and humour as we are whisked over to Istanbul, city of water. To represent the striking Bosphorous, water swells up from beneath the stage, creating a dynamic pool for the dancers to play in, before receding back beneath the floorboards of Sadler’s Wells.
“This is me in the hammam” yells a man wearing a towel, to open the show. He then spanks the naked bum of another man, and the tone is set for the rest of the show. “I am too fat for you” sings a woman excitedly to her frisky lover who tries to lift her. Girls giggle as they eat honey straight from the jar, dribbling over their fingers. A woman runs across the stage covered only in bubbles. The audience is not afraid to express their joy and share a laugh with the performers.
And then a small dancer steps up the Turkish influence with twirling, hips, hands and butterfly-like grace. More women slap and swish their shiny hair as though it were another limb with which to dance. Couples leap into each other’s arms with unbound love, the men raising the beautiful women they admire above their heads. There are more tableaux than usual too, giving the sense that family and presentation is a vital part of the Turkish society that Pina observed. Rain falls onto blue sating as a woman dances to a single guitar, and Turkish music gives way to Tom Waits.
To round up the season, it’s an impressive achievement that this committed troupe of dancers can continue to represent Pina’s work after her death, with the same emotion and brilliant skill for which they are renowned. Tanztheater Wuppertal are fully deserving of their praise and are a must-see cultural event whenever you get the chance, although judging by the ticket sales of this month, you’ll have to be quick off the mark next time.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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