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Tanztheater Wuppertaal Pina Bausch

'...como el musguito en la piedra, ay si si si...'

by Charlotte Kasner

June 12, 2012 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, UK

For various unconnected reasons. this was the first time that I have seen the late Pina Basuch’s company live. Well, there are many imitators but she was undoubtedly the master.

The Company style does not lend itself to literary description. Words in this context become reductionist. It is truly post-modern in that it makes the audience active during the performance, not in the toe-curling way of many companies, but by making the audience aware that what they bring to the performance is as important as what is presented.

That is not to say that there isn’t direct audience interaction. From time to time there most certainly is; and I do hope that the woman in the front row got her spectacles back! However, the interaction is a tiny breath in the vast canvass presented during the evening. As The Picture Post would say, all life is here.

The women wore long, floaty dresses in bright colours and floral pastels, with and without high heels. They sashayed, they dashed, they flirted. The men lifted them vertically, ogled, danced pas de deux. Just as I began to think that the movement comprised just men lifting women, the tables were turned. There was a lovely section where one female dancer divested three men of their shirts in an overtly sexual manner, lured them to lie on the stage, draped herself suggestively across their outstretched legs and then proceeded to make them perform sit ups. This was then repeated twice in different positions. Very Thelma and Louise.

Tanztheater Wuppertal has dancers of varying sizes, shapes and ages and boy can they all move. There are also a dab hand at handling a variety of props. A particular favourite for me was the use of a cleft tree branch to keep long hair out of the way whilst scrubbing the stage. Long, sweeping hair was much in evidence. No one could accuse Pina Bausch or designer Marion Cito of not making the women feminine, a joy when so much is performed in stark leotards.

The mood shifted constantly from serious to witty to elegiac, the music mostly with a Latin American flavour. The audience are always mentally stimulated, filtering a welter of references against personal and collective experience whilst enjoying consummate movement that never relented, never dulled.

The Company rightly deserved their standing ovation. Let us hope that it will be possible to retain this level of commitment and fidelity following Pina Bausch’s untimely demise.

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