The dance community grieved in the summer of 2009 to learn of the death of legendary German choreographer Pina Bausch. Throughout her monumental career, Bausch developed a dramatic and distinct form of dance theater that necessitated both physical risk and intense emotional expression from her dancers. Bausch’s large body of work inspired choreographers all over Europe and the world, and her influence is still felt today.
One of those choreographers is Alain Platel, the artistic director of les Ballets C de la B, who has attributed his most recent work to Bausch. This highly-anticipated choreographic collective will perform Out of Context-For Pina at The Joyce Theater from Oct. 19-24. Of Pina Bausch, Platel says, “Even those [who] oppose her, are influenced by her. What she did was ask the dancers questions and use their answers as material for performance. Her mix of speech and gesture drawn from the dancers was a revelation” (Sarah Frater, “Platel’s Bold Dance Moves,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/28/10).
With Pina Bausch on my mind in anticipation of seeing les Ballets C de la B, it was great luck that I had the opportunity to see Tanztheater Wuppertal, Bausch’s company, perform Vollmond (Full Moon) at BAM on October 7th. From the audience’s warm reception to the company’s first performance in the United States since Bausch’s death, it was obvious that Bausch is still beloved and honored by many. However, New York Times dance critic Claudia La Rocco called the performance, “tired and predictable, as if Bausch had run out of new ideas and instead offered up her trusty style,” (“Swimming Through Bausch’s World,” 9/30/10). For a Bausch veteran, perhaps that was the case, but for those Bausch virgins out there like me, the performance was mind-blowing.
In the course of one evening, I witnessed dancers hurl themselves off a giant rock, swim through a pool of water on stage, light their hair on fire, get completely naked, dance in the rain, throw buckets of water into the air, kiss, scream, cry, and oh yes, dance themselves into complete exhaustion. Water continually splashed and arced through the air as the dancers moved with physical intensity and emotional ferocity. The dancing, the set, the music, the over-the-top-ness of it all, helped me to grasp what Bausch really meant by “dance theater.” I left feeling overstimulated and emotionally drained by the world that Bausch had created in Vollmond.
La Rocco says that “It’s hard to overstate the influence [Bausch’s] violently charged, dreamlike worlds and stark stagescapes have had,” (Swimming Through Bausch’s World, 9/30/10). It was clear from the audience’s enthusiastic and lengthy applause that Bausch’s achievements do not go unnoticed, and that audiences, dancers, and choreographers everywhere still mourn her loss.
Platel’s Out of Context-For Pina promises to be a dance spectacle of a different sort, but dance theater nonetheless. On a stark and bare stage, the dancers wear little more than their underwear, sing into microphones, and spasmodically convulse in a work that strays from Platel’s typical use of elaborate sets and live music. Audiences can expect a raw and emotionally-charged performance that certainly owes much to the groundbreaking work of Pina Bausch.
To see Platel’s Out of Context-For Pina, purchase tickets for les Ballets C de la B by clicking here.