An ode to love in Pina Bausch’s choreography

by Dalia Basiouny – Daily News Egypt   on 04 – 10 – 2009

After a long wait, Egyptian audiences witnessed the magic of Pina Bausch’s choreography at the Cairo Opera House this week. The grand finale of the 50th anniversary of Goethe’s Institute in Egypt was two dance performances by the German choreographer and director.

Tanztheater Wuppertal, the company Bausch led for 36 years before her death in June 2009, presented two pieces at the two ends of the spectrum of styles of the internationally acclaimed choreographer.

The unknowing eye would not attribute “Bamboo Blues and “Le Sacre du Printemps (Rites of Spring) to the same artist. Yet the genius of master choreographer and dance innovator Pina Bausch is evident in both pieces.

Egyptian audiences watched the first act of “Bamboo Blues which was conceived as a collaboration with India in 2007, in the artist’s signature style of “intra-national work, reflecting the troupe’s responses and feelings about India. The end result is truly a “blues, a slow meditation on the state of humans, and an ode to love in its different forms.

In homage to Bollywood, the female dancers move across the stage in colorful flowing dresses. After a few romantic exchanges between couples of lovers experiencing the different stages of love, the female dancers, in languid movements, arrange themselves in a group lying down lazily on stage while slowly chewing. The eternal wait of women is beautifully condensed in this tableau that is repeated during the performance.

Far from being a slow performance, the immaculate dances of solos, couples and trios were pulsating with life and energy. Bausch had set out to explore love, Indian style, and she was going to present the full range: the innocence of flirtation, the protected intimacy of a new couple, the intense passion of another, the possessiveness, the jealousy, the violence, the forced love, the unrequited love, the unfulfilled love, the attempt to gain love, and to be in love. Happiness is fragile and does not last long in the world of “Bamboo Blues.

The music, as varied as the Indian subcontinent itself, had an undercurrent of happy-sadness or sad-happiness that is described in Arabic music as “shagan.
One of the remarkable dance sequences that stand out in this hour-long act is a female Indian dancer performing classical Indian movements, with specific hand gestures, to a Western pop song. The Indian dancer, Shantala Shivalingappa, has been a guest dancer with Pina Bausch’s company for the past 10 years.

She told Daily News Egypt that her classical training in Kuchipudi (a classical Indian dance form, traditionally performed by men and only recently opened to women) shaped her body language and influenced her movement. In her signature style, Bausch selected some of the routines and movements that Shantala suggested.
“Pina encouraged dancers to produce movements and explore moves, then she would select the sequences or steps that fit best into the theme and her vision, Shivalingappa said.

This approach was not only her method with dancers but her collaborative work style with all the creators of the work. Fernando Jacon, responsible for the lights, refused to call himself a light designer. He explained to Daily News Egypt that in Tanztheater Wuppertal each member of the group proposed elements of design or dance and gave ideas to Bausch, who experimented with different ways of arranging them. “We work for Pina’s eyes. She is the final light designer, he was happy to declare.
“Le Sacre du Printemps. the second part of the show, is one of the earlier works of Bausch. She created this piece, which put her name on the international dance map, in 1975.

The powerful 35-minute performance brought the audience literally down to earth. The stage was covered in thick dirt which created an immediate juxtaposition to the delicate sheer dresses of the dancers, who gather to celebrate the return of Spring. Instead of the joyful festivities that mark the return of the sun to the Northern hemisphere, the music of Igor Stravinsky, carries a foreboding of an innocence about to be lost.

Bausch’s choreography emphasizes the frailty of human condition, and fragility of youth in the face of powerful changes. The vigorous dancing evokes tribal rituals, and rites of passage that modern society lacks as it disconnects itself from earth’s natural patterns.

In “Le Sacre du Printemps Bausch puts her dancers in physical touch with earth, which changes the meaning of every step they take. Their struggle is real, the effort to move with such speed in the thick dirt causes palpable exertion that the audience can see and feel in the dancers bodies and energy.
During the pauses between the music interludes the panting of the dancers fills the space. Instead of a celebration of the joys of Spring and the pleasures of youth, Bausch offers a thoughtful reflection on the meaning of life and love.

Like love itself the work of Pina Bausch lures the audience in, so softy, only to move them and shake them and change their world beyond recognition.
What a loss that the grand dame of choreography was not able to come to Egypt before her departure, and record her experiences in a dance piece about Cairo. What a loss that Bausch will not enrich the world theaters with new inspiration and her unique choreography.


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