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Tanztheater Wuppertal / Pina Bausch

November 8, 2014


Reviewed November 7, 2014                          

NAC Southam Hall, Ottawa

(Repeat performance November 8, 8 p.m.)

Silvia Farias Heredia in Vollmond, Photograph by Laszlo Szito

Silvia Farias Heredia in Vollmond
Photograph by Laszlo Szito

Vollmond, which means “full moon” or “high water,” is a lengthy work of dance theatre that focuses on the primal elements, especially water. From the sound a water bottle makes as it swishes through the air, or a dancer lighting her hair on fire, to the large slab of rock dominating centre stage and the nearly continuous sheets of rain falling from the ceiling, Vollmond takes us to the root of what influences humanity.

One of German choreographer Pina Bausch’s last works, created in 2006, the two-hour performance is rife with fairly random images and a plethora of vignettes that take us through ritualized courtship and conflict, played out by a dozen dancers of all ages and sizes.

Mostly, however, the men are playful and competitive, and the women are detached goddesses. Vollmond explores it all: a woman stands alone smacking herself all over her body while laughing hysterically; two men relax on their backs, head resting in arms folded overhead and spit out fountains of water; a “flower girl” sings of daisies, lilies of the valley and buttercups.

But most enchanting is the interaction of the dancers with the water. They row the deep pool at the back of the stage, they swim through it, the women drag their long hair through it and then whip their heads, spraying the water through the “sunlit” rain, they “dance” under the streaming sheets of rain, they throw buckets of water everywhere, the men pour water into women’s wine glasses until they overflow. And these are just snippets.

The dancers’ reactions with one another range from intimate to threatening. There’s hunger, longing, sadness and pleasure, temptation, frustration, humor and solitude. Anything can happen on a Bausch-set stage.

And the highlight of the stage is the set: the backdrop sheet of rain twists magically into folds, accompanied by the soft hypnotizing sound of drops.

Over her 40-plus-year choreographic career, Bausch played out her genius, as well as her darkest and most humorous fantasies on the stage. Surely one of the world’s most innovative and brilliant dance theatre makers, Bausch has influenced generations of choreographers who have followed.

A complex and enigmatic creative force, Bausch took over the German Wuppertal Opera Ballet in 1973, transformed it into Tanztheater Wuppertal and ushered in a new era of expressive modern dance. Until her sudden death five years ago, she was known for her high drama, startling and provocative images and zany activities.

The last time I saw Bausch was 10 years ago, her first appearance in Ottawa since 1985. Whatever you might think of her work, it’s worth seeing a Bausch performance at least once, if only to witness a unique experience.


From → Contemporary

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