Front-row, center. So close, I could see some women onstage didn’t shave their legs or under their arms. So close, I could feel their sweat as they catapulted their bodies in space, I could smell their feet. So close, I could smell myself.
In the dance world, there is a heartbreaking word: Pina. Philippina ‘Pina’ Bausch; the legendary, German modern dancer/choreographer and merciless, chain-smoking self-taskmaster whose deeply human, taboo-bashing work first brought dance and theatre together with her exhilarated, cross-generational troupe: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Pina, who died in 2009 at the still tender age of 69 was a fearless creator and natural-born provocatrice whose presence onstage was a kind of levitation. She had the longest arms I have ever seen, and I swear they reached the stars.
I was a teenager eye-rolling classical ballet and looking for trouble when I first saw Pina’s Tanztheater Wuppertal perform ‘Kontakthof’ (Meeting Place) in Montreal. It gave form to Pina’s obsession: our human struggle for connection and love. It revealed, it bared me, gluing my entire being to the front-row seat. As crowds of dancers ran back and forth across the stage, pounding heels in tight suits and cocktail dresses, hurling their howling, hairy bodies at each other; the cavernous room and my heart rocked. When it was over (it never really ends), I left; drenched in sweat and inspiration. Mine, the dancers, the theater, life itself.
Pina Bausch’s ground-breaking tanztheater and the devotion of her outstanding troupe is brought to life in Wim Wender’s visceral 3-D tribute film PINA (nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar 2011). Mea culpa, I extended the pleasure and took my sweet time to see it. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
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