Pina for All
On Sunday afternoon, for the second time, I went to see the film Pina, a wonder in 3-D, directed by Wim Wenders (Beauna Vista Social Club, Paris Texas) which had started out as a collaboration between Wenders and the protagonist, German choreographer Pina Bausch and finished sometime after her death six months into the project.
For any dancer, of any genre or persuasion, interested in creating and staging, understanding space and dramatic expressions, may I urge you to catch this film currently playing in selected cinemas nationally.
Pina Bausch (1940-2009), is credited as being one of the greatest exponents of the European dance theatre form. She directed the now famous Wuppertal TanzTheatre for three decades from mid-seventies until her death. For her biog I would direct reader to http://www.bookrags.com/biography/pina-bausch/
I want to write about what I leant of her dance from the film Pina, to inspire dancers and non-dancers to flock to the cinema for an extraordinary experience.
Pina opens with a sequence of a chorus line of dancers of mixed ages, performing just four simple gestures representing the four seasons, in unison, to a dance hall tune. You just want to follow them like the townsfolk followed the Pied Piper. This sequence threads through the film in unexpected places, down escalator steps and on the ridge of a quarry.
All of life is in Pina’s dances and dance stories, whether they have a plot or not. There are images of pain and angst, as in her most famous Muller Café, which features stumbling figures with closed eyes, wandering past tables and chairs, banging into walls. The bleakness and isolation evoked The Holocaust, for me on this viewing. The sweet and haunting music ringing out ‘Remember Me’ lent a particular poignancy
There is cheek and the absurd: at the end of the cable car, sits a grown man with rabbit ears. Enter a woman at the next stop with powerful muscled arms who is staging a fight with a pillow, punching and throwing opponent on the ground and finishing off grinding her heel into the victim.
What makes Pina’s work great, is the utter simplicity of some of her dance phrases that are nevertheless invested with an immense emotive power. Her dancers have formidable technique but her work is not technique driven. Yet there are moments of lifts and leaps and holds that require great precision timing. A lovely sequence has a dancer in an open landscape with a series of three plastic chairs arranged with an equal distance. She jumps with one step on the chair seat and another on the chair back, causing it to overturn, gracefully landing the dancer on the ground in a moment of breathless weightlessness.
The natural elements play a strong part: the earth, literally represented by bags of peat carpeting the stage floor in the Rite of Spring mixes with the sweat on the dancers’ bodies; a massive rock occupying a third of the stage in Mascurca Fogo is attacked with buckets of water; a tree grows out of a dancer’s back, man and nature inextricably linked. Her locations, such as the giant quarry inspire awe as the dancer performs tantalisingly two feet away from the sheer drop. Finishing the sequence portraying his struggle over hostile forces, the dancer has the next uphill to climb.
You come away marvelling at the abundance of creative energy, the refusal to trivialise or compromise. Life has to be looked at unflinchingly but with humour and a feeling for comedic and absurdist opportunities. There is the sensual element, which is found not just in youth and glamour, but at any and at every age. Pina’s dancers are always clothed in flowing silks and satins, simply cut, revealing vulnerable bodies.
Pina breathes new life into dance, as a form that has important insights to give about the world and the human beings that inhabit it. This is achieved without recourse to elaborate plots or narratives, rather by the minute observation of human nature as revealed in gesture, expression and behaviour. This natural movement is then stylised and structured to make unforgettable movement sequences performed and repeated until the rhythm lodges in the audience conscious and sub-conscious mind.
Thank you, thank you Pina for giving us the gift of your imagination and your lifelong toil towards finding the expression for the majesty and absurdity of life.