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Flash Review 1, 11-7: Bausch & Long
"Masurca Fogo": Trouble in High Heels, with a Capitol P

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2001 Maura Nguyen Donohue

NEW YORK -- There's been talk of Pina Bausch mellowing out. I'll agree that her overall tone might be smoothing itself out. But while "Masurca Fogo," at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this week, ends with a soft touch, I would hardly call the work mellow. If anything, as also evidenced a couple years ago when Bausch brought "Danzon" to BAM, she's replaced most of the nihilistic darkness of the past couple decades with outrageous ribaldry. If you are looking for an energetic absurd diversion, including a water slide, a walrus, a watermelon, and a live chicken, this is your show.

The work opens with immediacy as dancers rush across a rock face constructed against the back wall and encased within a white stage that serves as enormous projection screen. The walls and floor provide excellent surface to capture images of musicians, rushing cattle, geese and water. A sequence towards the end in which waves crash to shore was particularly transformative. We are witness to a heartbreakingly lonely soloist engulfed by forces greater than herself. The projection also finally matches the scenic element to the space, bringing us to the water's edge.

Performers shift in and out of various rambunctious and bizarre characters punctuated by delightfully idiosyncratic movement signatures. There are several sequences of inspired insanity, especially when the cast manages to construct and dance within a Brazilian favela at a rapid pace. But, "Masurca Fogo" is a long-lasting whimsy to be sitting through. At 2 hours & 45 minutes the work ranks as too long for a diversion in my world and starts to become tedious. Unfortunately, Bausch has been a long-time worshipper at the church of repetition. I'm hard-pressed to find a phrase or gag that only gets one brief go around. And any long-term Bausch supporters looking for the deeper profundity somewhere behind the startling pain and darkness of her past work should know its long gone. There is poignancy and tenderness in her work now but it shows up here late, and as part of an occasionally stunning but sometimes sappy video of erotically blooming flowers and quivering stems.

Though the men and women in "Masurca Fogo" are not battling in the same violent way of Bausch's earlier work, the piece is, in traditional Bausch form, still rampantly heterosexual. The sentiment may have changed but she still maintains a rigid representation of gender roles. The women are still stuck in dresses and trapped in an endless parade of high heels. Other than the exquisite Regina Advento, most of the women spend a significant amount of time prancing instead of dancing. The men, however, are allowed several individual solo moments full of vibrantly, kinetic choreography. It strikes me funny that dyke crooner kd lang is a primary musical choice for many a boy-girl moment. Other music on the program includes Duke Ellington, Brazilian waltzes and Portuguese fado and sambas.

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