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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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