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Pina Review 1, 11-30: Child's Play
From Bausch and Wuppertal, a Souvenir for the Audiences of Forever
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2004 Gus Solomons jr
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NEW YORK -- In her 2002
theater-piece, featured in this year's Next Wave Festival at the
Brooklyn Academy of Music, November 16-21, the once seemingly inconsolable
Pina Bausch continues her latter-day tendency to lighten up. "Fur
die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen" ("For the Children of
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow") continues her familiar compositional
method of mixing myriad dramatic episodes with ravishing dance solos
and group passages of lusty, inventive movement by the wonderful
dancers of her Germany-based troupe, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina
The pervasive air of
doom and gloom and transformation of the stage into forests or mountainsides
that characterized earlier works has lifted. "Fur die Kinder" is
packed with laugh-out-loud moments of black humor: a game of Chicken,
where a man and woman alternate trying to hammer the other's hands
with the heel of their shoe; another dare where two guys alternately
hold each other's index fingers in the flame of each other's cigarette
lighters for as long as possible before flinching and shoving their
fingers into a glass of water. A guy blows up a balloon attached
to the end of a long hollow ballet barre but can't run fast enough
to retrieve it before it deflates.
An expansive white room
(designed by Peter Pabst) with a wide window at the back, sliding
doors in the side walls, and a floating ceiling houses the action.
Bright lighting (perhaps also by Pabst, though no lighting design
credit is given) subtly modulates the space, and the huge walls
glide silently into different positions during the action to alter
the shape of the space. The eight men wear silky shirts and slacks
or elegant tuxedos; the six women wear softly flowing gowns, either
dancing bare-footed or striding assertively in high heels. The clothes
by Marion Cito are simple but luxurious, and everyone gets multiple
versions of similar outfits.
Who can fathom Bausch's
overall intentions? And for many, nearly three hours of her unique
stream of consciousness were too much -- but Bausch's twisted sensibility
invariably yields unlikely activities that startle, delight, and
repulse you all at once. In the opening scene Fernando Suels and
Jorge Puerta Armenta sit on a table, rocking side to side. Each
time Suels rocks too far and tips over, Armenta catches his foot,
preventing him from crashing onto his head: one man nonchalantly
looking out for his friend's well-being.
Veteran Bausch performer
Rainer Behr lunges across the stage with Helena Pikon in a low ballroom
dance dip. As they travel, Behr spits a stream of water into Pikon's
hand, and she draws her hand to her mouth, sipping it. Questionable
hygiene aside, it's another act of loving trust, bizarrely expressed.
Early on, tiny Ditta
Miranda Jasjfi draws in lipstick a traditional heart with an arrow
through it on a sliding window pane at the rear; she labels it "love."
Next to it tall, statuesque Julie Anne Stanzak draws an anatomical
heart, labeling the aorta and ventricle. This juxtaposition of the
symbolic and the anatomic epitomizes the whole piece. Throughout,
vividly physical dance moments alternate with mime-and-dialog skits
that lend themselves to multiple interpretations.
Does the title of the
work refer to the inter-generational composition of Bausch's company
itself? Youthful members lend energy and technical virtuosity, while
veterans contribute great presence. Among the most powerful moments
are those provided by placid, gently elegant Dominique Mercy and
Nazareth Panadero, who milks double entendre from each crisp
syllable she growls in her gravelly contralto; both are long-time
Panadero's a riot, beating
on a plate with a fork as if scrambling eggs and explaining that
in her native Spain it's a common sound, because people "eat a lot
of eggs." But with real eggs "it sounds different." Mercy breaks
our hearts when he wanders around sprinkling the stage from the
spout of a huge watering can, clad in nothing but an oversized white
tutu that makes him look like a giant marshmallow.
Mercy in a tuxedo tries
vainly to court Panadero, telling her he loves her. But she struts
around in blood-red high heels, jutting her shoulders, and twists
his every compliment into insult. "You have a nice, curvy figure,"
he says. "You mean I'm fat?!" she snaps.
For more pure entertainment
value, each member of the cast has a pure dancing solo that shows
off amazing dancing skill: the women's arms and hair fly frantically
in exciting non-sequitur barrages of gesturing that constantly surprise;
the young men, including also Kenji Takagi, Alexandre Castres, Pascal
Merighi, and Michael Strecker, skitter on their powerful haunches
in hip-hop inspired slides and deep lunges. Fair-haired everyman
Andrej Berezin does a heartbreaking little hand dance, walking his
fingers up and down his body in a poem of loneliness.
In Act One the full
company overruns the stage and spills into the aisles, arms stiffly
outstretched, like limp-winged gliding birds. The act ends with
the cast adding extensions to an elaborate sand castle, built on
an oriental carpet. In Act Two, they lurch in waves toward the proscenium
before collapsing to the floor and reprising the opening rocking
motif. And finally, they do what looks like a condensed version
of the whole piece in seconds, hurtling madly, desperately through
the white room, as the lights fade, leaving the audience to ponder
the experience, even as they spring to their feet for the obligatory
BAM standing ovation.
are such vivid personalities it's a shame no photos or biographies
are included in the program. They deserve to be recognized and acknowledged
for their marvelous talent and dedication to communicating Bausch's
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