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Flash Review 1, 6-23: Learning to Swim Again
Wuppertal Diamonds in Bausch's "Rough Cut"

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- Sometimes all a work of theater needs is one moment -- or better, one leitmotif -- to make it memorable and justify its standing. In Pina Bausch's new (and deceptively named) "Rough Cut," playing through July 4 at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt, that recurring moment involves a bare-footed woman in white racing determinedly in circles on a rocky shore at the foot of a white mountain, Bauschian gown clutched up at her waist so she won't trip on it, and a compact young man in white shirt and black slacks who trails her and at a certain point in the circle launches sideways off her shoulder, or appears to be doing so. This urgent pitch is maintained when he disappears and another, bulkier blonde man rushes on to briefly toss chairs back and forth with the woman.

In fact, moments like these depend not just on the author but on the ability of the interpreters to divine her intention and communicate its gestalt to the audience. I can't think of any choreographer who has relied on this instinct more than Pina Bausch. A physical account of her tableaux and passages really can't do justice to them, as it's often all in the delivery. Take another moment, and its execution by one of the few remaining veterans in Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal, Andrey Berezin. Towards the end of the first act of "Rough Cut," Peter Pabst's snowy craggy mountain morphs into a verdant pastoral hill, by the grace of a projection of same. Melanie Maurin has climbed the hill -- the color of her dress, which reflects the projection, making her blend into it and become part of the landscape. She waves fetchingly down at Berezin on the stage, and he obliges by scaling the mountain and joining her in the scenery (although the color of his costume sets him apart from it a bit more); a summer picnic ensues. At one point, Berezin looks at us in a way that suggests that we are all in on the jokey illusion -- something he's very good at; one look from Berezin can set the audience to laughing (even a French audience). The word that comes to mind is of course droll, but it's deeper than that, because it just takes a look -- and a restrained one at that -- to make the effect.

That droll regard -- and the grasping of the artist's intentions behind it -- is not something that can be achieved overnight. Earlier this month, holding forth on the State of European Dance, I wrote that Bausch and her fellow giant Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker were "clearly treading water," part of the explanation for which, I theorized, could be a generational shift in their personnel. "What both Bausch's Wuppertal company and De Keersmaeker's Rosas have in common these days is what they lack," I suggested in that article: "veterans of character, comfortable enough in their choreographer's language that it becomes their skin and they don't seem to be working at it, but expressing it naturally."

Regarding Bausch, the basis of that reflection was the choreographer's last two shows, "Nefes" and "Ten Chi" -- particularly the latter, in which both choreography and dancers seemed largely unformed. Seeing this group a year later -- with an even lower age median, given the absence (onstage anyway) of veteran Dominique Mercy -- I see that I was not only wrong but woefully ignorant for one who pretends to worship at the shrine of Pina. Dancing for Pina Bausch is not just a matter of learning the exterior choreography, nor even clear interior intentions, but of apprending a whole gestalt, a regard for the world and a mode of reflecting that theatrically. It takes time.

When you dance for Pina Bausch, climbing a mountain is not as easy as it looks.

In addition to those mentioned above, "Rough Cut," seen Saturday, is performed by Ruth Amarante, Rainer Behr, Silvia Farias, Ditta Miranda Jasjfi, Na Young Kim, Daphnis Kokkinos, Thusnelda Mercy, Pascal Merighi, Cristiana Morganti, Franko Schmidt, Azusa Seyama, Michael Strecker, Fernando Suels Mendoza, Kenji Takagi, and Anna Wehsarg.

PS: As the 2005-2006 season concludes, I'd like to extend a special 'grande merci' to Marie-Laure Violette, who handles press relations for the dance press at the Theatre de la Ville, for her patience and grace, and by whose grace, intelligence and comprehension and understanding I'm able to do my job.


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