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Flash Review, 7-3: On the road to Calcutta & Kerala
Pina Bausch listens to the 'Bamboo Blues'
By Laurie Uprichard
Copyright 2008 Laurie Uprichard
PARIS -- Lush is the word that first comes to
mind when considering Pina Bausch's latest work,
"Bamboo Blues," which had its French premiere at
the Théatre de la
Ville - Sarah Bernhardt on June 16 and which comes to the
Brooklyn Academy of Music in December.
The intense music, the saturated colors of the
women's dresses, the film of a rich green bamboo
forest (with visible power lines letting us know
that civilization is nearby) that runs across a
mid-stage curtain just before the intermission
and at the end of the piece all invoke the
tropical side of India. Bausch's two residencies
there with visual designer and video maker Peter
Pabst and some of
her Tanztheater Wuppertal company, in Calcutta
and Kerala, were the inspiration for this work.
Pina Bausch is a maximalist.
Winds (backstage fans, brought onstage at one
point to dispel the magic, were there any) ripple
the white curtains upstage as the opening soloist
(Silvia Farias) swirls, swoops, and spirals
around the stage; off balance, she floats on or
pushes into the wind. A stunning mover, Farias
dances in a pale pink costume that contrasts
with the deep colors of the long dresses worn by
the other women, who enter and strike a pose
center stage that could have come straight from a
National Geographic photo of a group of tigers.
White sheets with blue stripes around the edges
are brought out, whipped up into the air, and
precisely folded. These sheets reappear as saris
for the women and wrapped skirts for the men, all
of whom later take a runway walk in same sex
pairs on the long diagonal of the stage in an odd
sort of fashion show.
In the midst of Act I, the winds pick up and the
men's bodies seem to be tossing on waves. Bausch
conjures the memory of the tsunami of December
2004. There is also a universal Bausch theme as,
one after another, the women fall to the floor
through the arms of the men who, though they
appear to try, cannot really protect them.
Water, as usual in a Bausch work, makes its
appearance. A woman dips her hair into a bucket
and whips her head back -- over and over again.
A series of tricks are played (though none
involving snakes rising out of a basket), in one
of which a woman pours a glass of water from a
pitcher into her glass and then into her
companion's; in his, the water turns red as soon
as it enters the glass. She then pours the
contents of both back into the carafe. The water
According to the program note by Jean-Marc Adolphe, Bausch spent some
of her time in India with Chandralekha, a pioneer
in the field of women's rights and a force in
creating a contemporary classical Indian dance.
(Her work was seen most recently in the U.S. at
Jacob's Pillow and at Danspace Project in 1994,
and as part of Next Wave at BAM in 1998; she died
at the end of December 2007.) Shantala
Shivalingappa, who has performed with Bausch
since 2003, is also a highly trained kuchipudi
dancer. In "Bamboo Blues," Bausch gives her a
solo in which bharata natyam vocabulary is
deconstructed and abstracted to lovely effect.
Throughout "Bamboo Blues," the emotionality of
the work takes its cue from the varying
selections of music -- some pop tunes from
Bollywood movies (the upstage scrim at the top of
Act II is filled with a larger-than-life
publicity shot of a Bollywood couple),
contemporary composers including Michael Gordon
of Bang on a Can, and some serious blues from
While "Bamboo Blues" is structured around serial
solos, like many Bausch works, there is more
variation than in the 2004 "Nefes."
The interspersed group sections, some of which
are task-oriented, display a broader movement
vocabulary. The overall sensibility of this work
is also happier, even amorous. Though the Le
Monde critic dismissed this formula as having run
out of steam, I found that the kaleidoscopic
structure held. While there are no transitions or
segues from scene to scene, the sum of the whole
was quite coherent, a lovely impressionistic,
vicarious trip to India.
Laurie Uprichard is the artistic director of the Dublin Dance Festival. She was
formerly executive director of Danspace Project
in New York.