Masurca Fogo

Director and choreographer Pina Bausch

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

Sadler's Wells

From 09 February 2017 to 12 February 2017

Review by Vera Liber

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In 2012, London was treated to ten numbers from Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s catalogue of dances evoking cities the company had visited and explored and absorbed. Ranging from the 1986 Viktor to the final ...como el musguito en la piedra, ay si si si... from 2009, the year of her death, aged 69.

World Cities Series 2012 omitted her 2008 Sweet Mambo, which the company brought to Edinburgh Festival in 2014, and now with Masurca Fogo of 1998—a synthesis of Lisbon—I think we may have the full complement of a dozen ‘cities’.

Unhurried, gently paced Masurca Fogo aches with love, its follies and triumphs to swooning melodies, hot sounds punctured by absurdities and visual jokes—a walrus waddles across the stage. Did they see a walrus on Portugal’s shores? Is it a metaphor to confuse and delight us? Or simply a distraction like the banana skin the hand in the bin r/ejects?

Those—and they are manifold—that collect Pina Bausch’s productions will of course know what to expect—the coy come hither looks at the audience, dancing in the aisles, talking to the front row, offering food (and more…), long-haired women in Marion Cito’s gorgeous frocks, slips and stilettos, non sequiturs, corny clichés—sex on legs, women competitive and teasing, men single-minded, lots of jokes at their expense—and lots of pheromones in an embroidered patchwork tapestry of real and surreal moments that make up our human comedy.

And a wonderful selection of music by Matthias Burkert and Andreas Eisenschneider: kd lang, Portuguese soulful Fado, Cape Verde guitars and accordions, Brazilian waltzes and Gidon Kremer tangos. Infectious music to dance and reveal one’s soul to—which the dancers do one by one, dancing as if no one is watching, their serious solos punctuating the chaotic group dynamic.

All they want is love: the amplified sighs of love, the groans of love, the floating in the air of love, the loneliness of love, the jealousy and pain of love, the madness of love. “All I need is the air that I breathe and to love you.”

The ephemerality of love: Nazareth Panadero says her grandmother used to tell her that she, Nazareth, was so beautiful that men sighed when she went by—and seven men do sigh… “Come let me kiss you—a job is a job”, she says. She wears pegs on her dress and face, defying the years.

A woman has her head dunked in a bowl, made to bob for apples, lemons and oranges; another is twisted in the air by her ankles, passed from man to man. Apples abound—the Adam and Eve story…

A slippery kiss, a cigarette—"Love is Like a Cigarette" kd lang sings—but Julie Shanahan dressed in red balloons is surrounded by men smoking cigarettes, and yes the obvious happens, her balloons get popped.

And don’t forget smother love—cue for another vignette, son eating from a vast pot of soup as mother stands over him. Aida Vainieri on the other hand has her speckled hen, feeding it on the watermelon smashed on the floor by Shanahan. Love in all its guises. Bundles of babies, too. The pre and post of love…

Fleeting impressionistic moments fade back into repeated mosaic patterning. Did you know there are three stages to orgasm Daphnis Kokkinos asks us, the first positive (yes, yes), the second negative (oh no…), the third metaphysical (oh my god…). A good joke, no?

Girls sunbathe on the rocky black lava shore (Peter Pabst black on bright white box design), pose like mermaids, men play games below, one throws roses like knives in a circus act at a girl—do they pierce her heart? A beach shack is constructed for a sweaty crowded dance party and disassembled.

A water tunnel slide is made from polythene sheeting and buckets of water for uninhibited simple pleasures—as Regina Advento is wheeled on in a bath and Andrey Berezin dries the dishes she is washing in her soapsuds, and places them neatly in a row in front of us—a juxtaposition of happy people?

But the best is when ten couples slow dance in simple rhythmic line formation—feet flick, hips sway, oh the urge to join them… Video projections show a Cape Verde ballroom dance competition, musicians playing against a luscious tropical background, the company travelling by coach towards Lisbon, bulls, flamingos.

Waves beat and throb; flowers open, buds bursting into glorious life as the ten couples lie down in each other arms. And lights out. What a trip: three sunny weeks condensed into two and a half hours of sensual pleasure.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch is now a Sadler’s Wells International Associate Company and hopefully a regular annual fixture in London. A new intendant and artistic director, Adolphe Binder, has been appointed; there’s promise of fresh developments. Pina’s repertoire will be maintained, but contemporary choreographers will be brought in, “generating new works each year”.

There are already many new faces amongst the familiar tonight. But they weren’t all smiling when they took the curtain call—I wonder why… A light-hearted—what is the Portuguese for spinal column—joyful piece ends in solemnity?