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Bamboo Blues - Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch - World Cities 2012

Pina Bausch
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Barbican

Clementine Deluy in Bamboo Blues Credit: Angelos Giotopoulos
Pablo Aran Gimeno and Cristiana Morganti in Bamboo Blues Credit: Jong Duk Woo
Shantala Shivalingappa and Fernando Suels Mendoza in Bamboo Blues Credit: Jong Duk Woo
Shantala Shivalingappa in Bamboo Blues Credit: Jong Duk Woo

Ten years after the high of the 1997 Der Fensterputzer (The Window Washer) comes the low of Bamboo Blues, a distillation of mood, atmosphere, and male / female passions in the cultural capital of India, the West Bengali city of Kolkata.

As in her final piece (...como el musguito en la piedra, ay si si si...) two years later, here Pina Bausch, rather than imposing a Western ironic viewpoint, gives herself up to the sounds and colours of the city visited. A humble meditation, a state of being, but not without the odd humorous aside, yoga contortions faked by two bodies.

A fusion of cocktail bar gentle tinkling jazz piano and saxophone, Indian classical beats and synthesized electronic rhythms, Bombay Dub Foundation and Anoushka Shankar, ragas and rasas, the mood music mix for the 140 minutes of dance, repetitive mantras that expose the limits of choreography.

Improvisatory ragas reflecting the inner spirit and the cycles of life, idiosyncratic solos (lovely one from Pablo Aran Gimeno) tenuous in their take on India, duets, and love triangles, hot and cold passions, jealousy, frustration, rejection, manipulation.

Emotions run high. Women are paraded on men’s shoulders like goddesses or carried off like rolls of carpet. Jorge Puerta Armenta stamps an angry dance, knocks himself out with boxing gloves, and, branches balanced delicately on head, shoulders, arms and hands, turns into a walking funeral pyre tree sculpture.

Men and women strut in Mother Teresa blue-bordered white saris, the men’s scrunched up in labourer mode, the women’s draped fashionably over retina-blasting dresses of sizzling orange, purple black, blazing magenta, irradiant peacock blues and greens.

Caste and colonial systems: a man jumps a hoop to kiss a woman; a woman makes a cocktail drink change colour. Ganesh makes an appearance, and men dance beautifully in women’s gowns—the hijra?

A man soaps himself white; a woman washes her hair pounding it dry on a stone—scenes perhaps from one of Kolkata’s famous son’s, Satyajit Ray’s, films of village life. Narrow beds are shared, a woman rolls a man along the floor with her body like two interlinked cog wheels, and women are passed around from man to man.

Cristiana Morganti wants to fly: “…cooking and flying, cleaning and ironing, and flying…”, whilst in Annie Leibovitz Vogue photographic pose a group of women recline and chew the cud like holy cows.

Guest Shantala Sivalingappa dances with the delicate lotus flower gestures of kathak, is used as a compass to draw chalk circles on the floor, and comes on festooned in diwali lights.

Little speech, few direct addresses to the audience—a cardamom-scented ribbon entwining the front row, a bindi pressed on a man’s forehead, a ‘glamorous’ film star extending her bejewelled hand and saying, “pleased to meet you”—sixteen dancers blown by the fickle wind of life spin a narcotic spell.

And the wind blows incessantly. White curtains billow, long hair tassels, dresses cling, and in a clichéd Tollywood love scene two punkah wallahs manually create an illusion of romantically tousled hair.

Dreamscapes and filmscapes—videos (by Jo Verlei) of tropical forests and open-air Jatra folk theatre, men traditionally in the roles of women and gods, projected on to the fluttering curtains.

Columns of white gauze drapes, white sheets flutter, white sari pleated and wound by Shantala Sivalingappa in easy display, white floor with pools of light. The light grows whiter and whiter. Are the personal solos a reaching towards the light, a striving for enlightenment?

Reviewer: Vera Liber