…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si (…like moss on a stone, oh yes, yes, yes)
Choreography Pina Bausch
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
All about love (growing like moss on a stone) and Chile …como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si is a Valentine’s Day gift from Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch on their now annual visit to Sadler’s Wells and as usual all performances are sold out and standing ovations are guaranteed. Saturday night is no different. The fans are out in force. And the front row is not disappointed.
Pina’s usual repetitive tropes and visual jokes (exaggerated Chilean knitwear) never cease to delight those familiar with her work: nine gorgeous women in flowing gowns, high heels and long cascading hair lead seven men a merry dance.
A European avant-garde film scenario and dance as semiotic study, very knowing in its regard: metaphors, imagery, inscrutable symbolism, teasing sensual foreplay, coded sexual dynamics, and secret anxieties. Tall women, short men… Earrings on Dominique Mercy in suit and fedora hat; Helmut Newtonesque red stilettos on trouser-less Pablo Aran Gimeno… Blown by Chilean winds.
Consistent in her exploration of male/female relationships, sexist and cruel, perceptive and suspect, dreamy solos are danced to dreamy music, duets captivate and mystify in this eternal delusional battle of the fluid sexes. The choreography looks deceptively easy and improvised—dance like no one is watching—that’s both its charm and its Achilles heel. There are longueurs.
On a deep black stage, no scenery only the cracking moving ice beneath their feet, boys observe girls from afar; girls team up in a lazy hand-jive knowing they are being scrutinized. Dance hall rituals are played out. Stars are gazed at. Comic Fernando Suels Mendoza loves all the girls, the big and the small, but his solo is infused with darkness. As a mouth harp twangs, he plays the petite Ditta Miranda Jasjfi inside a yellow hula-hoop held in his mouth.
Hay is thrown; boys pop corks out of mouths, girls gather them like olives from a tree in their skirts; a woman puts on makeup under a deluge of water. Another has a tree on her back—shade when she sits down, but what does it mean, what does it signify? It doesn't matter, read what you will into this patchwork dreamscape, there’s space for all of our thoughts. Didn't Proust say something about it’s the reader that writes the book not the writer?
Women worry about their body statistics, have an eating disorder, are tethered like dogs in a yard, take a fish for a walk, preen and use their female wiles. The men are buff, made to work out. But, when they all come together, sitting like children in a plaited chain, stroking, massaging each other’s heads, the pleasures of life look very simple.
This last mosaic work of hers is her most joyful and one forgives the self-indulgence of her choreography. Pina, mellowing with age, arrives at the realization that love is all there is, after a lifetime exorcising demons: post-war memories of life as a child in her parent’s café infiltrate and inform her work, itself a form of self-help PTSD therapy.
Part of Pina’s World Cities 2012 tour of ten productions celebrating cities across the world, …como el musguito… was noted as being the least angst-full of the ten, more dance than dance theatre. Though each show was unique, together over a short timescale they were an unforgettable intense experience.
Apparently, the visit to Chile was a happy one and it shows in the eclectic musical collage complied by her regular collaborators Matthias Burkert and Andreas Eisenschneider—the list is long, from lyrical torch songs to string quartets, jazz and heavy drum and bass, a cinematic soundscape for love stories in all their throbbing permutations.
But to see it stand alone some three years later, the impact is not the same. Familiar faces and favourite personalities are missing. The next generation is coming to the fore: Dominique Mercy is dancing with his daughter Thusnelda. No one escapes the passing of time. …como el musguito… the last work Pina Bausch created opened in Wuppertal in June 2009; eighteen days later Pina was dead, tragically only becoming aware that she was not immortal five days before passing into legend.
Her long serving troupe of dancers was naturally devastated, but decided to carry on and not preserve her legacy in aspic. Changes have been made, new faces are appearing, and for the first time in the company’s history a new artistic director from outside the company - Adolphe Binder, currently artistic director of the dance company at the Gothenburg Opera in Sweden - will be taking over from Lutz Förster in May 2017.
Merce Cunningham’s Company (coincidentally Cunningham died four days before Pina) disbanded on his death; choreographer Mats Ek announced last month “that he will be withdrawing the rights to perform his works from companies across the world.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch continues to nurture its inheritance. Is it in danger of being diluted? New choreography is being mooted. At the moment love for Pina endures: even her weakest works—and one reads she was very tired creating this one; we now know why—still have much to say. Like a cigarette’s smoky traces that she loved so much, her memory lingers on.
Reviewer: Vera Liber