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Nur Du (Only You) - Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch - World Cities 2012

Pina Bausch
Tanztheater Wuppertal
Barbican

Fabien Prioville in Nur Du Credit: Bettina Stöss
Aida Vainieri in Nur Du Credit: Ursula Kaufmann
Anna Wehsarg, Pablo Aran Gimeno, Regina Advento in Nur Du Credit: Bettina Stöss
Rainer Behr and Michael Strecker in Nur Du Credit: Bettina Stöss

The Pina Bausch decathlon continues in a lighter vein, but then we’re in LA California, the land of celluloid dreams, body beautiful obsessions, and can do. An upbeat cheerleader shows us the way—this gets spontaneous applause. Pick yourself up and dust yourself down. Never give up.

Created in co-production with the University of California in Los Angeles, the Arizona State University, the University of California in Berkley, the University of Texas in Austin, Darlene Neel Presentations, Rena Shagan Associates, Inc and The Music Center Inc ten years after the Roman Viktor fantasy, Nur Du (Only You) is just as long, just as kaleidoscopic, just a reliant on cinematic references, requires just as much stamina from the performers and audience, and also receives a standing ovation…

Already one wonders how the company will keep up the pace: two shows of each ten numbers which average three hours each with only a few days off in between...

Los Angeles with its wacky freewheeling style, its David Lynch reality, its peepshows, and treasure chest of films—‘when I take a shower I think of Hitchcock, but … I still take a shower”—is an easy place to lampoon.

A fey male hairdresser in bizarre silver fox fur bikini, high heels and earrings, compulsively restyles a row of women, a woman miaows like a cat as she licks a plastic container, and a man does a striptease behind a wheelie bin.

Familiar sassy Mae West style quotes pour forth from a Betty Davis figure (artistic director Dominique Mercy) in front of a film screen of him/herself: ‘I don’t act, I react’; I’ve been rich and poor… rich is better’; ‘when I was born I was so surprised I didn’t talk for a year and a half’; ‘I dress for women, undress for men’…

Davis, Crawford, Swanson, and Marilyn Monroe-esque blondes, monsters and stars colonise the stage. Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Milton Berle, and various composites, there is much material in LA to excavate, but how to weed it out before it runs riot… Run riot it does.

Blonde Julie Shanahan in slinky silk dress lies stretched across the undulating backs of suit-clad men, and trills ‘underneath these clothes I am completely naked’. Women lift their skirts, drop their knickers, show their tits, lounge lizard men design their perfect comatose blow-up dolls—balloon breasts, wig, lipstick—gift-wrapped women, painted, redrawn.

Venice Beach workouts, a man pummels a Charles Atlas in his abs, another makes rollerblades out of water bottles, a couple pose in bizarre beach outfits, and there is lots of water. Baths in huge plastic bags, a living fountain, and Moby Dick swims into view. No wonder one reads that there are 53 trucks (up from the figure previously quoted) to bring the props.

Sometimes one can’t see the wood for the trees: Peter Pabst’s giant Californian sequoias fill the stage, where people dance, shed their inhibitions, and multiple solitary men in motel rooms iron their shirts, shine their shoes. Women scream, men laugh hysterically.

Visual jokes, japes, and childish pranks, blink and you miss many of them. Multi-layered action confuses the eye: what is relevant, what is throwaway—like LA culture? A man walks by eating and reading; another walks behind catching his rejects in a bin. The recycling of cast-offs from a rich man’s table by the immigrant poor is the natural order in this land of opportunity.

A man burns a paper house in the middle of a dance hall where couples dance the tango. Burning his bridges back to his home in America’s backyard? A Lynchian creature in black wings climbs a tree, another shelters inside its chipped out scar.

So much content to filter through the eye and the brain, better just to submit to the stage pictures, the parody, and above all the music. When Pina lets go of the satire and allows individuals simply to dance to the irresistible music of love in all its bittersweet forms, one sighs with relief, a break from the onslaught. The final solo from Dominique Mercy tells its own heartfelt tale.

Pina’s merry-go-round scrapes the superficial and the shallow, but love is universal. The great music of the forties, fifties and sixties—not just American jazz, Ellington and Bechet, rhythm and blues, Lindy Hop, but also Latin American, Mexican and Brazilian, tangos and waltzes, Indian pipe music, and guitar—invites us to share our sorrows, nostalgia, hope and togetherness.

Only you… we know the heart’s music… and Pina’s performers show, tell, and tease out our common bond: "This Thing Called Love", "I’ve Got Bad News Baby And You’re the First to Know", "Every Time I Say Goodbye I Die a Little", "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", "Only You Can Make the World Seem Bright"…

Reviewer: Vera Liber