PARIS, 6 August
2004 - "That's me in the
hammam!" shouts the bare-chested dancer, a large white towel wrapped around his
midriff. Soapsuds drift in the air. A shapely oriental woman, draped in stuff
of crimson approaches him, while the other women of the Tanztheater Wuppertal
stand drying their hair, swinging it round, combing it out and slapping it
round in the air. No long, lank and drooping locks here, but shining manes
given choreography all of their own. Two bright-eyed girls sit at the front of
the stage eating sweetmeats, honey drooling down their fingers, chins and
Thus begins the first of a series of tableaux which compose Pina
Bausch's extraordinary new work, which transports us to Istanbul, city of
water, which the German choreographer discovered and adored in the summer of
2002. Gone are her graceless down-trodden women, and scenario where the
heroines are Anger, Anguish and Despair .Gone too is the stifling psychological
tension and meaningless violence in a world with no future which has tainted
much of her work in the past.
Nefés by Pina Bausch
Nefés is a chef-d'oeuvre, where
heart-ache there is, but alongside humour, hope and happiness. Above all,
Bausch, who for the last ten years has been more concerned with ideas and
feelings of frustration and emptiness, has allowed pure movement and the beauty
of choreographic invention to colour her work. Not only is this Turkish
inspired work a masterpiece of theatricality, where the stage covered in water
becomes the Bosphoros before disappearing in front of our eyes, it is also a
magnificent vehicle for the twenty dancers of the company. Solos and pas de
deux, each more gripping than the one before, follow one after the other as
each member of the company takes the front of the stage.
We know that sooner or later, a gigantic catastrophe
will come; Istanbul is built on an earthquake line. There is the growing menace
of the war in Iraq. And yet, maybe in spite of that Joy is there.
Tanztheater Wuppertal in Nefés by
Photo: Laurent Philippe
At a press conference a few days before the
performance, the choreographer spoke warmly of her attachment to the Turkish
people, where the women were so beautiful and so strong. "Even my taxi driver
told me all about his family, his school, the city, and the best places to go.
The people there share their world with you", she said. "All the people who
worked in the theatre with us became part of our family. Everyone was open,
trusting, kind and helpful. I need to meet people and make friends, and when
all the dancers there brought photographs of their families to show me, and the
public did the same, it was a very special time."
Bausch has given back some of the beauty she received and in doing so she has
created one of her finest works yet.
Pain is present, in the solitary
man who expresses his grief, but is later surrounded by first one, then two,
then eight smiling women at the end of his solo. A sense of fun prevails. In a
pas de deux, where the brutality and excessive cruelty one has come to
associate with Bausch is totally absent, the man and the woman touch and never
lose contact and in a second pas de deux of even greater beauty, the dancers
look at each other, never losing eye contact, searching for approval. The men
lift the women, admire and protect them in a more classical representation of
Nefés by Pina Bausch
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to
The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus
documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for
Rain starts falling, and more dancers arrive,
swaying under the falling drops, while yet others appear, stomping joyously in
the pool. A slender girl in a blue satin dress dances alone to the sound of a
guitar, and more arrive, twisting, shuddering, shivering; each dancer tossing
her mop of hair, blonde, dark, curling or straight, but moving and glossy, with
a life of its own.
The women, with the lion's share of the
choreography, dazzle and shine in their ravishing dresses; Bausch has allowed
them to be beautiful. Guesting with the troupe, Indian dancer Shantala
Shivalingappa, delicate and sensual stunned in a breathtaking solo, with her
expressive face, butterfly movements, and undulating grace. The climax, of
outstanding beauty, came at the end of the work, with the whole company coming
on stage, one at a time, kneeling, turning and swirling, with their arms
encircling the air. They resembled a Greek frieze.
The music throughout,
always at the service of the choreography, was a clever mix of traditional
Turkish tunes, classical guitar music, tangos from Astor Piazzolla, and songs
of Tom Waitts, put together by Matthias Burkert and Andreas Eisenschneider with
the collaboration of the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble. Not least were the amazing
lighting effects of Peter Pabst, who, in addition to creating the illusion of
the Bosphorus, enthralled the audience with each successive tableaux.
The entire work was a brilliant mixture of café theatre, humour, and
inventive choreography. "I'm smiling without any reason; try it, it's not easy
", commented a dancer." But no one could try, for Bausch had given her audience
too many reasons to rejoice.