I will now begin to share with you some the different spectacles that we have enjoyed during our stay in Paris. I have been repeatedly asked: “And what will you do for three months in Paris?”, predicting long stretches of boredom once the Tour Eiffel and the Bateaux Mouche and the Moulin Rouge have been exhausted, the last room of the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay explored (is that even possible?!) and all those croissants devoured. To which I used to respond by turning the question into: “And what will I not do while in Paris?”
The only limitation is the girth of the purse. So we have not done all that is available, but have chosen, from the infinite offerings of a large, civilized city, what we thought was worth while, and we could afford. And could get tickets to…..because, in the middle of the financial crisis every spectacle seems to be sold out quickly and several months in advance. For instance two days ago we saw an advertisement for a Jacques Offenbach concert in the Royal Theater at Versailles. By the time it took us to go to FNAC, the official venue for all concert tickets in Paris, only three seats at Euros 130 ($190) each were left. Guess what? We did not buy them.
One of the attractions of a large, civilized city is that it offers more than you can ever encompass and gives you the freedom of not doing anything at all. Like a restaurant with a huge menu that you read with pleasure, but then decide to fast.
Now let me warn you that I am not an Arts critic, I am not qualified, nor specialized to express any kind of criticism on any art form. What you will read in these chronicles entitled “Spectacles”, will be my view of what I witnessed, my opinion and the thoughts that crossed my mind before, during and after the spectacle.
Let me get started with the most recent, the freshest in my mind:
She is a barbarian! she is a romantic! She is a barbarous romantic!
Pina Bausch-- Juilliard, Paul Taylor and José Limón trained--was essentially the offspring of German Expressionist dance master Kurt Jooss. She died suddenly, only five days after being diagnosed with cancer, in June 2009.
The Paris Cinemathèque organized an homage to her work as choreographer and dancer for the Tanztheater Wuppertal, on occasion of her troupe’s yearly appearance at the Theatre de la Ville at the Châtelet. Jerome Cassou had been filming performances of the Tanztheater for four years with a shoulder-held camera, and the Cinemathèque Française premièred a ninety minute extract from this work.
Mr. Cassou emphasized repeatedly in his pre-show remarks that all the rushes had been viewed and approved by Pina herself, as he was progressing in his work. At no time was the choreography modified to allow for the filmographer’s presence, and the camera had to find its space in the ensemble, maneuvering along with the dancers in the very dynamic scene. The camera took the place of a spectator, a very intrusive yet invisible participant.
Rolf Bausch, Pina’s son, introduced the film with a short notice, where he stated the cinema’s two-dimensionality as a shortcoming in properly representing such a tridimensional art form as ballet. The close-up, he said, compensates only partially for this handicap.
Like many of us I first encountered Pina Bausch’s work in Pedro Almodovar’s film Talk to her, which features two of her ballets, Café Müller as prologue, and Masurca Fogo as end piece. Both pieces deal with break-ins and break-outs, of women imprisoned, dealing with isolation, un-communication, physical and psychological barriers.
Ms. Bausch frequently uses popular music, jazz tunes, Afro-caribbean drum beats, flamenco percussion to move her dancers. The pieces chosen by Mr. Cassou are all very dynamic, swiftly paced flows of movements and emotions. Ms. Bausch emphasizes highly energized swirls, circles, gyrations, of hair, arms, fabric, and props like water, petals, sand, flowers that the camera, because of its cinematic visual retentiveness of the image, decomposes and amplifies. The dancers circle in and out on themselves, around and against each other, around the stage in frantic rushes, alone or in duos and trios and repetition progressively intensifies the emotion that carries the movement.
Clothing is used to emphasize gender: reminiscent of Martha Graham, women wear long, flowing gowns or dresses with wide, expansive skirts, while male dancers are often clad in suits, or elements of suits, ties hanging out of pockets, flying from belts, shirts untucked. The flowing drapes in the back-ground have little to do with Fellinesque wispiness, but billow with the gravitas of canvas or taffeta.
That male-female relationships are often marked and marred by violence is a recurring theme in her work. Women are pushed, pulled, restrained by male dancers using various means, even furniture. Men fight and grab each other as well as their partners in recurring circles of caleidoscopically interchangeable partnerships.
But not all is grandiloquence: in every work shown are passages of small gestures, tenuous caresses to each other and to oneself, a lingering touch, the arms surrounding the head and face, hair as protection and titillation, fingers extended in defiance or splayed in desperation.
Ms. Bausch emphasizes the essential sexual nature of male-female interactions, throwing bodies together in violent encounters and rending separations, glorifying the haphazardness of desire’s unconscious impulses. Emotions are expressed by having the dancers dredging the audience’s deep repertoire of links between sounds and movement, movement and sensation, feelings and sounds, perception and rhythm, as continuously implanted by our interaction, day in and day out, willing or unwilling, with media.
The Tanztheater is meant as an extension to our established notion of ballet: highly trained and athletic people executing a sequenced series of movements to music. The name, in German, can mean “danced Theater” and it begins with dancers and music. But whereas classical and modern ballet is more about pure movement and a quest for formal beauty, Pina Bausch wants to show us the things that we, the audience, feel and do not know how to express, to tell us, with highly trained and athletic people moving to music, that we are not alone, that others feel the same, and show us how they feel it. Her work is composing stories, but distilling them away from the distracting plot, leaving only the pure expression of the meaning of being human, the signs and gestures that we give each other to break, as Kafka says, the ice that binds our souls.
The Beginning of the End.
5 years ago