27th May 2011

After a hectic period of work, I finally had a chance to see the Wim Wender’s film PINA. Firstly, I should preface this review with the caveat that I L-O-V-E Pina Bausch, and no other choreographer (apart from Philippe Decoufle) holds a more special place in my heart. Secondly, I can’t really see 3D very well (lacking sufficient binocular vision), so I won’t comment much on it, other than to say that in this case I imagine it re-creates the visceral nature of live dance for the viewer.

Some would argue that a film of dance is inferior to the live experience. However, for a notoriously blind film fanatic such as myself, a dance film is often BETTER than the live event and in this case, doubly so. Shifting effortlessly between theatrical and real spaces, the film firmly locates each piece in the environment that inspired it, from cliff tops and rivers, to forests and fields, whilst bringing the viewer as close as possible to the action. Ultimately, a person is unlikely to get a more intimate view of the dancers, without wandering on stage and literally taking part.

PINA is basically a retrospective of Tanztheater Wuppertal’s greatest hits, from the soil rich Rite of Spring to the falling chairs of Cafe Mueller and Kontakthof’s wonderful signing conga line. Of course, this represents a small slice of the company’s work, with pieces such as Bluebeard and Nelken notably absent.

Set squarely within the tradition of German Expressionist Dance, Pina’s work is intense and often quite tragic, however the film also shows the lighter, ironic and often absurd side of her choreography. From the faux tap dancer being chased by a dog, to the woman on a train pretending to be a robot as a man in rabbit ears benignly looks on. For me, it is this push pull between emotional rawness and skeptical awareness that is a hallmark of Wuppertal Tanztheater’s work.

If you are already a Pina Bausch fan, this is a great opportunity to relive some old favourites from a wonderfully intimate vantage point. If you have never seen a Tanztheater Wuppertal piece before, think of the film as an excellent introduction and a handy set of cliff notes.