ImageIt turns out I hadn’t seen any of Pina Bausch’s work before I sat down to see Wim Wenders’ Pina today. For that I am both crushed and mortified. The very shortest thing I can say about it is, I know, this probably doesn’t seem like something you’d be interested in. I thought so, too, and I worked for a modern dance company for years. We’re both wrong. Go see it.

In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, Pina is a celluloid love letter from filmmaker Wim Wenders to choreographer Pina Bausch. Ms. Bausch participated in the creation of the film until her “unexpectedly fast” death in 2009.

I’m not certain I can form a proper essay about the film but I don’t want to leave it at the shortest thing I can say. I think both of those things might be OK for a powerful visual creation. I’ll lay out the things it made me think about.

3D – The film was shot in 3D. I had heard some buzz that people who were excited about the movie were disappointed at under-usage of the media. I disagree completely. In fact I think that what was misinterpreted as under-usage is actually such a seamless integration of the format that you don’t even realize what it’s doing for you. There’s a moment in the first dance we explore where suddenly a man is in close up. He’s not doing anything at the time but he’s right here in the room with us. In 2D it would be an entirely different, and much less powerful, experience.

Bodies – I love the variety of bodies in Bausch’s company. You’re not going to see a ton of people who are out of accepted weight ranges but there’s a nice variety of age and little left to the imagination. Poochy bellies and saggy breasts and crow’s feet and strange hair and beaten down feet abound. All the bodies are strong and beautiful and no one does anything to try to hide them.

Preserving dances – It’s harder than you might think. Film of dance is largely awful and doesn’t express the emotion of it. If you aren’t seeing the original dancers or a production overseen by the choreographer then you’re also probably losing a lot. That being said, this felt emotional and faithful though not complete and that seemed like the nicest tribute Wenders could possibly give.

ImageGerman contradiction – We see footage of Bausch describing reviving her role in a piece called Cafe Muller. Her character performs the entire thing with her eyes closed and she found she couldn’t reclaim the emotion of the role until she realized that, even behind closed lids, she needed to be looking down instead of straight ahead. “Details are important!” she declares. Those details, though, rather than stripping emotion build it to operatic levels.

Dance company cults – It’s not just dance companies. You can get a cultish feeling from a lot of close knit creative groups. Dance and theatre are a fertile ground because, as I mentioned above, it’s not a medium that is easily recorded for posterity, not in a fully encompassing way. People gather around a creator and stick with them for years for the opportunity to see that person in action, live action, as often as possible. One of the dancers described refusing to perform Cafe Muller without Bausch on stage as well because, “it’s the only way people can see her…dance.” I kind of miss that feeling.

Missing – I miss dancing and choreographing. Watching a master’s life work makes me feel like I wouldn’t know the first step to take back on that path but I miss it.

Have fun seeing Pina! I’m just going to assume you’ll take my advice.


One Response to “Bausched!”

  1. bethany Says:

    been planning on it, thanks for the insights! aiming for tuesday for sure.

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