A Moving Monument
Is it Dance
Is it Theatre
or is it LIFE
the trailer announces PINA (Dance, Dance, otherwise we are lost…), a film by Wim Wenders that just opened in Amsterdam.
The 3D film is a loving monument to choreographer/dancer Pina Bausch, who died suddenly and unexpectedly on June 30 2009. Here space, such an essential part of dance, is a character/actor, as is the camera, not registering the movements and emotions frontally, but amidst the dancers.
The result is a mesmerizing, totally tension-laden feature film. Full, rich fragments of Rite of Spring turn into moments filled with ominous suspense as heavy as any good cliffhangher scene in Hollywood movies.
In the sparse moments that Pina herself appears in person in the film, she speaks with utmost love of her dancers, a motley crew of well-trained, daring and above all extremely imaginative dancers. It becomes clear that Pina Bausch searched and collected shards of the collective unconscious in her dancers, who arrived in Wuppertal from all corners of the world. What they shared with her and us, the spectators, constitutes a gestural idiom from all nations, resulting in the creation of a universal language of longing.
I’m less interested in how people move
than in what moves them
she simply says.
Wim Wenders’ film zooms in on Café Muller and Kontakthof, both dating from 1978 and Vollmond, a newer piece created in 2006.
Thrilling sections tilt the dance out of the theater and rehearsal studio onto the streets, into industrial spaces and woodlands of Wuppertal. Its famous suspended monorail serves as a location and becomes a character in and of itself.
Wim Wenders gave the dancers the opportunity to give Pina a last message, much in the way she herself poked them with questions like: “What does it mean to you, love, joy, pride?” They are short glimpses into their souls and shed light on the process.
One of the dancers says: “For 22 years she watched me from behind that table. That’s more time than my parents ever watched me.” Another dancer relates how the only direction Pina ever gave her was “Keep searching.”
They were willing to go deep, her dancers, for her, for themselves, and for us. It is real, their exploration, never a coquettish play with ideas. At the beginning of the film, Pina Bausch says in voice over: “It is not about the words, it is about what it invokes, that’s where the beginning of dance is.” Signature movements with arms floating up and hands fluidly following each other like fish in a stream, are repeated over and over until something stirs. Not unlike Sanford Meisner instructed his actors to repeat the words UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENED. Pina’s eclectic choice of music is always a joyful surprise. She uses anything, from Dido and Aeneas, Edith Piaf, popular, traditional and folklore music. As long as it enables to evoke feelings and invoke what Germans call Sehnsucht (longing, yearning, desire, nostalgia). She dared, they, the dancers, dared in ongoing commitment and with an intensity that gives the chills, touching a universal chord.
Wim Wenders captured this with a deftness that defies any of the blockbuster movies made in 3D sofar, giving dance and art in motion a depth it has longed to match with the experience of live performance.
Be sure to watch Die Klage der Kaiserin (The Empress’ Laments, Pina Bausch’s personal moving snapshot album (filmed on video in 1990 and blown up to 35mm for distribution) and
Un Jour Pina m’a demandé, Chantal Akerman’s documentary in which she follows the company in rehearsal and on tour in 1983 – both available on You Tube