Flash Review, 6-3: The wages of fear: Not so silent screaming with Wuppertal in Bausch ‘Auf Dem Gebirge…’  

pinanewPhoto of Tanztheater Wuppertal in Pina Bausch’s ‘Auf Dem Gebirge…’ copyright Jochen Viehoff and courtesy Theatre de la Ville. 

(Click here to access the original French version of this story.)

PARIS – Tanztheater Wuppertal changed its register for its second pass
at Paris this season with “Auf dem Gebirge hat Man Ein Geschrei
Gehort” (Someone screams on top of a mountain), seen May 20 at the
Theatre du Chatelet, where it was co-presented by the Theatre de la
Ville.

This 1984 work is certainly one of the most somber in Pina Bausch’s
repertoire. From the outset, the piece has barely begun when a black stage
entirely covered with dirt is scoured by the dancers, who begin by
scurrying frenetically on the stage and in the orchestra as if
injected with fear. This beginning provides the tone for what
follows….

As is usual for Pina Bausch, the stage is rather discombobulating and
chaotic. Michael Strecker, for example, incarnates from his position
in the middle of the dancers a deranged man dressed only in his
underwear and a bathing cap, getting his jollies by blowing up
balloons and popping them. This personage is at the same time
disturbing and absurd. This time out, however, the absurdity so
central to Pina Bausch is not so hilarious as in other works. The
atmosphere is more stressed out, more profound, and less
light-hearted. Repetitive passages become heavy and extenuating –
extenuating in the literal sense of the term, as when
a dancer undertakes a long and rapid race and ends up by collapsing,
emptied out.

In this piece, Pina explores fear. Fear in all its forms: fear of
the other, of the world, and of oneself. Fear of the other is mounted
with a series of extremely explicit passages in which bodies jostle
and lacerate each other. The dance here is comprised of falls in the
midst of an artificial fog, but also of severely violent inter-body
contact. A group attempts to force Fernando Suels Mendoza and Breanna
O’Mara to embrace each other; the fight is rugged and aggressive, and
the bodies end up covered in dirt. This violence is reinforced by
dramatic music, from a variety of composers.

At the same time, this hyped-up savagery which blows one away has a certain aesthetic value and verisimilitude: the bodies filling the space and the rapidity of the movement seem almost poetic. As is often the case chez Pina, the choreographic writing still manages to make the audience smile with more droll moments. Jean-Laurent Sasportes, dressed in drag, tries to imitate a perfect gentleman. Franko Schmidt strips to his underwear to perform a morsel on the piano. Surprise is also au rendez-vous: An orchestra entirely made up of seniors installs itself in the soggy dirt and wades through the mud to play a bit of music in the middle of the work.

The emotions which transport us in ‘Auf dem….’ are difficult to
clearly define. For me, Pina Bausch succeeds in disturbing and
perturbing her audience in a series of abstract and discontinuous
movements. It works because of the movements and because the dancers’
bodies inscribe us in the same spirit as them by the end of the piece.
Her vision of fear knows little bounds; she addresses the dread of
being alone with Ditta Miranda Jasjfi, who remains isolated, standing,
and sad at center stage for the entire intermission. But she also
addresses the quotidian fear of violence which rends the world:
aggression, rape, death…. And the relationship between men and women
is completely shaken up, with sensuality and amorous warmth replaced by brutality. Contact between men and women is forced, with looking at each other in the eyes avoided… The clasping together is little more than blows, slaps, and jostling. The choreographic language and the destabilization portrayed by Pina Bausch seem to reflect at the most microscopic level the difficulty in human
relations.

At the curtain call, the emotions are palpable on the visages of the
dancers, who have swept spectators along with them on their troubled
voyage.

–Anne-Charlotte Schoepfer
(Translated from the original French by Paul Ben-Itzak, with the author)

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