Flash Review, 10-11: 40+ = Less is More Old Masters Bring New Life to Bausch

By and copyright Paul Ben-Itzak

(Originally published June 6, 2007. Most of the veteran performers cited below are still dancing with Tanztheater Wuppertal today.)

PARIS — The challenge for performer-interpreters of Pina Bausch is that much of the drama emanates from the unsaid — and even the undanced. To understand the power of understatement (yes, there’s plenty of overstatement too), to know how to convey archetypal neuroses while trying to suppress them, to be able to render experience visible with the invisible, you need to have lived. Or at least be surrounded by ‘elders’ who can impart the perspective of this experience. In addition to a sense that she’s hit a choreographic dry spell, the problem with the last three works of Pina Bausch has been that a choreographer who depends a lot on interpretation — actor/dancers giving weighted meaning to often trite verbal or physical meanderings with their ability at subtle projection, or even just the gravitus of their presence — has had to rely on a company, Tanztheater Wuppertal, which seems to have de-aged by at least a generation. (Unless I’m degenerating into Modern Dance’s answer to the seasoned balletomane who complains, “That was okay, but you should have seen Karsavina.”) So moments which depend on wry inflection for their comedic impact have instead often been delivered with neutral aridness. What a joy, then, that for the reprisal of her 1980 “Bandonéon” which opened Wuppertal’s annual Paris season last night at the Theatre de la Ville – Sarah Bernhardt, Bausch has stocked the pond with several veterans who, in the quality of their performances and in elevating the performances of the youngsters, remind us of the ionized impact of the most influential and relevant choreographer of the past three decades.

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