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“…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…”: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch at BAM’s 30th Next Wave Festival

November 14, 2012

Clementine Deluy in Pina Bausch’s “…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” Photo by Stephanie Berger

Pina, Bam and I have a lot of history. I sit here reflecting on the various performances of Pina Bausch I had seen in this theater. As in 1985 when Arien started 90 minutes late because of a water-heating snafu and my friend Nancy and I joked that this was the performance, people milling around and interacting in the lobby.

I thought of the fresh lawn smell created by the stage being covered in soil and grass for 1980Une piéce de Pina Bausch. I still chuckle about being served tea during 1980 and the look the dancer gave me when I refused to surrender my cup because I wasn’t finished with my tea. I mean why serve tea if you’re just going to turn around and take it away from me…how rude! (I was a bit obnoxious when I was younger I have to admit.)

Damiano Ottavio Bigi, Rainer Dahl & Morena Nascimento in Pina Bausch’s “…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” Photo: Stephanie Berger

I remember Pina seated in the last row of the orchestra and me standing behind her and our brief conversation during intermission. She had just performed in Café Muller and she was transcendent, becoming a thing of spirit instead of body on stage.

I heard that Pina use to laugh about a group of young dancers in NYC that would somehow sneak by the stage door security at BAM and then head backstage so we could get into the theater to watch the company perform, ever night for the week-long run. I was one of those dancers, and we simply walked by security, we were dancers after all; the poor guys must have assumed we were with the company. It was a simpler, safer world then.

So it was a bittersweet experience, being at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 30th Next Wave Festival to witness Pina Bausch’s final work. “…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” (Like moss on a stone), performed by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, which is now led by the artistic directors Dominique Mercy and Robert Sturm. The work had its world premiere just days before her death on June 30th, 2009. The piece, based on Bausch and her dancers’ experiences in Santiago, Chile, is the last in a series of works inspired by the company’s immersion in diverse locations around the globe between 1986 and 2009.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Company in Pina Bausch’s “…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” Photo: Stephanie Berger

“…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” is a work of thoughts suspended and rearranged that sometimes overlapped. Azusa Suyama is a woman unafraid, her long hair accents each swing of the body in such ways as that the hair becomes an extension of the line created in space. Ms. Suyama brings to mind the imagery of Isadora Duncan with her freedom of movement and expression.

Como el musguito is named after lyrics in the Chilean singer Violeta Parra’s “Volver a los 17” (“To Be 17 Again”). Ms. Parra’s haunting voice can be heard in the piece, but, there is also a repetitiveness of sound that stretches into surreal soundscapes of emotion.

Dominique Mercy has not aged a day, at 62 he moved across the stage in a solo that was a primer in artistry for any artist of any age. Mr. Mercy conveyed such pain and mystery with every step, every gesture, even in a simple look.

Dominique Mercy in Pina Bausch’s “…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” Photo: Stephanie Berger

“…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” is a movement centered work, Ms. Bausch uses the dancers bodies to convey her vision as opposed to theatrics such as in Café Muller or Vallmond. The only transformation or alteration of the setting is when the floor of the stage begins to show cracks as if from some tectonic shifting. It is a subtle transitioning of the space as if referencing the unpredictability of Chile’s earthquakes.

The women flowed about the stage, exquisite beauties in floor-length gowns designed by Marion Cito that leant a formality to the work. Clementine Deluy was breathtaking in a red gown, when she stepped on stage we gasped in admiration. Following her every movement she lent a calm stillness to the sometimes hectic antics occurring around her.

Fernando Suels Mendoza was the handsome cavalier, always courteous and found every woman more ravishing than the next. Each met with a compliment to her beauty and his assuredness that his heart belonged to her alone that is till the next woman crossed the stage.  He was the complimentary chauvinist, yes he objectified women but in an old-school way for he saw each women as a transcendent goddess, an example of perfection made real.

Anna Wehsarg & Rainer Behr in Pina Bausch’s “…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” Photo: Stephanie Berger

“…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” is a work of frantic thoughts and merged feelings made visual. The unifying thread running throughout the work is the objectivity of women created by their over sexualization in a patriarchal world. It is the message that women are both revered and chastised in the same breath, her place in society is suspended someplace between housewife and goddess.

The work is spliced together by complicated groupings the range between primal therapy and frantic sprees of intense emotional physicality. This is dispersed with solos of great eloquence that yield to longing and heartfelt sincerity. The solos are composed of sweeping arcs of the torso and head and for the women the hair is as integral as the limbs of the body, accentuating and heightening the sweeping movements.

Unfortunately “…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” does not have the weight or intensity of most of Ms. Bausch’s other works. It is an optimistic and sunny work but there is a depth of message missing. But still, it is a work worth seeing…..

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