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Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch & Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch at BAM’s 2014 Next Wave Festival….

November 9, 2014
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo: Julieta Cevantes

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo: Julieta Cevantes

Marking the 30th anniversary of its American debut at BAM’s Next Wave Festival, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch returns to Brooklyn with Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch, created in 1978, the same year as Café Muller.

Kontakthof (which translates as “courtyard of contact) is set in a dance hall; the stage is encased by three walls with moldings, a curtained stage, plain black chairs, a few microphones stand by the walls and an upright piano is in a corner. Twenty-three men and women are seen seated as if waiting for something to start. The women are attired in 1950’s silk and satin cocktail/evening attire while the men wear dark suits complete with white shirts and ties. This dance hall feel is enhanced by the score for Kontakthof, which is a  compilation of popular songs from the 1930’s.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo: Julieta Cevantes

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo: Julieta Cevantes

Both the sets and the costumes were created by Ms. Bausch’s longtime collaborator, the late Rolf Borzik. Mr. Borzik met Pina while studying design at the Folkwang School in Essen. The same school that Pina had joined at age fourteen to study dance with Kurt Joss. Mr. Borzik worked with Pina from 1973 till his untimely death in 1980.

Kontakthof ranges from moments of serenity to moments that amount to pure chaos. At times the dancers are seen running around the stage screaming like lunatics. Russian dancer Andrey Berezin antagonizes poor Cristiana Morganti (who’s Italian) by chasing her around the stage with a mouse he has hiding in his pocket. One man seems innately attached to a blow-up doll that he continues to bring on and off the stage. All the while he continues to let the air out of the doll and then turns right around and begins to blow her up again.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s Cristiana Morganti & Aleš Čuček in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo: Julieta Cevantes

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s Cristiana Morganti & Aleš Čuček in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo: Julieta Cevantes

With parade ground precision the dancers walk together and preen before us like peacocks. They sooth back their hair; pick their teeth and circling their mouths with their fingers in a somewhat provocative manner and all with the most minimalist of gestures.

At one point they all pull chairs downstage and when seated everyone begins talking together. The company has always been international in its makeup, dancers hail from around the world, so it is a conglomerate of languages being spoken in unison.

Mr. Berezin, while holding a microphone, walks behind the dancers, stopping at each individually while they describe, in detail, their worst first date ever, well, that’s what I heard from those that spoke English…so I am assuming it was the same for those speaking in about half a dozen other languages.

One fellow who sounded Australian told of arriving a little early to his date’s house. When he walked through the front door and into the living room…to his astonishment it was filled with stuffed clowns, all in different kinds, shapes & sizes….there were white-faced clowns, hobo clowns, pierrots, marionettes, …he had to move four just sit on the sofa…he said he could feel them all watching him while he waited for his date to finish dressing. He had never been so uncomfortable in his life…

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo: Julieta Cevantes

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo: Julieta Cevantes

Spontaneously everyone starts merrily singing “My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean” but it would seem Australian Julie Shanahan’s bonny really was somewhere over the ocean. She begins to sob uncontrollable and in a broken tearful voice she continues to sing. Everyone else stops singing then begins to move away from her either in ridicule or embarrassment leaving her alone one the stage. It is a  haunting  moment as she continues to softly sing, her voice filled with lament. It was a heart-wrenching moment!

Spanish-born dancer, Nazareth Panadero stands completely still, staring straight ahead seemingly without any emotion. Men start to gather around her, smelling her hair, lifting the hem of her dress to feel her shapely thigh, prodding and inspecting as if buying meat at a butcher’s shop. Ms. Panadero is manhandled and not gently while being passed man to man.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s  Nazareth Panadero in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo Credit: Julieta Cevantes

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s Nazareth Panadero in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo Credit: Julieta Cevantes

This seems a reoccurring theme throughout Kontakthof as well most or perhaps all of Ms. Bausch’s work. She explores the human condition with a surgeon’s precision, the objectifying of women, the eternal battle of the sexes, courtships and it’s rituals, the ecstasy of love as well as it’s agony and feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Jorn Weisbrodt, Artistic Director for the Luminato Festival, has stated that Pina Bausch is probably the most important choreographer for the second half of the twentieth century; she invented a complete new genre, dance-theater, and incorporating theatrical elements such as dialogue and text into dance…

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo Credit: Julieta Cevantes

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Kontakthof: A piece by Pina Bausch. Photo Credit: Julieta Cevantes

Now there is this one tiny little thing that I thought could be approved on. Kontakthof is TWO HOURS & 50 MINUTES from start to finish with a twenty minute intermission one hour and 40 minutes in. Now I love me some Pina, always have, I even took class with the company a couple of times. I was hoping Pina would ask me to join, but alas it was not meant to be…but I digress…

Kontakthof is wonderful, just about an hour to long. All that screaming, running, dancers flirting and then rejecting each other, all the insight into the human condition, the statements of love, loss, abandonment, loneliness, the feelings of isolation, disappointment and unbridled joy….well, in my humble opinion it could have been down just as acutely at an hour and 50m minutes to two hours.

Over the 36 years in which Pina Bausch (1940—2009) shaped the work of Tanztheater Wuppertal, she created an oeuvre that casts an unerring gaze at reality, while simultaneously giving us the courage to be true to our own wishes and desires. Bausch was appointed director of dance for the Wuppertal theater in 1973. The form she developed in those early years was wholly unfamiliar. In her performances the players did not merely dance; they spoke, sang, laughed, and cried. Dance-theater evolved into a unique genre, inspiring choreographers across the globe.

Kontakthof:

A piece by Pina Bausch

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

Directed & Choreographed by Pina Bausch

Set & Costume Design by Rolf Borzik

Collaboration by Rolf Borzik, Marion Cito, & Hans Pop

Music by Charlie Chaplin, Anton Karas, Nino Rota, Jean Sibelius, & others

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