Agua, Playhouse, Edinburgh
Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
The remarkable and much missed Pina Bausch leaves a glorious legacy in her exuberant work
Sunday 05 September 2010
Pina Bausch's death last year shocked everybody, not least her company Tanztheater Wuppertal.
But she lives, through her company and work, where it's business as usual, touring round the world. (They come to London in October.) As evidence of life eternal, Agua, shown at the Edinburgh Playhouse, is perfect, not because it's vintage Bausch – it doesn't have the dense profundity of her best work – but because it has to be one of her most joyous pieces. The dark corners of the human experience, so often unflinchingly exposed by Bausch, have been banished. Instead Agua (2001), a Brazilian co-production, celebrates the pleasures of life, imbued with the spirit of Brazil: the music, the people, the nature. The opening cameo sets the tone: a woman enjoys an orange, accompanied by the slurps of her male companion and swaying palm fronds. She tells us that she woke up during the night with cramp, got up, looked out of the window, "And then I thought, thank God, I had a cramp!", because she saw a beautiful black sky full of stars.
The movement is often raw, almost wild, the women's long, whipping hair part of the choreography; but if you look closely you see that every inflection is actually carefully patterned. The performers dance with Peter Pabst video projections of Brazil's fauna and flora, the ever-present jungle, the flamingos, the men drumming in the streets –and, of course, the titular water. The camera pans over the massive Iguassu Falls, and sways with the seas and the forests and the live dancers, so that the whole stage feels like lurching motion.
The piece seems, misleadingly, to freewheel – yet Bausch always creates tight connections between sound, image and action. Although fewer, the characteristic games and sketches are still there to entertain and reveal human nature. Tall Julie Shanahan speaks agitated monologues; tiny Ditta Miranda Jasjfi , in an optical joke, suddenly looks even tinier; Christiana Morganti refuses to accept she's in any way attractive, despite her lovelorn admirer's unyielding assurances. There is the Brazilian Regina Advento with her pleasure principal: her comically sexual grande horizontale invitations, her beautiful electric dress, flashing like a mating ritual. And then there is the finale in which the company builds a humble homemade Iguassu Falls out of plastic tubing and sprayed water and makes us understand the fundamental humanity of all Bausch's work. She shows us our human community with its flaws and qualities; she portrays each of us trying (succeeding and failing) to face life together.
Alonzo King Lines Ballet from San Francisco has a handsome community of dancers on stage. They need real stamina to mould themselves into King's inventive shapes and innovative partnering leverages, because everything is elaborated at great length. In Dust and Light, the women interestingly combine contemporary body moves with point work. Echoing the title, the backdrop turns to shades of grey; rows of lights descend and ascend. And after 15 minutes of this you realise that the choreography and Corelli concertos (with snatches of Poulenc) could cling together into eternity without sparking any further resonance. Occasional emotions or situations are briefly hinted at, only to be rapidly dropped or contradicted.
This is music visualisation without any other dimension, beyond earnestness which has to be death to any art. The choreography for the second piece, Rasa, was more of the same, outclassed by the live Indian music of Zakir Hussain.
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