Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal, Playhouse, Edinburgh

Zoë Anderson
Friday 03 September 2010 00:00

The choreographer Pina Bausch made her name with darker works, taking a confessional look at frantic needs. Later in life, she lightened up. In Agua, her 2001 celebration of Brazil, Bausch luxuriates in images of palm trees, twinkling fairy lights, days and nights at the beach. Her characters still have issues, but they're having a much better time.

Her company dance to Brazilian music, with pop songs and crooning. The women wear flowing evening dress, with flowered gauzy fabrics or billowing satin. Behind them, Peter Pabst's huge white screen shows footage of trees in the wind, of a rainforest, of celebrations and swimming. When the screen lifts, it reveals a lurking stage jungle, a wild tangle of artificial leaves.

The women dominate Agua. Charismatic, bossy and sometimes neurotic, they're as bright as their extravagant dresses. The neutrally dressed men are much more anonymous.

There's some padding, particularly in the mooching solo dances, but Agua lifts whenever the characters start interacting with each other, or chatting to the audience.

Bausch, the biggest dance name at this year's Edinburgh International Festival, died last year. Her company's performances are vividly true to the style she created. They're driven, sometimes needy, unnervingly frank. Bausch sends them through playful, lyrical imagery.

In the last scene, the dancers splash each other with water bottles, getting wetter and wetter as they rig up hosepipes. An adult figure sternly tells them off, ordering them offstage in angry gestures. The minute he turns away, they scamper back to do it again, gleeful and giggly. Hypnotically, the screen behind them shows the torrent of a huge waterfall. As the dancers splash, a golden pattern starts to shimmer on screen. It's reflected light from the onstage water, dappled by the shadows of dancing feet.

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