It’s difficult to describe creativity, but these dancers paying tribute to their mentor and teacher Pina Bausch are mesmerizing. They do their routines not only onstage but on a sidewalk, in a field, beside a fountain, in front of a playground, inside a moving train, in an alleyway, under power lines beside an industrial plant – in short, anywhere. Anywhere is a good place for fantastic artistry and expressive movement. When they have an orchestra, they move to the music; when they don’t, they move to the music inside of themselves. This is interpretive dance at its finest, challenging and “outside the box” but not so weird and atonal that it leaves behind a mainstream audience
Some of these incredible athletes have been on the same “team” for 20 years or more, which is a testament both to their perseverance and their affection for their heroine, Pina. We see her, sometimes just smoking and talking, sometimes demonstrating a flowing movement to a student, sometimes performing herself – but she remains somewhat of an enigma to the outsider, who can’t, of course, see the kind of mystical bond that has obviously formed between her and her adoring protégés. It’s rare, in the artistic world, for troupes to be together so intensely for so long. So we understand that this lithe German from Bremen could attract students from Spain, and France, and Japan, and literally all over the world. And they wouldn’t come just to sit at the feet of their guru – they would learn how to move their own feet.
The interviews with the dancers are done as very brief statements, with the audio dubbed over a sitting, silent, face shot. The effect is as if we feel their physical presence and energy while hearing their thoughts, yet they remain something of an enigma because of the disconnect between what we see and what we hear. It’s the kind of technique that would have made Pina proud.
Of course, “Pina” isn’t for everyone. But for all who are interested in the various expressions available just from sheer body movement, you’ll be enthralled.
Ronald P. Salfen is interim pastor of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.