In Olympic year, Sadler’s Wells and the Barbican bring the world’s cities to London through the works of German choreographer, Pina Bausch. Ten pieces inspired by places as far afield as Hong Kong and São Paulo are being performed by Bausch’s company, Tanztheater Wuppertal, over the next month.
Opening the programme is Vicktor, Bausch’s first city co-production, made in 1986 and inspired by Italian capital, Rome. Two years before its creation, Bausch stated that she was less interested in how people move than in what moves them. The choreography here reflects that with little actual dance and instead many fragmented scenes displaying the variety of human experience and offering ‘postcards’ of the city. Bausch uses voice, movement, music, stories and humour to convey her ideas, often taking inspiration from her performers’ personal experiences.
The stage forms an enormous open grave, with steep rock-faced sides and a man continually shovelling gravel. We see an armless woman wearing a red dress and broad smile walking confidently onto stage. Suited men unroll large oriental rugs. A lifeless couple are married as a man manipulates their bodies to exchange rings and kiss. There are dogs being auctioned, sheep on leads, a woman who laughs outrageously every time fingers are clicked. A girl is fed water and spits it out to form a human fountain in which men wash. A woman in formal dress and heels skips about the stage, calling out her mother’s name and describing her first taste of butter. The wide assortment of scenes makes for a disorientating experience.
In danced sections, performers move weightily, throwing their heads and upper bodies in powerfully compelling choreography. But other parts of Vicktor seem absurd. The world that Bausch brings to life, of human pain, laughter and cynicism, that so many people clearly love, might not resonate for all.
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch World Cities 2012 is at Sadler’s Wells and the Barbican until 9 July. Returns only; call the Sadler’s Wells box office on 0844 412 4300.
Photo by Laszlo Szito.