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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Pina Bausch

Pina Bausch changed my understanding of dance forever. When I first clapped eyes on her choreography, I was a teenager who was sick of tendus and plies but didn't know how to get past the strictures of classicism, nor the abstractions of contemporary. Pina stripped back the pretensions of form and showed that dancers could be individuals; nuanced and real. That dancers need not be dancing lines in the air but characters that speak, fart or fall down onstage. Her work was poignant, dark, wicked and funny. It influences me to this day.

For all the impact that she had on me, I'd never seen her work live. That drought came to an end when I scored tickets to Kontakthof at the Barbican. The piece was to be performed by two casts; one group aged 65+ and the other, teenagers. I plumbed for the oldies because how often do you get to see a group of pensioners in a major dance work?


Kontakthof, trans. - a place to make contact, to meet, was simply that. A dancehall where a group of people had assembled to play out all the games we humans play with each other. Taking my seat, I was afraid that up close, Pina's work would fall flat of my (sky-high) expectations.



I needn't have worried. The piece drew from me a range of responses. I laughed till I snorted. I wondered what the hell was going on. I wanted to know more about those people onstage. I felt uncomfortable by some of what I saw. I thought it was too long. I loved, loved, loved that the dancers were 65 and over. It gave me hope.

I walked out still a grateful fan and aware even more of her influence on my dance education.

RIP Pina. Thank you for the moves.

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