My First Pina Bausch Experience, Dance On Camera, and Writing (Slightly) Negative Reviews

(image linked from here)

Just quickly before I go out to meet Ariel (who’s now living in NY :D), here’s my review of “Rhythm of Love” on Explore Dance. Basically the same as what I said here on my blog, but more critical. I sometimes feel badly being critical (especially when reviewing ‘small people’ — biggies like Christopher Wheeldon and Jerome Bel can handle it), but I tried to be constructive and respectful.

Also, for people in New York, the Dance On Camera Festival is currently underway at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center. A lot of the films are experimental, and most programs have a combination of shorts with small documentaries. On opening night I saw Program 2, which included, most excitingly for me, a 45-minute documentary about (in)famous (depending on your perspective) German choreographer Pina Bausch. This was my first Bausch experience and I definitely can see what people both love and hate about her. Funny because, according to the critics, she doesn’t seem to talk much about her work, so to big Bausch fans the fact that she was actually talking was the draw. To me, though, I wanted her to shut up so I could see more of the excerpts of her work the film provided! In one excerpted piece, women wearing very flimsy nightgowns were violently thrasing their bodies about from the waist down, their hair flying about wildly. It was both beautiful and disturbing. In another, one woman screamingly commanded another woman to smile, the woman being yelled at tried but her smile wasn’t big enough to please the first woman, so woman #1 violently dunked the second woman’s head into a bucket of water several times. You can hear the audience’s upset. In another excerpt, a man reaches down under a woman’s dress and lifts her up, seemingly by the crotch. In its awkwardness, it is both unsettling and comical. If you saw the film “Talk To Her” by Pedro Almodovar, her choreography is performed at the very beginning, but from what I saw on Wednesday, that seems to be a very watered-down version of her work.

Anyway, I am now dying to see her dance group (Tanztheater Wuppertal), if they ever make it to NY. Art had his first Bausch experience this year as well, live at UCLA, and he seems as smitten as I! Here’s dance writer Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s take on the Bausch doc and another short in Program 2, and here is a post on the same by Anna Brady Nuse (who is a dance filmmaker). For a good, detailed break-down of the whole festival, visit Anna’s blog post here.


  1. Hi Tonya,

    Talk to Her is definitely a watered down version of Bausch’s choreographic abilities. I saw Tanztheater Wuppertal in fall 2004 at BAM. It was a full-length piece (nearly 3 hours!) called “For the Children of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” (translated from German). It was one of the most memorable and beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen. I absolutely love Pina Bausch and cannot wait for her company’s return to NY. I think they usually perform at BAM when they’re here. They were at BAM in 2006 but I didn’t make it to any of their performances. Anyway, hopefully they’ll return soon!

  2. Hi Evan — Thanks for letting me know; I’ll definitely be on the lookout for her in the upcoming BAM calendars!

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