|Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch - Viktor & Nur Du, Seven magazine review|
|Life & Entertainment - Performing Arts|
|Written by news desk - telegraph.co.uk|
The first offerings of the World Cities season, celebrating the choreographer Pina Bausch, are rather hit and miss
Viktor, at Sadler’s Wells: Rating * * *
Nur Du, at Barbican: Rating * * *
Sprechen sie Bausch? This term’s lessons are heavily oversubscribed, and her Tanztheater Wuppertal company’s five-week London run (a 2012 Cultural Olympiad highlight) has been pretty much sold out since booking opened last spring.
Pina Bausch, who died suddenly in 2009 aged 68, blurred the boundaries between theatre, opera and dance and had an immeasurable influence on all three disciplines. She wasn’t the first post-war dancemaker to rail against the tyranny of Technique (“bravura is a lollipop”) but, unlike such modern dance miserabilists as Yvonne Rainer, Bausch retained an almost Vaudevillian sense of theatre and – still more crucially – a sense of humour.
Her mission in her World Cities series was to explore the soul of a place and its people, yet, although her purpose was earnest, she provided ever-increasing amounts of deadpan, absurdist comedy to sustain her audience during the journey.
What Bausch didn’t have was an edit function. The Rome-inspired Viktor, which opened the season, lasts an outrageous 200 minutes. Nur Du (Los Angeles) is every inch as long. The faithful are undeterred by these episodic – sorry, “non-linear” – marathons, but one suspects that their own perseverance (and a smug sense of righteous discernment) is a factor in the automatic standing ovation.
Most of us would be happier if Bausch’s heirs considered trimming her baggy epics down to 90 minutes of highlights. What a pity they didn’t schedule a week of her matchless Rite of Spring rather than concentrating exclusively on these ramshackle travelogues.
The Cities collection began in 1986 with Viktor and continued for more than two decades. Once the co-funding was in place, Bausch and a group of dancers would spend a week (or three) gathering material before returning to the studio to thrash out a tanztheater collage of memories and impressions.
Nur Du takes a mildly rose-tinted look at California and its abiding concerns: cosmetic surgery, Hollywood, cheap sex, celebrity. The result is performed on a magnificent Peter Pabst set, forested with giant redwoods and accompanied by an easy-listening soundtrack of mid-century popular song (by the likes of Duke Ellington). The familiar, war-baby styling of lounge-suited men and tea-gowned lovelies is similarly emollient – would Bausch be half as beguiling in stretchwear?
Nur Du’s material is thin and repetitive in places but, unlike Viktor, is fortified with some very satisfying pure dance moments. Even the step-twirl show dance send-up was done with panache and the many male solos with their throwaway pirouettes and frisking jumps remind us how able and expressive the Wuppertal dancers are.
Finally, Dominique Mercy, 61, gave us his take on the male solo: an exhausted figure raging against his own mortality. He neatly turned this postcard from California into a revealing snapshot of the human condition.