To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnightreviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dancer-choreographer Penelope Freeh shares her perspective on Wednesday night’s Twin Cities premier of Pina. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
Slightly skeptical about the 3D, I have to say it had me at “Hello.” It did indeed enhance my viewing of Pina, Wim Wenders’ new film, a valentine to choreographer Pina Bausch and her astounding and heartbreaking group of performers.It’s easy to say we were taken inside the work. That’s mostly true, but there was more. The 3D added texture, like when a chiffon curtain practically touched my face and the red dress in Le sacre du printemps writhed in the dirt of its own accord. But while the 3D was definitely welcome, I think I can say that I didn’t need it. At least, that’s not why I wanted to see this film. Pina has a life, a life force, aside from any filmic treatment.
Wenders lets the dances speak for themselves, but an astute directorial eye is clearly at work. Like Pina herself directing her performers, there is a contained and contextualized freedom to the excerpts he chooses to highlight.
We were treated to many minutes of several dances. Le sacre du printemps exposed the company’s amazing ability to operate as a singular entity. A chorus of women in slips of slips danced repetitive violent gestures in incredibly close proximity. The shirtless men did likewise. Woman and Man are amplified. Bam! We are at the crux of her work.
The women mostly wear long dresses. They often wear high heels. Their hair (long) is usually down. The men often wear suits, are shod appropriately, or are shirtless and barefoot. Whatever the attire or combination of elements, they are distinctly men and women. They are not all costumed the same in the name of democracy. There is difference, it is unapologetic and it is leveraged. Occasionally, within this established context, there is a juxtaposing image, like a man in a romantic-length tutu, rendered all the more tragically awkward and displaced.
Pina is perhaps the most imagistic choreographer I’ve ever seen. The permission she gives herself as a presenter of images takes my breath away. Anything is fodder; everything is valid. Nothing is exempt, and I dare say the negative spaces get equal play and investigation. Some images, and I would stretch that to scenarios, are so sustained and worked over that I become exhausted.
There is much repetition and also duration. The two combined allow for us to feel as though we have been let in on something. We become part of some wild ritual that is at once elemental and contrived. But not so much contrived as discovered, unearthed, excavated. And within the duration there is economy, like haiku, like the dialogue at the end of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, like a dancer taking barre after 40 years of practice. Efficiency, again economy, repeated, again and again. I wonder how much boredom is a part of the process? Radical possibility must have its underbelly.
Well, with this film we get as close as we can. The performers generously open themselves on camera and on location, and by learning of their individual and collective experiences we are offered glimpses into Pina herself. For one who apparently seldom gave feedback, her message speaks loud and clear.
For more on the film, read Matt Levine and Jeremy Meckler’s essay, “Beyond Real: Wim Wenders and 3-D Film’s New Day.”