wed 29/05/2024

Água, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Barbican Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Água, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Barbican Theatre

Água, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Barbican Theatre

Wuppertalian capers with a Brazilian twist don't amount to a masterpiece

Bausch's cast enjoy a watery moment towards the end of Água—but are the audience still with them? (Photo: Oliver Look)

It opens with a siren saying she’s got cramp. She’s glad she’s got cramp because she can stay outside and enjoy the sky. It closes with people blowing water at each other, glugged from plastic bottles. In between nothing happens.

Well, that’s not quite true. One woman strokes her beautiful brown legs with a brush. Another lies down and says - as, so often in Bausch, in irritating English - “Don’t pass the line” (actually it should be “cross”). Two men chuck a spear between them. The cast loll around in beach gear with cocktail languor. There are dozens of other moments of utter inconsequence. Lots of people speak, throughout, but it’s all childish. Lots of people also tumble and cavort, and lots of them do solos which some might call dance; others, versions of a shimmy you’ve worked out in your bedroom.

The Pina Bausch season at Sadler’s Wells and the Barbican, two shows short of the 10 programmed, is now at considerable risk of exposing the late German choreographer’s thematic inanity. Água isn’t a bad show. Any sequence of episodes featuring high-flying performers who’ve drunk in the Bausch elixir - do your own thing, self-express, dig into your traumas - is more or less guaranteed to entrance.

Doing so to bags of pretty Brazilian pop tunes is, moreover, surely a shoo-in. Água (“water” in Portuguese) was created 11 years ago with help from the Goethe-Institut in São Paulo. It visited Edinburgh in 2010. It addresses nothing that matters about Brazil - its inequalities, its intricate cultural self-examination, its sense of removal from the global mainstream - but Bausch was not a sociologist. Drumming and percussion, however, are plentiful; palm trees quiver on a backscreen projection, along with at one point, bizarrely, orangutans in a rain forest (apes native only to Asia, I thought).

Maybe it’s harsh to claim that Tanztheater Wuppertal’s most interesting posthumous challenge (Bausch died in 2009), to change, reduce, refine and shake up her over-long entertainments, is not being met by her successor artistic director, Dominique Mercy, now 61; but Água looks little different from its seven London-showcased predecessors. Sanctity surrounding this adventure (and the acolytes are legion) should be tempered - by those who worked for her, and why not? - by affectionate sabotage: a concept Bausch herself understood well.

If anything shines through here, it's Julie Shanahan's perfomance (pictured above): moments of burbling neurosis crossed with a dance passage of elegant, sensual invention. Shanahan's been a Bausch stalwart for a quarter-century and alone in this show seems to carry the Wuppertal spirit of comic misberalism. Many of her younger colleagues are tremendousy lithe, but then so are gymnasts limbering up for the Olympics. Água is great fun but, frankly, neither troubling nor troubled enough.

Água isn’t a bad show. Episodes featuring high-flying performers drunk on the Bausch elixir—do your own thing, self-express—are guaranteed to entrance


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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What a grumpy review. Agua is wonderfully joyful. It is a romantic view of Brazil and clearly isn't made as a social or political analysis. It got a rapturous reception tonight and served as a fun counterpoint to Bausch's darker, more melancholy work.

I don't know many of Bausch's works so I can only review the show as a stand alone piece. I am familiar with the motifs she's uses and I'm sure this flavour in her work will always be there to a greater or lesser degree. That was her choice. Therefore other than show-off what I know about the Bausch cannon, as our reviewer above has, and complain that it didn't 'do' enough, I am left comparing it to a lot of theatre and dance I do know; whether this is a masterpiece for Bausch or not, it still stands above the work of most artists around, and had a air to it that left me feeling enriched, not preached to. Yes, at times the break-away parts could be seen as interuptions of old habits, but as one of the characters said - 'Oh darling, I know we're in the jungle but I'm still a woman', reminding us that our humaness is an interuption to noble thought.

Even though Pina Bausch had already passed away, I will still be a fan of her works. For me, her works are all about self-expression. Someone should create a memorial page for her on Evertalk within Facebook.

There will never be anyone else like Pina Bausch. Thanks for the heads up on the Evertalk page Christina.

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