My return to Sadler’s Wells to see a piece by choreographer Pina Bausch was an occasion that felt both joyous and sad.
It seems a long while ago — 2009 — and yet! The piece she created just two weeks before her death from cancer was being shown: "como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…" (Like moss on a stone). This is one of the works she made as part of the World Cities series, inspired by Chile. I was a bit worried about dark tones, reflecting the political situation — and perhaps her own feelings. In her work, Bausch always tried to reflect on our search for love — the yearning and the pain — but never forgetting that society-embedded relationship. And of course I worried about the pain of her impending death being reflected in the piece. But I need not have worried.
The piece was a total surprise. There was lots of humour; a combination of bodies almost playing snakes and ladders with a jacket, and much beautiful long-flowing hair being swishing alluringly. It was almost jolly in parts. There was even gentle teasing of the audience – a dancer offering a coffee to the front row. Plus there was Tanztheater Wuppertal’s usual challenge to the rest of the dance world — the women dancing in beautiful long dresses and high heels, the company dancing in bare feet and street shoes.
This is dance as Gesamtkunstwerk (a work of art that is comprising music and speech as well as dance), as there never is a single narrative. Bausch embraced all of life in brilliant visual scenes — and stuns us with the beauty — but also makes us wonder about life’s cruelty. So we start contemplating those bits of narratives presented and relate them to our lives. Linda Bellisimma, the most charming Meat Market you have ever seen, then on a different philosophical plane, offers a piece reflecting on aging with the spoken conclusion: "I learn to enjoy the moment right now.” Maybe they aren’t so different?
One member of the audience heard saying at the end, “Aha, so it’s just like it is with ourselves at home: more of the same.” That seems to be the very essence of Bausch’s work — everyone can find a useful idea inside each piece. She was very aware of the fleeting moments that we all live in and our struggles to find beauty and peace.
So it was very touching to see that at the end of her life she seems to have experienced and transposed into this piece much light, laughter and fun, without, of course, denying the darkness.