I was fortunate enough to see Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuperthal at the 1982 Adelaide Festival. Her work left an indelible mark on me, a young at the time, theatre worker and educator. The risk taking, breaking boundaries and edgy aesthetic has been something I have always aspired to include in my own creative endeavours.
Pina Bausch passed away 11 years ago but her creative expression is present in this double bill. She once said, “I’m not interested in how they move as in what moves them.” common ground(s) brings together the two very experienced, (both in their 70’s) dancers / choreographers, Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo with links to Pina Bausch. Airadou danced in Bausch’s original staging of Rite of Spring, while Acogny who is known as the mother of contemporary African dance, often talks about Bausch’s influence on her career as a dancer / choreographer. “Pina works with the human being, but she also works with the depths of humanity”, says Acogny.
This is a beautifully conceived, exploration of the soul of these two experienced dancers who managed to make the expansive Her Majesty’s stage decidedly intimate.
I was glad I stayed in my seat for the intermission to watch the very large stage crew bring on tonnes of black earth onto the stage. The military precision, and choreographed foot stomping brought a thunderous applause from those who stayed in their seats. I imagine the bump-out wouldn’t be as much fun.
The loose black earth gave a grounding to the work, that would have been perilously slippery underfoot, and it was this edginess that shaped the choreography. Stravinsky’s music when first performed in 1913, outraged audiences. Puccini thought it was the “work of a madman…sheer cacophony.” Yet it is this frantic energy, full of dissonance that excites modern audiences. The Ecole des Sables / Sadler’s Wells Company is anything but dissonant, though. This very large company of 38 dancers have a tight synchronicity and often work in an aesthetically pleasing unison.
There is a perfect balance between the often-cacophonous music and the dance. As Bausch once said, “the dance is the music, the dancers are the music. That’s the key.”
Rite of Spring is an extraordinary work, the dance is performed almost in one breath – for the audience and the dancers. In a word, this work is exhilarating.
The audience stood as one to give a rapturous standing ovation. They had witnessed a performance that will stay in their memories.
Adelaide Festival Review By Bob Becker