It is rare opportunity when the audience gets to participate directly with the performers on stage, but through the creative and visually stimulating craft of Pina, director Wim Wenders, gives the viewer a first hand experience to be a part of the act.
It’s a mind whirling experience to be so invasively close to the dancers and so removed from understanding the complexity of the story. To reach a sense of understanding is to simply allow the movement of muscles to speak for themselves. After all, Pina Bausch, the choreographer who Wenders created this tribute, dedicated her life and career to displaying the subconscious of the human through this medium of modern dance.
Bausch passed away at the age of 68 in 2009. She was still an avid neo-expressionist dancer well into her 60’s, directing at the Tanztheater Wuppertal she founded in 1973. The film takes place partially on this stage, partially in the middle of an urban city, and partially in nature, broken up by short excerpts of Pina’s past performances and statements from her dancers.
The Rite of Spring, Bausch’s 1975 piece that appears first in the film, is a tense stand off between the sexes on top of a soiled-covered stage. It quickly becomes apparent that Bausch incorporated a lot of the elements into her pieces as a way to depict the organic reactions of the body in its respective environment: sometimes fluid, sometimes awkward, but always reciprocated and never in isolation.
The pieces in Pina are fictitious: dancers move around a roomful of chairs with eyes closed, they dance in a river, on top of a boulder on stage, in a glass house, next to a hippopotamus. Yet, they are factual: bodies clasp on each other for dependency, facial expressions convey insanity, strength, and vulnerability. It is a constant dialectical exchange between real and surreal, incomprehensible and comprehensible. It is the imagination materialized through disciplined maneuverings.
Pina is beautiful. The settings, the dances, the stories within the dances, the music, it does what words often fail to do.