Monday, January 21, 2013

"Le Sacre du Printemps"...Pina Bausch

For people who visit SERVINGCHOREO regularly, a common theme of "variety" is apparent. I believe that hip hop choreographers and dancers need to open their minds and expose themselves to the world of movement that exists outside the video and commercial mentality. Instead of "diluting" your quality, this process of cross-polination will actually make your hip hop journey resonate more fully with authenticity and artistry. I also believe that it is important for street choreographers and dancers to be given respect and academic inquiry. This is also an integral aspect to the SERVINGCHOREO mission. To this end, today we look at Pina Bausch. Although, this master choreographer passed away last year, her work is still dynamic and alive. Exploding from the intersection of classical theater and modern dance, her work pulses with a visceral drive and is a perfect mirror of human experience. Her work lives in a suspended state of dance-theater, where it is just as much about the dance technique as it is about internal motivation and story. When you watch this clip, you will feel as though you are watching something as dramatic as Downton Abbey or Walking Dead, and yet all the relationships are expressed through impeccable dancing. And who doesn't love a good thriller movie? You will notice that once you start watching, you will get sucked in, and before you know it, the video will abruptly end...something akin to the suspenseful cliffhanger ending to your favorite weekly episodic TV program.

MUSICALITY: When Stravinsky wrote the score for "Rite of Spring" audiences were outraged, as it did not conform to the musical structures and habits of that time. However, the strident and discordant timbre of his orchestral vision correlates perfectly to the anxious tension that circulates through this piece. Pina understands this uneasiness and plays it to maximum effect. Watch the disturbed crescendo at (1:34-1:40) as the dancer raises her arms and the ensemble melts into the dirt. Again, at (2:55-3:12) the music and movement simultaneously build in chaotic intensity until the abrupt halt, when all the dancers shift their focus to the red silk. I love how the most powerful musical moment (3:45-3:56) is matched by the unison force of the group moving together as one. In a strange allusion, I am reminded of Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" video, where the group makes a similarly unified statement of strength and solidarity.

DANCER SYNC: It goes without saying that Pina's choreographic choices are always unique and surprising. However, they are never created from a place of gimmickry or populism. When Pina made her shows, she would spend countless hours with her dancers, researching the internal motivation and psychological impetus for the "moves." It was never sufficient for her to include a step, simply because "it looked good" or was "a catchy trick." Every moment needed to be justified with the question "why?" Why are they whipping their hair to the sky? Why are they covering their faces? Why are they kicking to the side with a bent leg? All these questions have already been answered internally by Pina and her company. It is left to the audience to cypher the solution to her mysterious quandary, by using their intuition and sensory receptors.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: The narrative arc for Pina's material is marvelously balanced. She clearly demonstrates her ability to hook the audience and keep them wanting more by gradually turning up the heat and raising the stakes. First, she introduces the idea of purity versus rubbish, higher calling a banal tendencies. Suddenly, at 5:05 the masculine energy invades the picture and ups the ante considerably. I encourage you to watch the concluding second half of this piece and observe how the drama unfolds. Everyone will watch this work and interpret it differently, and yet, no one can see these bodies in motion and not recognize some aspect of human nature.

KUDOS to Pina for translating the experience of life into a visual, tactile masterpiece of motion.

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