Perhaps I should have smoked a joint before this one. Alas, I exited this 3D experimental dance film clouded in sober confusion. What in hell was up with the hippo, and why did the lovely dancer in silk fondle him with such graceful abandon? She’s way out of his league, though he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s only plastic.
Pina is a gorgeous Fantasia-like pastiche of cavorting and interviews with the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch ensemble. Bausch, an influential choreographer in modern dance, died during production in 2009 and from the sound of things, could have been a scintillating cult leader. Dancers gaze off-screen in fawning interviews, their eyes twinkling with inscrutable knowing: Pina was something, she was, with her threadbare instructions and how she just got into your soul. It would have been nice if they had discussed the choreographies or the roots of contemporary dance (this reviewer knows little about it), but instead I was left with the feeling of awkwardly entertaining a gaggle of Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door.
Director Wim Wenders presents many of Bausch’s choreographies in cityscapes, a nice change from the cold and abstracted stage. The dances are brimming with emotion and you never know what’s coming next, but I will say this: something about abandoned scraps of cloth gets these performers really fired up. I wish I could say why the women insist on the granny panties, but someone should pass them some cheeseburgers before some unfortunate soul gets stabbed with a collarbone. (1)
Of course, the men do need to hurl them around unhampered. In one routine, man drops woman, woman springs up and grips him like a mutant leech until she is returned to his cradled arms. Drop, grip, cradle and repeat until the routine blurs with the movement. It’s an evocative representation of codependency, but the poor woman must get terribly bruised. Perhaps she should try spoiling herself at the spa, or start a book club.
The train choreography haunts me still. A dancer conjures The Grudge with black hair askew and bizarre guttural noises. It’s a portent of terrible things when someone enters public transit growling and stick-bug walks to their seat with a pillow, but the Zen-looking man with elf ears at the back looks undisturbed. Embrace raw emotion. Growl at it.
Another scrap of material turns up without warning and gets them all a-twitter again. The dancers prance about it like the Holy Grail.
I suppose the trouble with contemporary dance, to my inexperienced eyes, is that it so often looks like any fool could do it. It’s like the free verse of poetry, so easy that it becomes exponentially harder to do it well. I could fondle a hippo with the best of these dancers, and that just compromised the magic for me.
Worth $16.50 if you’re into dancing/flailing.
(footnote – 1) It is never polite to remark on a lady’s scant physique, unless mocking the bodies of strangers a half-globe away.
Pina is currently playing at the AMC 22 Forum.