Among names such as Graham and Cunningham, Pina Bausch’s name is sure to follow with her revolutionary choreography that has changed contemporary dance as we know it. It was this very reason that I approached the evening with high expectations and great excitement to see the new work her company has created since her passing nine years ago. The Tanztheater Wuppertal have enlisted the help of renowned choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou, most recognisable for his work in the 2008 Athens opening Olympic Ceremony. New Piece 1/Since She exceeds all of my prejudgment and thoroughly shocks me for the full 90 minutes. I have never seen such outrageous and deeply creative moments on stage until now.
If you come to Sadler’s Wells expecting to see beautiful dancers creating stunning lines and nice contemporary dance, you will be be disappointed. In fact Papaioannou’s Since She has very little dance at all. Instead, you are in for an evening of a sheer exquisite spectacle that defies all realms of what we might expect to see on stage.
Papaioannou’s imagination is admirable, and he captures a deeply dreamlike experience that at times almost replicates a nightmare. He completely captures a surrealist performance, that truly feels as though we are watching the characters of our unconscious mind come out to play. No-one is merely a dancer in this piece, instead they are an object that can be manipulated into another prop, a prop that will probably be stepped on and dragged across the stage.
Nudity also plays a big part in this new work, and Papaioannou evocatively pushes the boundaries of what this London audience are used to seeing. But while it’s startling and invigorating to watch these supposed ‘lines’ being crossed, it is simultaneously accepted and appreciated by a keen audience. The piece also achieves fantastic moments of humour and wit. This is accomplished by astonishing moments of extravaganza followed by sudden deliberate failings that have the audience chortling, as well as crude moments that are well acted by the dancers in their constant portrayal of the mad world we have entered.
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch is made up of a mixture of mature dancers who worked with Bausch herself, and younger performers who have joined the company more recently. However, all perform with a faultless vigour, and it is impossible to distinguish the younger members from the older, as they all gel together to resemble a company that has been formed for decades.
The pace of the piece dramatically changes throughout, from static moments of a man balancing on an upside down chair, to suddenly everyone moving and being thrown around on stage. It’s quite a rollercoaster of an evening! The piece begins with the infamous team building exercise of getting across a room using chairs, the only rule being no team member is allowed to touch the floor. The chairs remain a theme throughout, finally ending with a man stacking 12 chairs on his back before promptly collapsing. The set by Tina Tzoka goes to extreme lengths to create a visual phenomenon, which truly adds to the theatricality of the whole evening.
Since She is ridden with symbols of Adam and Eve, but is another piece of theatre from which we may leave with a completely different interpretation that that of our peer. I delighted in this interpretative style, and while I’m sure Papaioannou has his own ‘proper’ meaning, I enjoy the debate of what it all really meant for hours after the show has actually ended.
Overall, I believe Pina Bausch’s company have yet again created groundbreaking work with the help of the tremendously talented Dimitris Papaioannou. I would like to think Bausch would be extremely proud to have her name attached to such a thrilling new work. However, I appreciate that this piece is not for a ‘normal’ dance audience, as it covers physical theatre more than contemporary dance, and could almost be too abstract for some. Either way, you will be in for a circus-like experience from start to finish.
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: New Piece I / Since played until 17 February. For more information and tickets, visit the Sadler’s Wells website.