Tuesday, 21 February 2012


How does your embodiment feel now? Timid, shallow, unexplored. After viewing this film with held breath, wrestling moment by moment against a dancerly urge to slide across the floor and soar through the screen, I was exhausted. My soul barely knows my limbs: in this film deep calls to feet, as if my neglected extremities, rallied from a forgotten awareness of their true purpose, sang together down the well of my self-consciousness to a soul aclustered too near its own centre, huddled awkwardly below in a propriety of its own making. Dancing generation, please stand up.

Man dwells balletically. He does. When your comportment and composure find that effortless grace and complete thoroughness, when all of your senses are alive, when you cannot but glide and alight, when you can find allusion in steps and metaphor in seats and a landscape of perpetual suggestion in the shape of touch, when with a clarity of delight you are able to redeem every mundane action and motion with an expression of the privilege of being so singularly now, then you have begun to dwell.

This film will not be reduced, conveyed or improved in any way by words, least of all mine. I saw Pina on a screen of regular proportions in only two dimensions, I can only guess at the mixed blessing stereoscopy would offer here. I would however implore you to see this film, and on the largest, most full-bodied screen that makes itself available.

I met the late Pina Bausch in this film through her dance, introduced to her in her pain, her struggle and her loneliness which she manifestly poured into her gorgeous work. It is her anguish which animates so many of the pieces and perhaps the crux of the film is expressed in her question: “What are we longing for? Where does all this yearning come from?” along with the film's subtitle, “dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.” Her company dances desperately, for dear life, against the dying of this light, and their urgency and utter abandon show in what they dance against and what they dance towards.

Against contemporary dance's spartan stage sets familiar angers are played out in vital and riveting ways: scorning the shame of the suits, yearning for the earth, raging against beauty contests and wilfully ploughing disruption through the empty chairs and empty tables our fathers left behind.

And towards an intimate picture of the company, one gets a sense of their brotherhood in their clinging to, leaping and being caught by, falling and being caught by, and diving into one another. These summon a longing in this viewer to be held so, to trust and be trusted so, to be borne up on wings.

As in Man on Wire, we have an intensely gifted performer combined with a heist of talented teamwork to produce a spectacle to showcase the singular vision of that charismatic individual. As in Jesus of Montreal, we have an examination of the process by a sect of devoted bohemians towards the saving cause of Art pour l'Art. By comparison to these, this film's key weakness is in the needlessly sentimental mute talking heads and the resistance to offering any humanising flaw in their portrait of Bausch, in the way Petit is shown to be an imperfect, yet real, hero in Man on Wire.

There is a joy in colour here, so occasional and so intense. The battle for the red dress in the first piece is a reverence for the irreducible which reflects the whole practice of choreography at one level. Seeking that gift, and thrusting the gifted into the light. Complicated. And the gold dress in the city wind, oh to be so lusciously enswathed.

Finally, the landscape. The hanging monorail is the most dancerly mode of public transport imaginable. Exquisite. The scenes outdoors are profound and would accompany Manufactured Landscapes well, Wenders doing far more subtly what Burtynsky attempts in his photography. We swoop organically amongst the tracks and cogs of factory spaces, complimenting and protesting them in the same deft action. And whirling in the dust atop the strip mine, precipitously allusive. Amazing.

In all, we dance in search of an unknown God. Pina should convict any who pretend to claim that it is “in Him we move.” Acts 17v28.


1 comment:

Michelle J. Gallagher said...

Philip Jackson, you are a treasure. :D