Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal, Kontakthof

Review in Issue 15-1 | Spring 2003

Much is made of Pina Bausch’s use of ordinary older people in this revival of her 1978 classic Kontakthof. Is someone aged 65 who has trained intensively for 18 months less of a professional dancer than a 21 year old slumming her way through a BA in dance? Who knows. It is certainly unusual to see thirty performers on stage who are all over 65.

The piece deconstructs the world of the afternoon tea dance, and could be viewed as a dictionary or grammar of Bausch movement motifs: rows of chairs, performers one-by-one walk to the front of the stage in direct communication with the audience. First the stroking of the forearms, now the turning of the hands. Here are the lines of performers moving forward in waves, there is the flocking around the figure frozen in stillness or the ignored fallen body. Then there is the postmodern cut-and-paste, popular dance idioms stripped of their meaning and flung into a surreal confrontation between man and woman, and the sudden sections of spoken text accompanied by repeated gestures.

I know these moves well. I’ve seen them all and done them all. This is of course grossly unfair, as they are Pina Bausch’s moves which we have all pilfered so thoroughly over the past two decades. But I cannot avoid the feeling that I am watching a museum piece. I admire Bausch’s decision to re-work this piece. It is a masterpiece and I am glad I have now seen it performed live. But I really do prefer later work such as Masurca Fogo, in which Bausch discovered a pure joy and beauty that sings of a new modernism rather than the now outdated postmodernism of Kontakthof.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-1
p. 29