I first saw Pina Bausch’s Kontakthof in the early 1980s, and, thirty years later, sat in the midst of an excited audience, here I am again to see a restaging of her 2001 work Agua. Spanning completely the rear of the stage there’s luscious verdant green projections of palm tree fronds rippling in sultry breezes. A couple are joined by a lady in a pearly white dress; she talks in French, the couple are slurping something… an orange? Agua starts with a surprising amount of humour. With tangerine dresses and pinks and swirling, it’s a delirious, hot-blooded holiday fantasy of Brazil, a flirty and frivolous paradise. Just when we’ve become used to the all-encompassing and -embracing video projections, suddenly the screens slowly raise up to ominously reveal the jungle, lurking and encroaching all the time behind those screens! Just when we’re registered its presence, down come the screens again and the stage is awash with dresses and projections of tree-tops and pools of water, whilst dancers with food tray hats parade and flaunt.
There are quiet scenes, comedy moments and humour aplenty, and wild scenes of tumbling and turning women at the centre of a dynamic delirium of cartwheeling orange, red, lemon, scarlet, and petal pink dresses. In one scene colour bleaches out to a white solo in a white dress on a white stage with white light, where hair has as much movement as do limbs; in another a woman in a red dress dances against a projection of the sea; in a third, twenty people are on stage, bare-chested men in micro skirts and high, high platform shoes holding the hands of tiny women.
It’s a long show; I was in my seat for three hours. The first half was bitty, the second half more fluid. Yet Agua is a wonderful animated holiday album that we can sit back and luxuriate in. There is barely one harrowing moment. Some of the scenes feel repetitive or redundant, yet one settles and luxuriates in the wafting drifting layers of tropical abandon… the sheer pleasurableness and colour washes over and through you, and the end is a joy of watery playfulness and exuberance: with Brazils’ vast and powerful Iguassu Falls as a backdrop, the dancers’ ecstasy is amplified, and a water-sodden cast spray water out their mouths; in wet dresses, dancers straddle white tables, revolving on them, hips both relaxed and in syncopated rhythm.
Agua is a gloriously indulgent evening, a saturated and flirty paradise, a languid, lush and lugubrious fantasy that concludes in a standing ovation. The man next to me almost clapped his hands off! Very much Pina’s ultimate feel good show – the audience are endlessly bathed in pleasure and leave with big smiles on their faces and in such a good mood!