by Lynn on June 13, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer


At the Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto.

Directed and Choreographed by Pina Bausch
Set by Peter Pabst and Rolf Borzik
Costumes by Marion Cito and Rolf Borzik
Music by Matthias Burkert and Andreas Eisenschneider
Lighting by Fernando Jacon.
Starring 24 gifted dancers.

The signature piece of the company performed with style, wit, confidence and a wink.

Background: First a bit about the company. It was started by German choreographer, director Pina Bausch in 1973. She died in 2009 but her company has continued to carry on her legacy. She created a kind of performance that is not traditional dance. It incorporates every day movement but stylized. The performances are not silent either.

Bausch’s company talks, sings, interacts, shows emotions. And also unique about this group of 24 is the cross-section of sizes, nationalities and ages. There are stylish men and women of a certain age, as well as younger in the company that is so refreshing. Pina Bausch’s work celebrates and illuminates intimacy, relationships, emotions. Kontakthof is a case in point.

Story and Performance. Pina Bausch created the piece in 1978. It’s about men, women relations; how they are similar and so far apart. Both want intimacy but go after it in different ways. In the beginning of the piece the whole company sits in chairs along the black wall. The men wear suits and ties and the women wear elegant flowing dresses and high heels.

One woman walks forward, stops at the front of the stage, imagines looking in a mirror checking herself. Posture, profile, face, teeth. Once she’s given herself the once over, she returns to her chair, and another woman walks forward and does the same thing. The men repeat the process of looking, primping, straightening, adjusting etc. We are all interested in body image.

Later, the men and women will eye each other from across the room and approach, the men commanding and forceful, the women coy but also in control. At times the pairing is playful, seductive, tender and for a moment, violent. All reactions are realistic.

At another point the company sits in chairs close to the front of the stage, all talking in their own space, in various languages, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian. They are talking about love and their experiences with it. It’s funny, witty, disarming.

One of the many beauties of the piece, is that the audience is included, engaged by the company. At times they are engaged in conversation. There is a rocking horse as a prop that requires money to get it started rocking. A statuesque woman stands on the stage looking at the guys in the front row and quietly, elegantly asks for some change. One digs deep and gives it to her. She puts the money in the slot of the horse and nothing happens. She goes back to the guy. She asks him quietly but with a smile for more money. He gives her more money. And so on. She is not trying to embarrass him. We don’t actually hear the conversation it’s so low-key.

When the first man ran out of change, the woman went to the next one who helped her out. I get the sense that at all times the audience is considered and included in the piece. I loved watching them, and seeing why this company is so celebrated and has been for 40 years.

Comment. I know that Kontakthof is 40 years old and one wonders is that a reasonable reason to bring this company to this festival? To see something this different and still have it come from a dance company, yes, for sure. I loved the elegance and ordinariness of the piece. And they made me sit a little taller in my seat. That’s a good thing.

Produced by Tanztheatre Wuppertal Pina Bausch, presented by Luminato.

Opened: June 10, 2014
Closes: June 14, 2014
Cast: 24 dancers, 12 men and 12 women
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes.

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