The 3-D documentary Pina has had the U.S. dance world talking since it opened here last December, and the film came up during a pre-show Meet the Artist interview I did with San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Damian Smith last March. A longtime dancer who’s known for his artistry in both physicality and interpretation, Smith cited the film as reaffirming that what’s most important in dance is intent.
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen the late German choreographer Pina Bausch’s company, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, in performance, and the experiences left me stunned. But the film, with its concentrated scrutiny of dances, revisiting them in various forms and with different dancers, revealed even more pointedly the phenomenal power of intent.
Bausch’s work is oblique, coming from a deep place of pain and loneliness (“Dance, dance,” she once said, “otherwise all is lost”), embodying desperation, desire, and other equally raw emotions, along with a quirky sense of humor. But unlike some dances that leave viewers wondering what they just saw, Bausch’s works offer a dizzying choice of interpretations. That’s because her dancers know exactly what the dances mean to them. They are invested—body, mind, and soul—in the movement given to them, and because they so clearly have something to say, they in turn give us a work of art that we bring our own meaning to.
Some of the dancers quoted in the film said they were often confused about what Bausch wanted from them. One of them said that when she told Bausch she felt lost, the choreographer said to keep looking inside herself. The dancer said she didn’t know what she was looking for, and Bausch said only this: keep searching.
What that dancer found is what we all want in dance—an experience that shakes us to the core, makes us question what we think of the world, and gives us reasons to keep searching for our own reasons to go on. —Cheryl A. Ossola, Editor in Chief
Tears and Togetherness
It was only the first competition of the new season and boy, were the tears flowing already! I started to think: where are the TV crews when you need ’em? Drama, tears, girls in costumes making a scene—we had it all, and we weren’t even halfway through the first day.
One girl started it all. A senior. Apparently just moments before the girls headed onstage for their lyrical number, she realized this was one of her last competitions with teammates she loves from a dance studio she adores. One tear and a tiny sniffle led to “Ooohhhh, are you crying?” and before anyone realized what was going down, all the girls were in each other’s arms, fussing over each other and sobbing with gusto.
They were almost back in control when someone’s 6-year-old sister showed up and, without a word, held out a tiny package of tissues.
And as they dissolved again in laughter and splotchy mascara, I thought—this is what all dance teams should be about. Friendship. Support. Doing what you love with people who share the same passion. Pressure, but the kind born of hard work and self-determination. Memories.
During awards, the MC called up several members of this group. In an interesting twist, the competition had asked this team to create a special award to be given by the judges to another team. They chose the name “Together at Heart” and described it thus: “To a team that not only dances together with precision, but dances together as friends.” I am sure that the dancers who won the award will cherish it.
There were other special moments as well: a couple of high scores, a choreography award, and a judge’s recognition of one girl who, although only in group numbers, stood out because of her endless smile and vivacious energy. Her teammates were tickled pink. “Hey Dee,” they couldn’t stop teasing, “guess that puts you at the top of the pyramid!”
All that, and three more competitions to go. Now where’s that little girl with the tissues? —Karen White, Associate Editor