ARTICLE ADAM WHITNEY NICHOLS

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PINA BAUSCH'S CONCLUSION

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PINA BAUSCH'S CONCLUSION

PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY BAM
TEXT ADAM WHITNEY NICHOLS

LAST THURSDAY, NEW YORK BEGAN ITS LONG GOODBYE TO PINA BAUSCH. HER FINAL WORK, "...COMO EL MUSGUITO EN LA PIEDRA, AY SI, SI, SI" ("...LIKE MOSS ON A STONE, OH YES, YES, YES") PREMIERED THAT NIGHT AT BAM AND WILL BE PERFORMED UNTIL OCTOBER 27


Inspired by the Tanztheater Wuppertal’s stay in Santiago, Chile, the work is billed as Ms. Bausch’s swan song. The work felt a step or two away from that. After all, the final song of the swan is sung knowingly, and Ms. Bausch died unexpectedly at 68, three weeks after “Como el musguito…” had its premier in Wuppertal. What became Ms. Bausch’s final work was perhaps meant as her first step toward conclusion.

The opening segment began with a lone Silvia Farias Heredia on the white stage. On all fours, her loose, white gown hung to reveal her spine’s shape. Her black hair was similarly free and wild, offering the only visual contrast in the entirely blank scene. She was the familiar Pina Bausch woman, but primordial. Two men quickly appeared, picking her up as she remained in form. She began to yelp, and as she did, more uniformed men appeared to lift her across the stage. The first scene of Ms. Bausch’s episodic work appeared to be a creation myth of the woman. The following segments unfurled from there, offering snapshots of an evolution.

As the title suggests, though Ms. Bausch’s study is on women, the men are inseparable in our understanding. Over the two and half hours, each scene detailed the progress of this relationship in a capricious manner. In one scene, Anna Wehsarg – who was ingeniously comical throughout the show – smiled submissively, applying makeup as a man poured water on her head. Just a moment later, Tsai Chin Yu danced alone as Peter Pabst’s tectonic stage split beneath her. Her solo was so achingly beautiful that the audience audibly winced as she made her way off stage. In another scene, all the women in their gowns (perfectly designed by Marion Cito) lifted up their hems and shrilly laughed as they caught potatoes being thrown by the men.

At times opaquely abstract and at other moments clownish, the piece took directions impossible to chart. Ms. Bausch’s incessant juxtapositions compose a fantastically uncanny, ebullient, and brutish world. It is because the audience is comfortable in such an odd place that we can be certain Ms.Bausch was a master dance maker. As “Como el musguito…” moved toward the final scene, it became a­­­pparent that Ms. Bausch would come to no crescendo. The music, which had been mostly in Spanish (selections credited to Matthias Burkert and Andreas Eisenschneider), suddenly broke into English with Madeleine Peyroux singing “I will be tried for my offenses and love you all over again.” There was a sense that every moment we had witnessed was the same dilemma repeated, but in different visions. Ms. Bausch could present an extrapolation on women, but without conclusion. It is, after all, a never ending story. And so the performance closed on a full cycle. Ms. Heredia once again appeared alone onstage: stark and on all fours, fading to black. This was the greatest indicator that Ms. Bausch had begun to anticipate life’s conclusion.  To everyone enraptured during the performance, the scene was a sad reminder that this was, in fact, the end.

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