DocFest Film Review: Dancing Pina
There’s a tried and tested rule I subscribe to when it’s Docfest time. However slight the story might seem, a well-made documentary will confound your expectations. Pina Bausch was one of the most important choreographers of our time. Her work and influence has been well documented, both throughout her life and since her death in 2009. This film follows rehearsals for two shows being prepared to mark the 10th anniversary of her death.
The stage directors are both former dancers with Bausch’s ensembles, and the shows they have chosen to bring back to the stage are taken from early in her career. The Semperoper Ballet in Dresden are working on the 1974 dance opera Iphigenie auf Tauris, while at the École des Sables in Dakar, dancers from all over Africa prepare for the choreographer’s sublime 1975 interpretation of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The rehearsal footage, filmed simultaneously in Germany and in Senegal, is mesmerising and immersive from the start, and illustrates dance as a universal language which transcends the spoken word, and can communicate with an audience, whatever language they speak. It soon becomes clear that these new performances are not intended to be copies of long ago staged shows, but are fresh and new so that audiences experience a unique version.
Bausch was famed for the intimate involvement of her dancers within productions, with the expectation that each one brings part of themselves to the performance. She also railed against the idea that there was an ideal body shape for a dancer, and encouraged performers who had at times been told, dancing wasn’t for them. Many of the dancers, particularly those from Africa, faced opposition from their families and communities when they decided to become professional dancers. This forms the heart of the film, which soon becomes more about the performers than it is about the dance performance. Florian Heinzen Ziob has created a marvelous, intimate record of the creative processes behind a stage show, with some astonishing cinematography. In particular, some of the Senegal scenes on the beach which are stunning.
Head over to the DocFest site for full programme details.