Thursday, 30 June 2011

Doorways, Inside Out and Pina

I love the creativity and excitement around ideas, the possibilities, and am beginning to see that some funding applications can have the creativity/excitement that work has..this is me at my most optomistic!
Have had good meetings, with Sarah from Gyllngdune gardens and Malcolm from Godolphin House, such an inspiring doorway, loggia and courtyard, lawn, fountain. Each place with a relationship to the community, Gyllngdune’s being given birth to new outreach and beginnings, and Godolphin continuing on artistic and community involvement already in the tradition of the place.
Arches, the body in space, passing through, other worlds, entrance, “en trance” - one of Phil’s our old theatre devisers favourite words.
Framing relationship stillness and movement.
Went to see the film Pina, so inspiring, my old dance teacher Wolfgang Stange of Amici comes from the german expressionist tradition, every gesture with meaning, intent, no wasted movement, ordinary movement where necessary, no artifice. Went to see Pina with an old friend Janine, an artist now living in New Zealand,we remenisced about life in London.
 I feel very fed by visual art, how we devise dances is layered like many of my husband’s abstract paintings.
 Always interesting what feeds peoples work, often other art forms. 
Shared humour in current work of friends who we shared a squat with in London, who were then fringe mime artists, Inside Out, now doing
Fantastic in depth analysis of Pina by a friend Jamie Moran, see below.
Also deeply affected by Monica Wynter’s death, i found myself describing her as a real Penwith person, certainly she had full house to overflowing at her burial service, i can’t do justice to her but she had art, faith, community, hospitality, nature and friendships flowing strongly in her life, which fed all who knew her. I had the privelige of her coming regularly to my Natural dance classes for many years.
The German film director Wim Wenders is equally well known-he did the
haunting film about angels coming down to earth [as well as Paris, Texas;
Lisboa Story]-and he has directed another documentary I would walk barefoot
through glass to see. It is called-"Pina." It reveals the dance forms
created by the legendary German choreographer Pina Bausch, founder and
inspiration for the Tanztheatre Wuppertal. She was a friend of Wenders, and
as the film was being prepared, Pina suddenly died of cancer, only days
after being diagnosed with the disease. Maybe in her 50s, or 60s, I don't
know.. The film almost did not get made after Pina's death undercut its
original conception, but with so many people loving Pina's art and urging
Wenders not to give up, he felt he had to go on. In 2009 he finished it,
having, like Werner Herzog, used 3D.
Though you get grainy black and white flashes of Pina herself dancing-and
they electrified me, like only the best Flamenco dancers ever have-mostly it
is her large and international company of dancers who speak about her, and
we see snippets of her various pieces, from the dancers' eyes. In fact, it
is more effective than that. The camera lingers in close up on a dancer's
face, and you hear their recorded voice [in Spanish, French, English,
German, Japanese] talking about their relationship with Pina, while the face
remains in repose. Some faces are just caught, and nothing is recorded, but
just their expression says it all. Pina was without doubt a genius at
liberating her students from themselves-- listening to them and watching
them intently for hours and days and months and years, saying very little,
but when she did offer them a 'word', it was so penetrating to that person,
as dancer or as human being, that they were transformed. Her advice was like
a Zen koan, delivered at just the ripe moment to evoke a shift in whoever
was receiving it. Pina herself-a wraith-like ghost hovering over the
film-was clearly able to spark creativity in her dancers, rather than
plotting and planning in her head, and then imposing the scheme top-down on
her dancers, as if they were puppets and she were pulling their strings. The
company worked more bottom-up. She, and the dancers, collaborate in some
ongoing dialogue with mysteries and tragedies of human life.. She once said
of the dancers: "I'm not interested in how they move as in what moves them."
She wanted to explore what makes us human.
I loved many things about Pina.
I loved Pina's disdain for 'mere' words. At several points, the inadequacy
of words to do justice to realities of experience was poetically expressed.
I loved Pina's claim that 'We must dance, or we are lost.' Though music is
the primal-and primordial-life giver to humanity, dance runs it a close
second. There was music, and there was dance to music, before there was
language. Push it further-language that has lost its root 'back' in music
and in dance is dead. It is not mere metaphor that alive language sings and
has musicality, and that the words dance and leap across the page, or in the
air between speakers.
Wim Wenders said at her memorial: "She would often look around helplessly
when she couldn't find the right words, as if she might possibly find the
answer with her eyes. ..Pina relied on her look instead of on words. At
least she trusted much more in what could be seen than in what could be
She looked at, felt and experienced directly, what was in movement-this was
her artistic path to truth.
What is moving us? What is moving to us? What moves through us? Look and
attend very carefully, because if you are inattentive it will have moved by
you, and you will have missed it. Do not imagine you can ever recapture what
you let slip by you through talking 'about' it.
There is something in dance that reconnects us to the wellsprings. We do not
need to understand why to experience the truth of this. There are many whys,
and most of them go back to Shamanism.
Pina's dance creations are theatrical, and make 'pictures', images, visually
striking displays, out of the body movements. One writer describes her style
as 'bold and confrontational', and she also uses a trance-like kind of
repetition to powerful effect. I found myself electrified by this style,
energised, lifted into activeness and wanting to move, in a way I now
recognise as Daemonic. Though Eros weaves its spell through dance too, there
is a Daemonic dance, a war dance, a trance dance, to the music of the
suffering and battle of time.
It helped that almost the first piece we see-and it goes on for a lengthier
time than many of the others-is Pina's version of Stravinsky's 'Rite Of
Spring.' Having seen this danced in the opera, I was not prepared for the
very different way Pina's dancers tackled the driving rhythm and discordant
harmonics of this ultimate music of the Daemonic. They began by spreading
dirt on the floor, and suddenly it began, and we see 'The Sacred Spring.'
Dressed in only the skimpiest of clothes, the massed female and massed male
dancers enter the agony of the Daemonic which is, at the same time, an
ecstasy-- a different ecstasy to the sweet death in Eros; a death worked for
and resisted, fought with and embraced, in an agonised and pulverising
ritual. Watching this, I felt I had seen for the very first time a kind of
dancing that really told the Daemonic story of Stravinsky's music. If the
storm and lightning and winds and hail were to come to earth, to both
destroy and remake us, this is the music that would declare its intent.
Pina's dancers were writhing and moving in a birth agony, an agonised death
leading to rebirth: for this is the central theme of the Daemonic. Destroy
to recreate; the potter who never throws away the clay, the basic humanity,
but makes a shape out of that basic material which degrades, and so the
shape is wrecked, and the clay is allowed to rest, before a new shape is
resurrected from the collapse, the break down, the dissolving.
After we came out of the film, someone observed Pina's is not a dance
expressing joy. No, because it is a dance of the Daemonic. It portrays
struggle, and a host of tragic difficulties dividing human nature; some of
the vignettes between men and women were chilling. But always true.. The
Daemonic deals in dark, suffering, and depth: tragedy as the gateway to, and
hidden and mysterious matrix of, the only fundamental change, the change of
the human heart. As Abraham Heschel [1907-1972], Martin Buber's ally, puts
it, a prophet can give us a new word on the heart, but not a new heart. Only
God can change the heart. Yet, it is helpful to realise that it is in our
wrestling with abject failures and intractable dilemmas and profound hurts
and shattering doubts that we come to 'know' the Daemonic God. Thus, Pina's
depictions of 'problems' were more hope generating than the usual false
solutions that, one way or another, take you out of the problem.
I found in Pina great love for the dance, a love that had honour, integrity,
self sacrifice [for she was always working, she could not back off, or put
down the burden only those blessed and cursed by the Daemonic ever carry].
There was much struggle with life, which is also love-the love in passion
that must go beyond enthusiasm for causes, and embrace the edges, gaps,
crossing of roads, inherent to existing in the world. To keep struggling, to
keep searching, in the face of adversity, set backs, obstacles, inversion of
all hope, destruction of all reasonable faith, is a love only passion can
engender. The greatest art-Dostoyevsky, Lorca, Van Gogh-reaches heart break,
and continues deeper and deeper into its abyss of loss and reversal, and
secret treasures of wisdom. There is more than a whiff of this prophetic
quest, searching out the depth of the heart, in Pina's artistic temper.
There is freedom, spontaneity, yearning, also expressed. And at times, like
the circle dance of reconciliation joining all the characters at the end of
Frederico Fellini's film 8 ½, there is a simple happiness, a simple
exultation over going through so much and still being alive-the dancers join
in a line and make strangely compelling hand gestures, to a jaunty and
bouncy tune.
The Daemonic is also humour, dark humour and the sheer naked victory - naked
because you are stripped of everything on the way - of going through it all,
and still being around at the end. Many people bail out with the Daemonic
far too soon. As the destruction gets under way, they reject God, the whole
of life, their own existence in this world. They do not go through the
nadir, and encounter the paradoxical turn around in the depths, that brings
about resurrection.
Hence I loved the moments when all the dancers joined hands with others,
making a line, and just waltzed away to a jaunty tune, happy to be alive
still though 'in the midst of life, we are in death' has been affirmed.
It also says we treasure the people with whom we have gone through so much..
And through out it all, a strange electricity-- the electricity of the
Daemonic come to town, to shake things up, kick butt, and make a long
awaited and much needed change.
All I can say is I found Pina electrifying. It was beyond excitement. It was
the electricity of the Daemonic, brought through a wound, to kindle a new
fire from the depth that everyone thought extinguished long, long ago.
jamie moran
5-7 May 11

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