Historic double bill of Café Müller/The Rite of Spring on September 14-24, 2017
This year Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch brings to New York two extraordinary ballets Cafe Muller set to the music of Henry Purcell and Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The psychological complexity conveyed by the Bausch’s powerful choreography will without doubt touch the souls of everyone from the dance aficionados to the novices to the art of ballet. The performances are part of the Next Wave Festival at BAM which will run from September 14 till December 16, 2017.
Bausch formal dance education started when at the age of 15 she was accepted to Folkgangschule of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany to study under the direction of Kurt Jooss, a pioneer of dance-theater genre who connected the ballet with the theatrical drama. After graduating the Folkgangschule, Bausch studied at Juilliard School in New York in the early 60s and was part of the New York Ballet, Paul Taylor company and other groups. Returning to Germany in late 60s to continue her work with Jooss, she choreographed her first ballet Frangmente to the music of Bartok in 1968.
Assuming the role of artistic director for the Wuppertal Opera ballet in 1973, she continued to produce new ballets thus developing the style of tanztheater.
For the performances at BAM, Tanztheater Wuppertal will perform Cafe Muller and The Rite of Spring. Cafe Muller (1978) likely includes autobiographical elements, as Bausch family had also owned a café where Pina, still a child, had made her first dance performances entertaining the guests. In the ballet, the dancers make sleepwalking movements in a dark, deserted café interior acting out a tale about human emotions which are flaring up under the covers of night. Or it could be child’s interpretation of the complex and scary world of the grownups. The Guardian review of the piece for its 2008 performance at Sadler’s Wells, London, notes that the characters are “trapped in an existential tape loop, they endlessly reprise their actions and interactions.” Amplifying the effect are the arias by Henry Purcell mixed with the moments of silence. The repetitive movements seem to suggest that the characters are about to break themselves free but in the end are unable to do so.
The second part of the bill is The Rite of Spring (1975) to the powerful score of Igor Stravinsky. In Bausch’s take of this ballet, which was originally written for Ballet Russes and choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, it at times seems that the dancers’ movements are making the music itself so close the choreography is in following the score. For this piece the stage is covered with dirt which plays a part in the performance. It is a character in the storyline along with the tribe and its rituals. The powerful and muscular movements of the male group are accentuated by the sensual and gentle actions of the female performers. This contrast between the sexes leads up to an emotional rite of the sacrificial selection by the tribe and its triumph over the individual expression and freedom. The ballet is so powerful that at time it feels like the composer and the choreographer were literally working together. Time is powerless to separate the geniuses of the music and choreography creators.
Nothing beats seeing the live performance but Chantal Ackerman’s documentary One Day Pina Asked shows how the danztheater is being made.
Book your tickets here.
Venue: Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, NY Time: September 14 – 24, 2017