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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Dance Festival 2021 - Dancing at Dusk - a moment with Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring

Dancing at Dusk. Photo © polyphem_Filmproduktion


There are a handful of choreographers who have shaped the face of modern dance. While some names might be disputed, none would dispute Pina Bausch being amongst the top five of that list; her seminal works still being performed today, almost 50 years later. In spring 2020,  Bausch's The Rite of Spring (1975) was due to tour the world, performed  by a company of 38 dancers from 14 African countries. Till COVID shut theatres down. Making Florian Heinzen-Ziob's film Dancing at Dusk- a moment with Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring something of a bittersweet, if invigorating experience. Capturing the last rehearsal on a beach in  Senegal, it reminds us of what we missed, and why Bausch is so important.

Following a set up that drags its cinematic feet, a large squared off area sees a line of men standing opposite a line of women on the other side. Inside the square, off centre, a woman lies alone on red cloth. For the next thirty-five minutes a universe is fashioned from the interplay between male and female energies. Women enter the space, bodies rise, shudder, and patterns culminate in an energised group sequence. Men join, the dynamics and patterns changing as connections fraught and dangerous, powerful and moving are established. Throughout, Stravinsky's electrifying score informs movement, and is informed and enriched by it, as individuals and groups shape and reshape; smaller individual movements being part of the shared harmonies and disharmonies of the whole. Even the final solo speaks to the whole; the individual part of something grander than themselves.

Dancing at Dusk. Photo © polyphem_Filmproduktion

Perhaps the greatest gift Dancing at Dusk presents is a timely reminder that Bausch's work is defined by raw experience imbued with considerable style. If some later works have been accused of being stylised experiences, or style as experience, or favouring style over experience, The Rite of Spring is pared back to Rolf Borzik's simple costumes - black trousers for men, a cream coloured dress for women - and stripped right back to the body. Experience translated into form, choreographed by an intervening deity, and graced with style. Like the pull of the universe, in which cosmic bodies are drawn and repelled by seemingly haphazard energies, there's an underlying choreographic cohesion that holds The Rite of Spring together, resolving chaos into power and harmony; the simplest gestures and configurations shaping a universe that is its own, unique experience.

An international co-production between Pina Bausch Foundation (Germany), École des Sables (Senegal) and Sadler’s Wells (UK) The Rite of Spring should have opened in March 2020 in Dakar as part of a double-bill with a new work created and performed by Malou Airaudo and Germaine Acogny, common ground[s]. While Dancing at Dusk, shot with unadorned simplicity, is a terrific document of record and an invigorating experience in its own right, it still feels like a trailer for a far richer experience. There have been too many great productions that never were this past year. Dancing at Dusk is a reminder of what could, without doubt, have been one of the greatest. We can only hope the universe gifts us a second chance.

Dancing at Dusk - a moment with Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring, presented by Pina Bausch Foundation, École des Sables  and Sadler’s Wells, is available online as part of Dublin Dance Festival 2021.

For tickets or more information, visit Dublin Dance Festival 2021.

Dublin Dance Festival 2021 runs May 18 to May 30.


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