Pina Bausch: Cafe Müller / The Rite of Spring

10 March 2017, Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

Pina Bausch is famous for not outwardly attaching meaning to her work. She gives audiences the room to interpret. And Cafe Müller is one of those pieces that you can’t watch without feeling compelled to make sense of it.

d867189cb6c50b91de5193ec42531be5It’s feeling sad, feeling worn down by the repetition of everyday life. It’s being stuck in a revolving door, and being slammed against invisible walls that keep you in. It’s having to navigate through a minefield, not being able to deviate. It’s not quite knowing what’s happening, and having to be constantly on edge in anticipation of threats. It’s expressing your feelings only to leave you naked and exposed. It’s the voices in your head and people’s lives constantly unfolding in front of your eyes, in seemingly no coherent order or way.

It’s being the one who wanders in a dreamlike state, the one who constantly feels the need to protect, the one that scuttles around aimlessly with painful fleeting moments of acuity, the one who tries to fix others and is adamant about things being done a certain way, the one who lingers and is in the shadows capturing moments past. Contradictory voices in our head, fighting to be seen, fighting to be heard.

The true beauty of this piece is that the movements are drawn from everyday life. Ordinary gestures delivered with extraordinary control and intent. Dance is at its best when the smallest of movements speak the greatest of volumes.

66e12cdd4c1b8a2abb0b5f310cac6073And then, The Rite of Spring. In my opinion, undisputedly the best dance piece to ever have been created. It’s been claimed that every dancer should only have to perform this piece once in their lifetime. And I get that – it is so draining for the audience, I can’t imagine what it’s like for the dancer. I don’t think I can ever ever ever tire of watching this piece. The synchronicity, the formations, the simplicity, the complexity… I’m going to have to stop writing about it, because no words can do this piece justice! 😀

I think it’s remarkable for works to reach the point where after 40 years they are still being performed and celebrated. A true testimony to Pina Bausch’s choreographic magnificence. I first saw this double bill 9 years ago. Throughout the evening, I found myself reminiscing on what’s happened these past 9 years. It’s funny when unexpected moments like this prompt you to self reflect. 9 years ago I was in London working at Southbank Centre, marketing dance, family and cross-artform performances and festivals. 9 years down the road, I’ve moved back to HK and shifted to programming and producing art education initiatives for young people. I’m still surrounded by the arts, but in a very different way – both positive and negative. But it’s a good feeling. 🙂


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