November 21, 2020
Desolation on an empty beach. A stranded big ship imposes itself with its look and its mystery. How did it strand? And where? Did the passengers survive?
The magnificent The Piece with the Ship by Pina Bausch from 1993, last performed in Saitama, Japan in 1996, has been restaged by the Israeli artist Saar Magal, together with Julie Anne Stanzak, Barbara Kaufmann and Héléna Pikon, rehearsal directors and dancers of Tanztheater Wuppertal.
The impressive stage design by Peter Pabst, restored to its original state, becomes a location of despair, solitude and collective reminiscence.
An immense sense of resilience can be perceived in the solos, the performers struggling with the thickness of the sand, the intimidating presence of the gigantic ship hovering over them. But despite the striving, there is also an enchanting force in the dancers, and in the thought-provoking set. The sand becomes a source of power in which everything is raised up from. The ship seems to become a salvation, a refuge to be climbed up to and a place to reconnect to shared and common ground.
Watching online, despite all the constraints that come with a digital version, a strong sense of melancholy takes over. Dramatic places in the Mediterranean come to mind and are then carried away in hopelessness. Strained feelings accompanied by distress and solitude caused by the pandemic pierce the soul. In the meantime, the dancers dance as it would be their eternal destiny, as a healing practice, as atonement, and the only way to purge and surrender the actual condition they, we are all in.
Attempts are made to cope with the unusual reality, a surreal one, maybe a dream. Dance appears, as in all Bausch’s creations, as a primordial necessity that cannot be dismissed.
Dance as salvation and as a perpetual nurturing. The performers seem grounded yet ethereal in movements that seem to have no end and lean towards the infinite. The boat may be stranded but the dancers move with fervour in an alluring and intimate language. Everyone dances with their own personality yet equally fully embodying the tools and means handed on by the late Pina Bausch.
Melancholia and a suggestive delicacy take over when the group gather together and move in a chain, one step after the other in full synch, with arms in a sort of fifth position towards the sky. It appears as if an attempt to communicate to an otherworldly dimension through a celebratory, emotional ritual. It seems to be a dance for death; a quiet and peaceful procession after a dramatic cataclysm.
The Piece with the Ship was streamed on November 21, 2020 as the Pina Bausch Centre launch event series, ‘under construction’. It will next take place, hopefully with an audience, at the Altes Schauspielhaus in Wuppertal on January 21-29, 2021.