Sadler’s Wells, London
February 14, 2019
Since she passed away in 2009, Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal has performed in a kind of artistic limbo, creating no new work, until now. Dmitiris Papaioannou’s Since she is the first original full length work the company has commissioned since the sudden death of their guiding light. Described by Papaioannou as “a love letter to Pina,” it was fitting that it premiered on Valentine’s Day, to an inevitably expectant audience.
Papaionnou’s work is highly visual, and Since she is full of arresting images, beginning with a nod to Bausch’s Café Müller, in which the stage is littered with straight-backed black chairs. The company enter by stepping carefully across them, before passing them overhead one to one another, one by one. Manoeuvring painstakingly from one side of the stage to the other, silently save for the awkward clatter of their evening shoes, it was the first of many images of travel and transition.
The set is dominated by a towering mountain of grey foam mattresses which are climbed up, slid down, and sunk into. As the piece moves through a series of surreal, dreamlike sequences, and at times it is difficult to know where to look.
Thanos Papastergiou’s costumes are marvellous. Full of texture and movement, they are designed to be manipulated. A group of men waft the skirt of a woman’s cream crepe dress so that she appears to float ethereally. A black dress turns to shimmering gold when stroked suggestively, again by men. Most sinister is the woman who poses impassively like a mannequin while three men pierce her dress with sharp sticks (arrows of love, perhaps?) until she resembles a sculptural pin cushion.
These motifs of heteronormative dilemmas, usually with overtones of violence or romance are what threaten now to date the themes of Bausch’s work, and which contribute to Papaionnou’s homage being an unsettling and unsatisfying piece. Missing amidst the feast of images is the visceral hit of pure dancing, which might have pushed things beyond witty pictures into the world of sweat, and breath, where true transformation takes place.
Since she has now closed, but Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch return from February 22-25 in Bon Voyage, Bob by Alan Lucien Øyen. Visit www.sadlerswells.com for details.