Friday, March 11, 2016

NELKEN (Carnations) Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016

Nelken (Carnations). A piece by Pina Bausch

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Director and choreographer. Pina Bausch.Designed by Peter Pabst. Costtume design. Marion Cito. Presented by arrangement with Arts Project Australia. The Festival Theatre. Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016

Dancers: Regina Advento,Pablo Aran Gimeno, Emma Barrowman, Andrey Berezin, Michael Carter, Cagdas Ermis, Jonathan Fredrickson, Scott Jennings, Eddie Martinez, Blanca Noguerol Ramirez, Breanna O’Mara, Franko Schmidt, Julie Shanahan, Julie Anne Stanzak, Julian Stierle, Michael Strecker, Fernando Suels Mendoza, Tsai-Wei Tien, Anna Wehsang, Paul White, Ophelia Young, Tsai-Chin Yu

Stuntmen: Bodo Haack, Juergen Klein, Hendrik Mohr, Robert Schenker

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Nelken by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

Nelken by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Photo by Walter Li
What a magnificent tribute to the genius and spirit of the late dancer and choreographer, Pina Bausch! Nelken (Carnations), marks a return of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch after an absence of sixteen years and judging by the standing ovation of the opening night audience at Adelaide’s Festival Theatre, it is a return welcomed with enthusiastic rapture by audiences at the Adelaide Festival of Arts.

Julie Anne Stanzak in Nelken
Photo by Oliver Look
Nelken is not a new work, although some of the sequences, involving the hard lined attitude towards immigrants, the use of a deodorizer, reminiscent of  the Australian custom in planes arriving in Australia, and the threatening aggression of male intimidation may suggest some reworking of Bausch’s original choreography. Whatever the case, the combination of dance and theatre and its fluid progression from solo movement to ensemble frenzy and graceful resolution is a familiar and yet  fresh and spontaneous element of Bausch’s oeuvre. It is all a matter of interpretation, but whatever the interpretation, Bausch’s invention and distinctive style provides a wonderland of mesmerizing, perplexing, stimulating and evocative imagery.
As one enters, one encounters a field of pink carnations across the stage. According to mythology, it is believed that pink carnations symbolize a mother’s undying love, while red carnations denote deep love and affection. A dancer leaps onto another and clings for affection. A slap is followed by a kiss. Males dress in long dresses and men tumble from tables with physical force to demonstrate devotion before the woman. Bausch’s work embodies the human condition, the longing, the pain, the ironic and the absurd. Vignettes express the desire for control as in the hilarious game of What’s The Time Mr. Wolf or the passport controller with a penchant for intimidation. Four docile German Shepherd dogs conjure memories of guard dogs, capable of fierce response at a single command. Gradually the field of carnations becomes more and more trampled. A half-naked woman with a wooden accordion recalls the harsh reality of the Weimar years. Reality, fantasy and myth fuse in a dynamic expression of the human psyche and the essential nature of the human being. The familiar Bausch parade of unified movement and gesture, either in recurrent circles upon the stage, or swan like on chairs, recalls the mesmerizing unity of people caught within a community of conformity. Rhythmic and gestural, it is hypnotic and mesmerizing in its inherent symbolism.

Nelken with Lutz Foerster
Photo by Maarten Vanden Abeele
The performance begins in silence as dancers slowly enter with chairs in a ritualistic expression of solitude. As a solitary dancer signs the lyrics, Sophie Tucker’s voice sings a soulful rendition of the Gershwin Brothers’ classic song, The Man I Love.  Vignettes trace the human longing for love with music from Schubert to Lehar and Mancini to Holliday. Theatre and dance share the stage. At one point large cartons are piled up in a tower of cardboard beneath two scaffold towers. Men dressed in suits fling themselves into the construction. A man chops onions for others to bury their faces in . Symbolism or absurdity. ,the image holds its own mystery to delight the eye and tease the senses. Bausch’s imagination inhabited a world like no other,. Her journey of experience expressed the nature of the human condition in all its aspects . We laugh; we cry; we marvel and we ponder. Tanztheater Wupprtal, with its multicultural and diverse company of dancers  takes us on a journey of infinite possibility. Make of it what you will, but make it your own.

Nelken. Photo by Oliver Look
We are left with revelation. Each dancer approaches to confess their inspiration. For one it was a deformity that led him to become a dancer. For another it was wanting to be different. For another it just seemed easier than speaking. For one it was seeing Sleeping Beauty, while for another it was fear of her students, and for yet another it was just by chance. And so they must dance, and love and live as must we all.
Some may say that there is not enough dance, although the physical agility, grace and stamina presents the dancer. Some may say that the theatre is obscure. Nelken is a sensual feast, a visual delight and the work of this great innovator of dance theatre and contemporary movement still so long after its original performance holds the power to excite, to move and to open heart and mind to a universal world. Theater Wuppertal’s  return to Australia has been timely. The work still remains timeless.