One of the most magic moments of the fare provided by the Toronto Luminato Art Festival every June came our way a few days ago, in the form of the Pina Bausch Wuppertal Dance Theatre performing one of their classics, namely, Kontakthof (Court of Contact ), concerning making the case for truth in interpersonal actions. The late Pina Bausch was a choreographic innovator, obsessed—like filmmaker Federico Fellini—with figures ardently hoping to bring to light the primal power implicit in human interactions, but proving to be far from coordinated enough to succeed. (Fellini featured our dance star, in the role of a blind princess, in his 1983 film, And the Ship Sails On.)
The photo here—showing a group of women who had individually tried (way too hard and way off course) to win over the audience, at the evening’s outset, with what they hoped would be winning smiles, and in fact being repellent grimaces—covers their being close to frozen with stress, in making a team effort to impress the audience as a “court” (hof) intent on being charmed by “contact” from these newcomers.
Kontakthof, like a Fellini movie, is very alert to the flood of rather bilious comedy coming out of this premium upon “let me entertain you” (“you” being about the audience; but also about the dancers/actors who interact with each other in a desperate effort to make some pithy headway with colleagues). A nice image here, (don’t you think?) of reaching for the six-pack of carnality in order to lift off to champagne rather than beer.
Now here’s some headway! Smart-stepping as enriched by the glorious minutiae of body gestures and facial expressions. A rather dopey little promenade; but capable of going ballistic in the hands of such obsessively resolved creatures as these. (The courtyard-like space onstage takes on dimensions of a prison recreation area.)
Prepared to dance their troubles away.
But even seasoned practitioners lose their grip, and so try to bring off by storm what does not well hop to assault.
Going way off the rails in a bid to profit from another’s downgrade.
There’s this moment of looking for liftoff, carrying so much weight. First she flirts with and panhandles from someone in the first row, to feed the pony. Then there’s a bit of a clown act in finding that the machine won’t accept that coin, and in going back to the front row. Then, the damn thing finally coming to life, she works hard finding an orgasm in there somewhere.
Prom night—it’s gotta work!
Back to the drawing board, simulating a row of ducklings, in hopes of reaching the right disinterested whimsy.
Here the tension is somewhat overcome by sensual grip. But they still resemble deer in the high beams.
Kontakthof elicits unforgettable warmth and depth in its cumulative spotlighting of the way we live.
Troupe Exotique c.1935; Gaston Girbal; 31″ x 47″
That goofy labor of love, captured by a vintage poster!