"With Pina Bausch, an inner path leads to every gesture"

There are those who immediately understood and loved Pina Bausch, thrilled by her sublime Orpheus and Eurydice or the modernity of Kontakthof, understood that Wuppertal, where she created her shows for more than thirty years, was not a pleasant city

"With Pina Bausch, an inner path leads to every gesture"

There are those who immediately understood and loved Pina Bausch, thrilled by her sublime Orpheus and Eurydice or the modernity of Kontakthof, understood that Wuppertal, where she created her shows for more than thirty years, was not a pleasant city. tree of North Rhine, but a real capital of cultural creation... Others have discovered the dance revised and corrected Pina way by the cinema: in the opening sequence of Parle avec elle (2002), by Pedro Almodovar, where an excerpt from Café Müller upsets; and in the 3D documentary by Wim Wenders, Pina (2011), a great public success released two years after the death of the choreographer.

All, neophytes or fans of the first hour, should take communion in front of Dancing Pina, a documentary by German filmmaker Florian Heinzen-Ziob (in theaters). We follow dancers who worked with Pina Bausch in their choreographic work to recreate two ballets – Iphigénie en Tauride and Le Sacre du Printemps – with two troupes, one in Germany, the other in Senegal with 36 dancers from 14 African countries. How do you transmit a gesture, a work? How do we bring the intangible to life? The director of the film, Florian Heinzen-Ziob, the dancer Clémentine Deluy and Salomon Bausch, son of the artist and president of the Pina-Bausch foundation, answer us.

Le Point: How was Dancing Pina born?

Florian Heinzen-Ziob: I grew up in Düsseldorf, near Wuppertal, and Pina Bausch was a myth, a colossal figure for all of us in the region… as well as the whole world. However, I had the feeling for a long time – like many people, I believe – that dance was something complicated, that you needed access keys to understand. With Dancing Pina, I wanted to focus on the working process. Show how the dancers interact, the dialogue between them that leads to the finished work on stage... Filming a ballet as it is is of little interest: it is better to feel the experience of the room, with the public, in the instant. The contribution of cinema is to be able to show what happens in the rehearsal room. It is there, because we see the dancers working together, repeating the same gesture dozens of times, refining this or that passage of the choreography, that the cinema proves useful.

Salomon Bausch: We are faced with a paradox. Dance is an art of the ephemeral and at the same time Pina's art must continue to exist. How ? Thanks to the transmission that takes place from generation to generation. The Tanztheater Wuppertal company has 7,000 archived videos, and tens of thousands of photos, and yet it is not a question of referring to these documents to try to do the same thing again, without thinking. With Pina, an inner path leads to every gesture, and you have to walk it. Dancers like Clémentine (Deluy, Editor's note) who had this experience with her are now the ones who can guide the youngest in this work.

Clémentine Deluy: Dancing Pina opens up this secret room that is the rehearsal room to the public. We work there with our emotions, we are deeply vulnerable to it, especially in the case of Pina's works. It is the place where we fall, where we try things, where we fail… We risk everything. Today, as a "repetiteur", I am there to accompany the dancers in this process, and also as a safety net. That's how we worked with Pina and that's how we make young people work today. This experience of doubt, we live it together… The solutions, we also find them together. This is what appears very well in Florian's documentary.

C. D.: We quickly forgot about it! There was too much to do, too much to think about trying to control what was being shown. Florian also knew how to be accepted. You could feel the respect in his eyes.

F. H.-Z. : I was full of curiosity. How do dancers talk about movement? What is their language around this? The first sequence that I filmed, we see them doing research around Iphigenia. They consult archives and compare the different versions of which there are filmed traces. From there, they consider different solutions. We immediately understand, seeing this, that nothing is fixed, that everything in Pina's ballets is in motion and that today's dancers have elements of reflection that she bequeathed, but also a real freedom. What we also see is that those who worked with Pina like Malou Airaudo, Clémentine, and Josephine Ann Endicott have memories in their bodies. They summon these physical sensations, this memory of the body.

How do we transmit dance?

C. D.: We work, we work, but at a certain point – as the great interpreter of Pina Malou Airaudo says in the film: “It's up to you. Whoever steps forward into this arena that is the stage must give himself, commit himself entirely. The repeater must know how to erase itself.

F. H.-Z. : Clémentine really made us understand that these movements were more than movements, they cover the life story of the dancers… Those who have danced with Pina for years have evolved with these ballets. They are inscribed in their skin.

C. D.: At one point in the film, Malou takes over a dancer who makes a certain movement with his arm. She said to him, "Forget your arm, we see it too much, we only see that." What we need to see is you thinking about your dream. The dream is the engine of the arm, the arm itself does not matter. In Pina's work, thought guides all movement. There's a whole inner journey to walk, to hold your head up...everything!

S.B.: It's a ballet from 1974, the second that Pina staged in Wuppertal. It features an interaction between singers and dancers that was a startling novelty at the time. Pina then took over this device. She also took over this ballet a lot. All her life, she has been in dialogue with this work.

C. D.: Iphigénie is a ballet incredibly linked to the music, it carries the story very precisely. It's a very modern work, the setting for the third act with a huge hole in the middle of the stage… the work on the lights. It didn't take a ride!

How is the reaction to Pina Bausch's art changing?

S. B.: The reactions are always very strong, including in places where we see little dance, or where we have never seen these works, or even among very young spectators.

C. D.: The young African dancers with whom I worked on The Rite of Spring, like those in Dresden, had to reinvent themselves to work on Pina's ballets. You have to forget all your achievements. We spend a lot of time on a single movement… And some things are extremely complex. The choreography demands radical honesty from everyone. Sometimes, it feels like it's totally impossible to succeed… And yet, we get there. There is a vibration that rises from the earth. This is Pina's miracle.

Dancing Pina. Film by Florian Heinzen-Ziob. With Sangeun Lee, Malou Airaudo, Josephine Ann Endicott, Clémentine Deluy. Indoors.