Last summer was a sad one for the dance world. The sudden and unexpected passing of world-known German choreographer Pina Bausch in June was shortly followed by the death of veteran US choreographer Merce Cunningham—both were icons of modern dance that will be missed.
During the 60th Berlinale, Anne Linsel and Rainer Hoffmann presented their latest documentary DANCE DREAMS (TANZTRAEUME, 2009); a moving and most fitting memorial piece for Pina Bausch.
Introducing the premiere screening, Berlinale program manager Thomas Hailer announced that everyone at the Berlinale was still devastated about the sad news of Bausch’s unexpected passing last summer, but Hailer also remarked that Pina Bausch would have been thrilled about this film because Linsel and Hoffmann’s documentary is a truly uplifting and life-affirming work.
In 2007, Pina Bausch decided to revisit her classic 1978 dance theater piece KONTAKTHOF—an intense study of love, intimacy and human relations about the fear and desire of reaching out to one another—and re-stage it with teenagers aged 14 and above. DANCING DREAMS follows a year of rehearsals with 40 teenagers from Wuppertal, an industrial town in Germany’s Ruhr area, where Pina Bausch and her company reside.
With endless patience, warmth, and wit, rehearsal directors Jo-Ann Endicott and Benedict Billiet (two long-time company members and part of the original KONTAKTHOF cast) introduced the teenagers slowly into the intimate and intricate world of Pina Bausch.
Linsel has a number of documentaries on the choreographer Bausch to her credit, amongst them a portrait of her life entitled PINA BAUSCH (2008), and a documentary about the residency of Bausch and her company in India, NELKEN IN INDIA (1994).
When Linsel heard about the new project in 2007, she was right there and together with her co-director and cameraman Rainer Hoffmann, and the two captured this unique process. Moving between the rehearsal process and visiting with the teenagers outside the studio, Linsel and Hoffmann allow us to witness the enormous growth and maturation process of these young non-dancers. Besides seeing them struggle and succeed in learning their parts, we also receive wonderful insight into their dreams, desires, fears, life-philosophies and experiences.
It is refreshing to hear the young people talk about Pina Bausch and their first impression of her. One young performer states that everyone was nervous when Pina Bausch announced her first visit to the rehearsal to see how far they have come. “She has a poker face!” She exclaimed.
In one of the few-but-well-placed appearances in the film, Bausch talks to the young dancers and eases their nerves, “I heard you are nervous—but really, I don’t bite!”
In a behind the scene interview that Linsel and Hoffman filmed just prior to the premiere of the piece, Bausch says that she trusts these young performers; that she loves them all and that nothing can really go wrong because they all have worked so hard.
Together with the insightful statements by the teenagers reflecting on the whole experience and the friendships they have made with the other dancers they would otherwise have never met, this documentary affirms how much art and life can inform and influence each other. Additionally, the untrained audience also understands how much it takes to make a movement or even a gesture look simple and natural.
Ten years ago, KONTAKHOF had already been re-staged with seniors 65 and older—also all non-trained performers, cast from around Wuppertal. At that time, German filmmaker Lilo Mangelsdorf was there to witness that process with the award-winning documentary LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OVER 65 (DAMEN UND HERREN AB 65, 2002).
Both films together confirm the universal appeal, importance, and reach of Pina Bausch’s work—whether the performers are young, old, with a solid dance background or not, her work can speak to everyone, old or young, anywhere around the world.
With Pina Bausch’s passing, these documentaries will become even more important as testaments of her time and work. Wim Wenders is currently in production of PINA, a 3-D film on Bausch and her Dance Theater with a release date scheduled for 2011. So, watch out for more to come!
For more information on DANCING DREAMS, please visit: www.tagtraum.de