Last summer on a flight to Colorado, the passenger sitting next to me was a German videographer. Specifically, he recorded dance pieces. I had danced for many years, decades even, so we immediately struck up a conversation about the complexities of recording dance and how usually no one is satisfied with the result. Then he went on to tell me how he worked with the Pina Bausch dancers. Pina Bausch! I knew all about Pina Bausch. Just two summers prior to this meeting I had danced with a theater group who did a whole tribute to Pina Bausch. Coincidence?
I had heard about Pina as a college student, but did not know much about her as a choreographer, other than she was cutting edge and, of course, German. When I joined this theater group in mid-life, which was quite by accident I might add, I didn’t know that much more about her. Now I know that she was an amazing choreographer who, perhaps, valued the process as much as the product.
When her dancers learned a part in a piece it was something they carved out for themselves, intrinsically unique and intimate, something that came from a deep place, perhaps even deeper than what they thought possible. The result was a role they could not teach to anyone else, because it fit as personal as a second skin. It was who they were as real people.
My German friend had seen Pina’s process up close. He had to tell me all about the dogs. The dogs?
He told me about this dancer who was afraid to go to rehearsal everyday, because once she was there, they released a pack of wild dogs on her, and she was afraid for her life. I guess the dogs were part of the piece? Wow, that seems a little extreme, I commented. Wild dogs, huh? Yes, the night before a session with the dogs, this dancer couldn’t eat or sleep. Nothing like a pack of wild dogs to help you really get to the bottom of things, find out who you really are, what you’re made of.
Then, my friend went on to share that he actually met Pina Bausch. He happened to wander into this cafe where members of Pina’s company were dancing the tango. It wasn’t that they were rehearsing for anything in particular. They were just dancing the tango together, because that’s the kind of thing they did. Or, should I say, they lived to tango.
It was in this cafe that my German friend saw Pina. What? You actually saw her? Not only that, he sat down next to her.
I asked, “Didn’t you want to dance the tango with her?”
“No,” he said. “No, I was too shy. It was enough just sitting next to her. Then I accidentally knocked her leg under the table.”
Her response? She socked him right back with a big punch to his knee. He said he wouldn’t have wanted it to happen any other way. It was perfect just like that. I understood.
It was at the moment that I thought we had the sixth degree thing going, but it was more like two degrees. Was there more to my connection with Pina Bausch? Or, will it simply end with this strange post of mine?
Have you ever met anyone with whom you felt you had a fateful connection? Maybe from a past life? I won’t judge.
This maybe calls a different question to mind altogether. Have you ever been chased by a pack of dogs? How about at work? Could imagine if you went to work everyday and once you sat down, they said, “Okay, release the dogs!”
I’ve included a trailer from the Wim Wenders documentary film Pina, nominated for many awards. It looks incredible, and I think you will enjoy the video. If you’re not a big dance fan, I’ll bet you’ll like the music. I have yet to see the film, unfortunately. Have a look. If you’re interested in more video clips, there are many on YouTube.
I promise a follow-up post of my personal experience dancing in a tribute piece to Pina Bausch.