Saturday, 25 April 2015

REVIEW: The Surreal Fantasy of Pina Bausch's 'Ahnen'

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch - Ahnen
Sadlers Wells
Friday 24th April 2015

Whisked away into a strange fantasy world, Peter Pabst's cacti ridden set seems to remind us of a futuristic or alien realm. With the addition of sand, straw, an enormous ladder, a great tank of water and a wind machine, Pabst's set allows the dancers to interact with a range of natural and distinctly man-made structures. Yet the randomness of the head of lettuce, the remote controlled helicopter and the large rubber walrus sitting at the back of the stage, remains distinctly surreal.

Busy is the best way to describe Pina Bausch's Ahnen. Driven by the pulsating and changing hypnotic music, the dancers go about their activities on stage with a sense deliberation and conviction:

Perched on a small wooden stool at the front of the stage, a woman busies herself grating a white substance into a bucket throughout the majority of the first act. A man, handcuffed and gagged with an orange, receives a shave from a man in a smart suit and gloves. Later, a man with an outrageously large white feather headdress (which later appears to actually be a tutu), clad only in blue underpants, sits completely still staring into space. Elsewhere, a smartly dressed manservant continuously irons newspapers for a blind woman, as she abruptly fires a pistol into the audience.

Behind the action centre stage, a woman in a black dress and heels unloads wheelbarrows of bricks to carefully build a wall. The crashing sound of the bricks interrupts the action downstage, breaking up the confusion and repetition of the dancers in view. Despite Bausch's renowned reputation in Europe, the disconnection of the dancers arbitrary actions during first act left me feeling bewildered- and cold.

However, the work progresses and the actions of the men and women become more coherent, as they begin to interact with one another and with the audience. Rather than performing their activities separately, without acknowledgement of one another, the dancers are now seen in group formations, united by a prop or a movement.

During a storm created by a wind machine offstage, a man pushes an enormous wardrobe through the cacti, offering blankets to the dancers. Later, a woman addresses the audience, demanding they 'straighten up!', in between amusing discussions of the sound of flies and how to paint water. A man and woman mime a barbarous cartoon fight, stretching each others faces, switching limbs and removing each others guts. While still remaining seemingly random, the connection between the dancers allows meaning to exude from their actions.

It appears that amongst the randomness of the dancer's actions and the indiscriminate objects onstage, Ahnen is a surreal commentary on human life. Are our human desires and activities as futile as the blind woman's request for her ironed newspapers? Bausch's intriguing dreamscape seems to point towards the pointlessness and futility of our own human activity.

Ahnen continues at Sadler's Wells until 26 April 2015

Friday, 24 April 2015

FOOTPRINT DANCE FESTIVAL: Promotional Launch Night!

Last night saw Footprint Dance Festival's promo launch night at University of Roehampton's student union bar. Artistic directors Hannah and Nia led the evening of fundraising, selling t-shirts and doughnuts, holding a jar of sweets competition (congratulations to Ben Patterson!) and finally announcing the Footprint line-up.

Volunteer sign-up and festival tickets (available online here) were also released. Additionally, Footprint's orange mascot was welcomed as the newest member of the team.

Later in the evening, film manager Emilie's promotional video was introduced, revealing Ceyda Tanc Dance, Eden Wiseman, Crystal Zillwood and Jann Gallios, amongst others, as special guests. And finally, renowned choreographer Rosemary Lee was announced as Footprint's special guest. After graduating from the Laban Centre, Lee has choreographed and danced internationally for twenty years, often working with media and film, and on large scale site specific works.

After an incredibly enjoyable and successful launch night, the team raised £126 for the festival. Thank you to everyone who supported us!

We are incredibly excited for the festival to begin in May, get your tickets from the UoR E-Store now!! And don't forget to check out our website and Facebook for more details!