Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Dance) Kontakthof (Luminato)

An Air of Archaic Pageantry
by Beat Rice

I remember standing in line for ages to see Pina at TIFF in 2011. I also remember getting turned away because it sold out so quickly.

Director and Choreographer Pina Bausch passed in 2009. Her work and vision lives through the company, the Tanztheater Wuppertal, and her dancers, who have come to Toronto to present Kontakthof at Luminato.

Bausch’s almost three-hour piece takes place in a dancehall with 21 dancers. During the evening there are countless variations of encounters, pairings and full group numbers. A recurring theme in the piece is the standard of beauty, and how it exists differently for the male and the female. There is one moment where a few of the women struggle to make it across the stage in their high heels.

A motif in Bausch’s choreography is unison movement in lines, evoking an air of pageantry. It is quite the spectacle to see all of the dancers move together in a dance made up of regular human mannerisms. There were also small elements of clown and silliness where dancers smile to the audience and then play a trick on their partner. The crowd loved it and laughed throughout the night.

One of the interesting things about the company is the wide diversity within the cast. The dancers look like real people with real bodies that do not fit the stereotypical ballet body. There are various age ranges, ethnicities, and nationalities. At one point all the dancers are lined up downstage speaking in their mother tongue sharing an anecdote with the microphone being passed down the line. 

The set looks like a real world dancehall, with three high walls and a giant white ceiling, eliminating all possibility of top light. Sunny sidelight is shone through a large glass window and reflects off the white walls, illuminating the room within a room. 

As beautiful as the piece was staged, it felt too long and a little bit outdated. When it first premiered in 1978 it may have been a seen as a fresh look at the battle of the sexes, but I feel like the issues have been discussed inside out. Gender issues have changed since then, and include those outside the confinements of just male vs. female.  Today Kontakthof is more about self-image and vanity than gender issues. 

June 11 - 14

1 comment:

  1. Did we see the same work? Still fresh and as relevant as it was in 1978...timeless.


Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.