Pina Bausch’s signature ingredients – long flowing hair, floor-length gowns, ritual, and tons of water – were on full display in como el musguito en la piedra, ay, si, si, si…(Like moss on a stone), the final work from the choreographer before her untimely death in 2009. Watching Tanztheater Wuppertal perform Bausch’s work, which so eloquently captures the human experience, is bittersweet; without her, the company is left with a gaping hole. The 2010 performance of Vollmond and last Wednesday’s performance of como el musguito en la piedra, both at BAM, were blanketed in sadness. Como el musguito, based on the company’s experiences in Chile, isn’t as gut wrenching or water-drenched as Vollmond, in which a river floods the stage, but every moment is infused with a touch of Bausch – whether it be quirky, meditative, deadpan, or beautiful.
The work, whose title comes from a song by Chilean singer Violeta Parra, opens with a woman on all fours who starts barking like a dog as soon as two men lift her while she maintains her position in mid air. This is the first of many playful, witty vignettes. Later the bossy Morena Nascimento commands two men do push-ups while she lays across their backs looking rather pleased with herself, and Damiano Ottavio Bigi hands a glass of water to a woman, only to lift her up as she smiles and tips the glass towards his mouth. Elsewhere, men throw potatoes up in the air as several women squeal with delight and catch them in the folds of their colorful gowns. There is also tenderness: Clementine Deluy slowly slides across the floor while a man goes along for the ride by curling up on her blanket of hair. Several dancers sit in a line and gently brush the hair of the person in front of them. We repeatedly see Rainer Behr rushing across the stage while Dominique Mercy (who is also one of the artistic directors of the company) grabs hold of his shirt, either trying to keep up with him or hold him back.
All of these brief exchanges between two or more people elicit a range of feelings. The second half of the piece puts greater emphasis on solos that show not only emotions but also the fullness of Bausch’s movement style. One in particular, performed by the tiny Ditta Miranda Jasjfi, is electrifying as her limbs flail uncontrollably, following the abrupt turns of her neck – and inevitably, her hair. So many emotions simultaneously pulsed through her body, making the viewer wonder about the motivation for each movement. The work as a whole is mesmerizing, but this solo was in a league of its own.
Aside from the various props that come and go throughout the piece – water, chairs, wine bottles, and a bottle of shampoo, to name a few – the stage was bare. But several times, the ground itself slowly broke apart into pieces, forming cracks in the floor that the dancers gracefully navigated in some of the faster-paced scenes. Was this a reference to emotional cracks, or Chile’s topography? It subtly and quite seamlessly transformed the stage.
Como el musguito ends with a recap, or rewinding of sorts, as the audience sees repeats of certain scenes. This time they’re only brief moments, but they still manage to elicit the exact feeling from the first viewing. That’s the beauty of Bausch’s work: every moment holds a piece of humanity that sticks with you, long after you’ve seen it. And perhaps that’s why Tanztheater Wuppertal has the potential to keep her legacy alive.