The dance tribute to Pina Bausch drew stuff from diverse dictionaries
Five men pressed flat against the walls of a distant tomb, unplastering themselves in a wash of pale red light to draw fleeting shapes with their limbs on its facets, before melting into the darkness. The lights then found six women in red, swaying gently, slowly, onto the stone platform of Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah's mausoleum.
So began For Pina, a site-specific promenade performance at the Qutb Shahi tombs, co-produced by the Attakkalari Center, Bangalore and the Goethe Institute in homage to the late German choreographer, Pina Bausch.
The choreography evoked, drew from and then took off from Bausch, to explore a dynamic all its own – making this a far more interesting tribute to the legend. So there were no fields of carnations, no pools of water, and no wooden chairs. Instead, the domed mausoleum of a long-dead Sultan rose from the ground in the dusk, as much a performer as any dancer was, softly lit, darkly shadowed and magnificently regal.
The performance led the audience all around the tomb, its segments set against different walls and terraces. In one of them, the women emerged on a ledge like a row of mermaids on a rock, arching sensually against and away from each other. On another elevated terrace, translucent black sheets billowing in the wind were splashed with bluish-white streaks of light as a dancer moved behind them… and then the spectre of a white-robed Pina glided across it all, her arms stretched up into the air, ephemeral. The space defined the dancer, the dancer defined the space.
The haunting soundscape swelled and withdrew under the night sky from speakers that wouldn't look out of place in a modern art exhibition. That every one of the twelve dancers had contributed to the choreography was evident in their individual expression. There were phrases unique to each, which then formed new strings of movement when two or more dancers came together. It was an expression of the self and an exploration of the other -- joyful, contemplative, intense and personal.
Each of these dancers has had training in Indian classical forms, martial arts and various other international dance styles. The choreography rose from this foundation and drew from it while speaking in a modern tongue. To call it ‘Indo-Western fusion' would be to reduce it to a random coupling of idioms, when in fact it is the emergence of something different and more than the parts. The vocabulary may have been drawn from diverse dictionaries, but the phrasing was unique to the contemporary dancer in India today. Jayachandran Palazhy and his dancers speak this language beautifully.
It seems rather unfair that less that 300 people could be accommodated at the Qutub Shahi Tombs last Tuesday evening. For Pina brought to the city a confident exhibition of modern dance and environmental sound design, while reintroducing us to the majesty of the Seven Tombs.
If ever there was an argument for productions to have longer runs in every city, this would be it!