Originally, this was supposed to be a film documentary made in collaboration with famed German contemporary dance pioneer, choreographer and dancer Philippina “Pina” Bausch. In mid-2009, as she was collaborating with Wenders on the project, she was diagnosed with cancer and shockingly died less than a week after being diagnosed. The film project went ahead without her, but the focus shifted from being a collaborative endeavour to a valediction on her legacy.
Bausch’s style of choreography was often matched with jarring body rhythms that seemed incongruous or not of modern dance, but her use of repetition to convey raw energy and feeling were what made her one of the leading lights of the dance world. In particular, her magnificent Rite of Spring is one of her trademark pieces, focusing the word “rite” to highlight the physical aspect of human sacrifice. With the dancers barefoot on a stage covered entirely in dirt, and the lead dancer acting as the sacrificial lamb, the effect is visceral and disturbing, yet beautiful:
Similarly, another of her trademark pieces if the Café Muller chairs sequence, consisting of dancers moving in a space populated by chairs, using them as metaphors for the obstacles and facilitators of life’s struggles. This was popularized in Pedro Almodovar’s film Talk to Her and is still considered part of the contemporary dance canon:
Wenders’s film, shot in 3-D, is a majestic tribute to Bauch’s work and shows us her aesthetics, how it influences people, and the beauty of movement. It is a celebration of the human body. And it’s just been short-listed as one of the finalists (the last step before the nominations are finalized) for Best Documentary Feature for next year’s Oscars. Pina, already a sensation at film festivals around the globe, will receive a North American limited release on December 23. In the meantime, you can view the magnificent trailer below:
Additionally, I recommend you also consider their influence on other art forms. The three-time world champion figure skaters and 2010 Olympic bronze medalists from Germany, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, have brought Bausch’s aesthetic to create some radical choreography in figure skating, as seen at a recent tournament. Note the jagged edges and deconstructed, broken-down body positions that are in contrast to more “classical”, balletic movements and clean lines favoured in the sport. It seems that even after her death, Bausch’s influence lives on.
You can find out more on Pina on the film’s website.