Pina Bausch’s 1984 Ballet Observes the Human Condition

United KingdomUnited Kingdom   Various composers, Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört (On the Mountain a Cry was Heard), Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Sadler’s Wells, London, 15.4.2013 (J.O’D)

Dancers: Regina Advento, Ruth Amarante, Pablo Aran Gimeno, Rainer Behr, Andrey Berezin, Aleš Čuček, Jospehine Ann Endicott, Ҫağdaş Ermis, Silvia Farias Heredia, Barbara Kaufmann, Ditta Miranda Jasfi, Scott Jennings, Nayoung Kim, Thusnelda Mercy, Cristiana Morganti, Breanna O’Mara, Nazareth Panadero, Helena Pikon, Franko Schmidt, Michael Strecker, Fernando Suels Mendoza, Aida Vainieri, Anna Wehsarg, Paul White, Ophelia Young, Tsai-Chin Yu.

Musicians:    An Orchestra of Senior Musicians: Clarinet: Malcolm McMillan; Trumpet: Andrew Mitchell, Edward Hobart; Flugal Horn: Michael Laird, Andrew Hendrie; Euphonium: Roger Harvey, Les Lake, George Wall; Trombone: David Whitson; Tuba: James Anderson; Percussion: Stephen Henderson; Conductor: Philip Gammon.

Choreographer: Pina Bausch
Set Design:    Peter Pabst, Rolf Borzik, Gralf-Edzard Habben
Costume Design: Marion Cito, Rolf Borzik
Collaboration: Hans Pop
Musical Collaboration: Matthias Burkert
Dramaturgy/Dramatic Advisor: Raimund Hoghe

Music: Matthias Burkert, Andreas Eisenschneider: Tommy Dorsay, Billie Holiday, Henry Purcell, Heinrich Schütz, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Gerry Mulligan, Johnny Hodges, Fred Astaire, Edith Piaf, Boris Vian, Irish bagpipe music


For last year’s 1980 – A Piece by Pina Bausch (1980) the Sadler’s Wells stage was covered in grass. For a work that the German choreographer and the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch created four years later it is covered in earth. The dancers negotiate this earth in clothes that resemble day and evening wear of the mid-twentieth century. Unless, that is, they happen to be wearing pink rubber gloves, red swimming trunks, a red swimming hat and goggles, and have their nose flattened to one side by an elastic band.

According to the essayist and dramaturge, André Lepecki, Pina Bausch (who died in 2009) ‘famously stated that what matters for her was not how people move but what moves people’. The dancers in Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört, not all of whom are young, sometimes do not move at all. When they do, it is often to carry out repeated actions, or series of actions, to which the repetition itself gives new, if indefinable, meaning. The man in swimming trunks, for example, blows up red balloons, in silence, until they burst.

In his book Exhausting Dance Lepecki explains that between 1976 and 1977 Pina Bausch began ‘bombarding’ her dancers with questions ‘to fill the dancer’s mouth with his or her own voice and also to reshape the dancer’s body, to give him or her a new corporeality.’ The bodies in Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört and the actions they carry out sometimes amuse, sometimes disconcert, always surprise.

The piece, which is being performed for the first time in the UK along with a second work, Ahnen (1987), is darker in tone than 1980. No dancer, here, said to the audience halfway through: ‘Would anyone like a cup of tea?’ No dancer in evening dress came down from the stage to serve it. The first music to be heard is a recording of Billie Holiday’s ravaged voice singing Strange Fruit. The cry on the mountain to which the title refers would seem to be the cry of a woman. There are several moments in the piece which show women suffering at the hands of men in a way that they didn’t in 1980. The ending is one of them.

Alternating scenes of comedy and tragedy like a Dickens novel, the work acknowledges loss, lack of communication, age and death. Often, especially in the larger set pieces, the comic and the tragic are on the stage at the same time, along with fog, fir trees and a complete brass band. What starts out as comedy, in the more intimate sections, can also become tragedy through repetition.

‘After…Bausch,’ writes André Lepecki in his essay, Concept and Presence, ‘dance could no longer be certain of where it stood, and what it stood for.’ But the attentive Sadler’s Wells audience seemed to find sufficient meaning in Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört. Perhaps like 1980, according to the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s Artistic Director, Lutz Förster, they saw it as ‘basically about being human’.

John O’Dwyer

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