My Blog__ Must Dance More

March 01, 2012 | By

Not-a-movie-review-movie-review.

This week I went to see Wim Wenders' newish 3D feature-length dance film.  One wouldn’t guess that Wim Wenders or Werner Herzog types would ever opt for 3D, but there you go. Cave paintings in 3D, anything goes. I like them, I feel very cool in 3D glasses.

Wenders’ new film, Pina, is a highly segmented, post-humous tribute to Pina Bausch, a world-regarded German choreographer, dance teacher, dancer, and, if I may add, philosopher. The characters are all members of the Pina’s Tanztheatre Wuppertal Ballet, and each scene layers her contemporary choreography on top of Wenders' distinctive eye for beauty—from the stage to the city tram, street intersections, and the desert.

It's beauty on beauty on beauty.

But here's the thing: am I living under a rock? Do most people know Pina Bausch existed?

If I'm not the only one, why don’t we know about her? I can name about a hundred foolish celebrities who drop pounds, plunge in and out of insanity, and commit driving infractions, but I didn’t know about Pina Bausch. In fact, I can't name one single choreographer. All that comes to mind when I think of dance are the words "Natalie Portman" and "Black Swan".

It got me thinking about how dance is so very lost to our North American culture. Most of us girls used to be dancers. I was in jazz and ballet. Boys more often joined soccer leagues to learn to be tough while we were taught grace. But when did I start feeling embarrassed about dancing like I used to--freely? I used to throw myself around rooms and public spaces – wherever, whenever.  A child’s body flows so intuitively with their feelings. Children are like animals in that way, there seems to be no separation between feeling and movement. T

hen one day the two break apart, split like a cell. Alcohol, dark rooms and big bass lubricate our limbs now. Think of the money spent in clubs. Clearly there is a deep desire for this kind of movement. There's a huge market for it.

And don’t be fooled, depriving your senses with drugs and darkness doesn’t mean you don’t look like that same 6-year old kid you once were.

I also got to wondering about whether I really had a clue as to what was going on in Pina. Does dance function like “heady” skills and practices where prior knowledge is needed? Even visual art unveils itself in layers and layers, and it's rarely immediately accessible.

At one point during the film I wondered if I was just watching a piece replete with points of reference, motifs, symbols and deep-rooted dialogues that were unknowable to me. At one point I wondered if I was just watching an ornate front door without a key to open it.

But my friend Maya made a good point, as she often does, that dance is entirely natural to us, so we can just know it (those weren't her exact words, but it went something like that). It’s like a universal language, as fundamental as facial gestures. And Bausch's dances in Pina, like Café Muller and Rite of Spring, seemed to be incredibly in tune with basic human emotions and understanding, so much so that I felt able to grasp what each move expressed.

I'd like to think dance isn't cryptic. As one of the dancers says in Pina, everything that cannot be said with words can be expressed with dance. The choreographies need no explanation, I needed no tour from the curator.

Although, perhaps I am being ignorant. Perhaps I don’t know.

But remember when Trudeau did a pirouette behind Queen Elizabeth? He said something that could never be expressed with words and it was as clear as the diamonds on her necklace.


Why do so many of us stop dancing in this culture?

I am reading a book right now by creativity’s main proponent, Sir Ken Robinson. You may have seen his Ted Talk “Do schools kill creativity?”, where he so convincingly suggests the following:

“There is no education system on the planet that teaches dance to children everyday the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance.  Children dance all the time, if they’re allowed to. We all do. We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting? Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And then, slightly to one side.”

That's a disconcerting thought, especially when our current PM isn't doing any pirouettes, but he's instead trimming away at the fat: arts fundings. As Sir Ken goes on to say, dance is the lowest rung on the education ladder, and it's at the lowest too within the arts (Music, Visual Art, Drama, Dance in that order), so it's the first to go.

Movies with few words give me a nice, imagistic break. Movies with indirect narratives allow each scene and feeling to stand alone. Pina was exemplary that. For all the disgruntled film buffs who thought The Artist didn’t deserve its acclaim, I stick by it's ultimate genius: the way in which it made us watch differently. Silence and so, movement. I considered what I was seeing and hearing in a novel way. As an aside, it's interesting that in the movie's final moment, George Valentin's destiny is saved by dance.

Pina's segments speak volumes about love, beauty, strength, gender, and the relentless passing of time. Through only movement, these concepts are incredibly powerful en masse. And this woman's ideas on dance say alot about life. Wim Wenders’ direction captures her philosophies just-so.

It recalls everything I miss about live theatre, dancing in front of mirrors, and my six-year-old self.

Must dance more.

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