Pina Bausch was a German modern dance choreographer, famous for bringing elements of the real world onto her stage, incorporating water, dirt, rocks, city streets and cafés into her choreography. In “Pina 3D”, director Wim Wenders brings Bausch’s choreography seamlessly offstage into the real world–shooting parts of the dances on city streets, in the forest, on a tram, in an industrial park and on the beach–while still giving us glimpses of the performances on stage.
In “Pina,” Wenders works with Bausch’s dancers to bring segments of her “Café Muller,” “The Rite of Spring” and “Vollmond” vividly to the big screen. Cinematographer Hélène Louvart shoots effectively in 3D, which is all oriented behind the screen, creating the effect of watching dance occurring in a three-dimensional space. It’s as close to theatre or live dance as you can get on film. Here, you have the advantage of being able to get close to the dancers, to clearly see their facial expressions or the details of a particular move.
Wenders makes modern dance, which can easily be alienating until you get accustomed to it, accessible to the dance neophyte. Each of the three pieces are shown in relatively short segments, no more than 10 minutes each, and are interspersed both with one another and between the stage and the outside world. The advantage is that if a certain number doesn’t quite click for you, it is normally finished before you are too bored.
The disadvantage is that too often, the segments that you love are too short. For more seasoned dance appreciators, this can be frustrating throughout: Wenders may cut away from a particular angle or move of interest at an inopportune time, and you can’t see entire numbers in sequence. In a way, this is pop dance for the masses, in the same way that symphonies perform “pop” classical numbers where they play the month’s highlights instead of famous pieces in their entirety.
Nevertheless, “Pina” still brings a new dimension to the work of Pina Bausch by bringing it onto the streets and onto the beach. It gives the dance an added sense of urgency and spontaneity. It’s invigorating to see Pina Bausch’s choreography performed by the ocean, with the dancers kicking around in the water, and then to see how Bausch translated that setting and immediacy to the stage. It is equally exciting to see Bausch’s work re-imagined in the real settings that she re-created indoors.
One of the best dance numbers, which epitomizes how Bausch’s choreography is dance, theatre and life, all at once, comes from “Café Mueller.” The dance is set in a café; the stage is full of tables and chairs. A couple starts off in tableau, the woman resting her arms around her partner’s neck. A third person, a man, enters and moves the woman’s arms to rest on her partner’s waist, and lifts her up into her partner’s arms. Her partner immediately drops her, and she stands up, puts her arms around his neck and holds onto him for dear life. The third dancer comes back and the process repeats. Every time it repeats, it gets faster. The faster it gets, the more dramatic, the more urgent and the more charged it becomes. It is dance, but there is a story arc that makes it theatre and a familiarity that makes it a great reflection of life. And up close, with the camera right in the space with the actors, whether on stage or on location, it exists not as just a reflection of life but as life itself. Suddenly, Bausch’s mantra, “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost,” makes perfect sense.