Pina Bausch in Dancing Dreams

| March 3, 2012

This documentary is about a group of young teenagers from different areas and backgrounds who gather on Saturdays to take a dance class. For most of them it is an introduction to a new world. A few of the boys have some experience with hip-hop dancing but the rest are completely unfamiliar with the world of movement. One girl said that she expected a casual class where she would dance a little; learn a few moves. It wasn’t until the rehearsals started that she knew she had entered into something more serious and demanding. Unbeknownst to them, this extra curricular activity will transform the lives and perspectives of these teenagers, giving them new eyes with which to see the universe.
None of them have ever heard of Pina Bausch but when their rehearsal directors, Jo and Benedicte (former dancers for Pina Bausch) educate them on her fame, style and expectations, this makes them nervous and excited and inspires them to do the best they can. From this group, Pina will choose the ones she wants to perform “Kontakthof” for a special theater run to present to the public. From the very opening, I loved Dancing Dreams. It felt like I was a fly on the wall observing the student’s reactions to Pina’s forthright artistry, and watching them navigate through the many new elements that Baush’s modern dance thrusts upon them. These include trusting and respecting others outside of the family and outside of the personal comfort zone, intimacy, the exploration and baring of the souls, allowing oneself to be vulnerable with strangers and interacting with those from different ethnicity’s and cultural backgrounds. Many students joined up with a friend in the beginning, but through time it was fascinating to see all of them unite and support each other in the pursuit of a common goal, that being to present their best performance individually and collectively.
The writer and filmmaker, Anne Linsel, focuses on a handful of the kids who eventually become part of the final cast. She gives us a glimpse at their personal hardships and fears and how this affects their performance. Linsel reveals each of these student’s personal journey through the challenges presented to by Pina’s work. Through an expertly guided process of self exploration, they confront and conquer their fears, driven by an intense desire to prove to themselves, to Pina, and to the rehearsal directors that they are capable of the maturity required to embody their characters in the piece. These students are being exposed to new emotional terrain and they need explanation and reassurance to find their way through. Many of the girls were astute enough to make the distinction between the feeling of having a crush on a boy and the feeling of being deeply in love. Others admitted to having only experienced the love of their parents and family and understanding that this familial love was on a different level than romantic love.
The piece “Kontacthof” (“Contact Zone”) deals with the complexity of love and desire between the sexes. It requires the dancers to explore seduction, sensuality as well as humiliation, flattery, and exhibitionism. Watching these young and inexperienced dancers interpret such adult themes is like a journey back to the discovery of sensuality. They made the movement their own, adding a lightness of purity and innocence .
Dancing Dreams is a beautifully honest portrayal of youth. As the documentary unfolds we watch as the dancers slowly put aside their inhibitions and fears about the physicality and subtle sexuality of the choreography. It’s refreshing to hear them articulate how their participation made them feel more confident in everyday life. The rehearsal directors Jo and Benedicte are wonderfully present and engaging. Both are so nurturing and patient and really care that the students are comfortable and enjoying themselves. This provides the kids with a safe environment which helps remove their natural defenses and access their real feelings in order to reach the depths of the characters they portray.
Pina Bausch is an enigma with her discerning gaze and chain smoking, but her brilliant artistry is obvious in every moment of the film. She is present for some of the rehearsals and for the final performance. As the camera focuses on Pina watching the performance, we see her face light up. It is as if she is going through all the movements with each performer in her head, taking a journey back in time. There is a strong sense of mutual adoration Pina and the rehearsal directors deeply admire the serious dedication of these kids to Pina’s choreography, and the kids truly respect the rehearsal directors and Pina as one of the top choreographers in the world.
Dancing Dreams is joyful and uplifting. It’s wonderful to see how these teenagers evolve and grow throughout the film. It leaves you wanting more and with the hope there is a sequel to find out what became of these kids.

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