The bliss of uniqueness
After 27 years I saw it again: ›Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört‹ from Pina Bausch.
When my wife and I left the opera in Wuppertal I was determined to write a review of the piece we just saw.1 »Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört«2 is from the 80s and it is one of my favorites. I saw it repeatedly in 1986 when I accompanied the Tanztheater Wuppertal during their guest performance in Stuttgart. To see it again, after 27 years, was overwhelming. The scenes were like old buddies who hasn’t changed, I recognized them all. And when the War March of the Priests3 resounded, and one of the most brilliant scenes in Pina Bausch’s versatile work unfold on the stage I was nearly moved to tears. Still now, writing these words, I am overwhelmed by emotions.
But I soon realized that I would never be able to write a reserved critique and add one more review of »Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört« to the huge pile of reviews in newspapers and magazines. Whatever I could write, it would always be about me. This piece is linked with a crucial period of my life. It was a time of great inspiration and of painful personal failure. It still hurts, it still comforts, and it is still very close. Too close. So I decided to write in English which is not my native language. I feel better this way.
In 1986 Kay Kirchmann, now a professor at Nuremberg university, and I wanted to make a film with Pina and her company. She liked the idea and let us join the rehearsals for several weeks to get accustomed to each other and see if the idea would work out. For a couple of months we were part of the extended circle of Pina Bausch’s family. She never refused our idea, but on the other hand she never approved it. In the days before the company left Wuppertal for the guest performance in Stuttgart events came thick and fast. We believed that the next days would decide our future as film makers.
But there was no decision in Stuttgart, instead there was »Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört.« Watching Pina Bausch and her company was a great inspiration. I learned a lot. But we didn’t succeed. We didn’t make the film we wanted. Our project was a complete failure. Later, Kay made a documentary about Pina for German television. But I never made a film again.
We had made friends with some of the dancers of her company. We peered behind the scenes. Our point of view shifted. We saw the dancer’s vulnerability, their yearning for a smile from Pina, their fear to be frowned upon.
I remembered »Auf dem Gebirge…« as the piece where the stage is covered with soft soil, and I remembered it as a piece of violence. There is this furious scene, accompanied by the War March of the Priest by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: Eight men are chasing a female and a male dancer. Desperately the dancers try to escape, they dart hither and thither, but in vain. One hunter catches hold of an arm, another clenches a leg, finally four chasers clutch the rebelling body of the woman, and four the struggling man. The victims are forced to kiss each other. Only a second before they have to kiss their resistance break and there is a moment of surrender. (This made the kiss less violent than it was in my memory. I cannot prove it, but I think that in 1986 they fight and struggle against the kiss until their lips are forced to touch each other.) After the kiss the hunters let them go, and the relentless pursuit starts anew. This ›chase for a kiss‹ is intermixed with acts of heroism: a rowing race and a rescue from drowning. A brilliant montage! – And a torment for the dancers. Bruises were common and we heard of chapped lips and eyebrows. The core of their art is that they don’t act. They do.
When I saw this scene again, after 27 years, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of gratefulness. I could’ve missed the chance to see this wonderful piece again. There is only a small time frame when you can order tickets. And only by chance I heard that »Auf dem Gebirge…« was rehearsed at all.
We believe that everything is accessible. Just click on a link and you hear, see or read what you want. But this is an illusion. The art of Pina Bausch is not accessible 24/7 like a video on Youtube. It is a rare and nearly unique encounter, like all special moments in life. You cannot replay your first kiss. You cannot replay the birth of your kid. You cannot simply copy and paste the events of your life. When they are gone, they are gone. This is the hidden link between Tanztheater and life – there is no mechanical reproduction, but there is uniqueness everywhere.
»The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition« says Walter Benjamin in his famous essay ›The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction‹. Tradition is at stake when art is accessible 24/7 and without tradition there is no uniqueness.
Watching »Auf dem Gebirge…« again, I felt the bliss of uniqueness born from tradition. The tradition has names, the names of dancers who were on stage 27 years ago: Dominique Mercy, Jean-Laurent Sasportes and Lutz Förster. They played their original roles. Lutz Förster, the newly appointed leader of the company, performed with the grandeur of a senior.
There is tradition on my side too. I am still searching. I haven’t found my voice. Perhaps I fear to find it. Why else do I write this in English and not in my own language?
Kriegsmarsch der Priester from „Athalia“ op. 74 Felix Mendelsshon. 2011. Internet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwvIZ2qEqfs&feature=youtube_gdata_player. Zuletzt geprüft am: 22.9.2014.
Pina Bausch Tanztheater: Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört 27.04.2013. 2013. Internet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNWoPkTj29A&feature=youtube_gdata_player. Zuletzt geprüft am: 22.9.2014.
Tanztheater Wuppertal - Pina Bausch - Auf dem Gebirge. 1984. Internet: http://www.pina-bausch.de/stuecke/auf_dem_gebirge.php. Zuletzt geprüft am: 22.9.2014.
Pina Bausch Tanztheater: Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört 27.04.2013. 2013. Internet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNWoPkTj29A&feature=youtube_gdata_player. Zuletzt geprüft am: 22.9.2014. ↩︎
Tanztheater Wuppertal - Pina Bausch - Auf dem Gebirge. 1984. Internet: http://www.pina-bausch.de/stuecke/auf_dem_gebirge.php. Zuletzt geprüft am: 22.9.2014. ↩︎
Kriegsmarsch der Priester from „Athalia“ op. 74 Felix Mendelsshon. 2011. Internet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwvIZ2qEqfs&feature=youtube_gdata_player. Zuletzt geprüft am: 22.9.2014. ↩︎