Pina

I know virtually nothing about modern dance (or really any dance for that matter) yet I was eager to see the documentary Pina, about the eponymous German choreographer, because the previews were so intriguing.  Maybe you have seen them? No spoken words, just scenes of dancers in odd places, doing odd things.  I didn’t really know what to expect from this film, but the opening 15 minutes clinched it for me.  I recognized the  haunting bassoon solo of Stravinksi’s Rite of Spring right away and it gave me chills: possibly my all-time favourite piece of “classical” music.  I had never seen the ballet, but as it turns out (from later Wikipedia research) that Pina’s choreography for Rite of Spring was one of the defining pieces of her career.  It was primal, raw, and perfect: for me, this choreography brought the Rite of Spring to life in a way that just listening to it on recording (or playing it as part of a symphony) could never do.  (Watch a bit of it here, if you’re interested.)  You would think that after such a brilliant opening, the film would go downhill, and admittedly it did have its clear lower moments (I do not even pretend to understand the fairly disturbing Cafe Muller).  But other bits of the film were mesmerizing and surreal: dancers dancing beside what looks like a section of a very large quarry, at the grassy side of a very busy intersection, underneath a suspension bridge, in a glass house.  After the Rite of Spring though my favourite piece took place on and around the very cool hangy-down monorail thingy (yes, its official name) in the city of Wuppertal, Germany, which I didn’t even know existed before I saw Pina.  I will grant that this film is definitely not for everybody.  For whatever reason it totally captivated me, despite very little explanation of the choreography and the symbolism behind the pieces.  I actually think that such an addition would detract from the almost dream-like feel of the film: it turns out you don’t need to overthink everything. Sometimes it’s just about feeling.

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