Movie Review: Pina (2011)

“Dance the winds will touch your feet, just dance and dance feel the beat, dance the last atom cutting a knot, just dance and dance until you cannot” — Miroslava Odalovic

I sometimes have dreams about being in a place with gorgeous colors and heightened emotions and a feeling of weightlessness. I was thinking about these dreams while watching the dancers whirling and spinning with abandonment in Pina, Wim Wenders’ 3-D extraordinary documentary tribute to the late dance choreographer Pina Bausch. Bausch was a pioneer in the world of modern dance whose innovations forever changed the landscape of modern dance, and who died unexpectedly before the filming began. The documentary consists of Pina’s most well-known dance pieces with their themes of pain and loneliness. These are interspersed with comments by the performers about their relationship with Pina and about their own performance standards.

Although some of the comments can be somewhat intrusive when interrupting the flow of a dance routine, they are also very personal and quite revealing. One dancer talked about Pina as a painter and the dancers as her paint. Bausch’s advice was usually short but very telling, such as her simple comment to one dancer to “keep on searching.” The unnamed dancers in Pina’s “dance theater” create a blend of dance and drama that resembles psychodrama with music. Some of Pina’s most popular pieces are presented including a dance to “The Rite of Spring” (Le Sacre du Printemps) by Igor Stravinsky, a piece called “Café Muller” staged in a large room using chairs as a creative prop.

In one of the dances, a man rhythmically adjusts the arms of an embracing couple until the woman leaps into his arms and then drops to the floor. This sequence is repeated over and over at a faster speed. The dances are performed to opera, classical pieces, and folk songs that are serenely beautiful. In “Vollmond,” (full moon) dancers splash with gusto in the water beside a large rock. “Kontakthof” is set on the stage of a large theater in which dancers of all ages move in rhythm with each other, forming and reforming lines across the stage. In a humorous piece that takes place on a monorail, one dancer has a confrontation with a pillow while another sits in the back seat with two large rabbit ears on his head.

While we learn little about Pina’s personal life or her interpretation of the dances she has created, the dances speak for themselves and do so in a way that is both aesthetically appealing and spiritually resonant. With supple movement, energy, and rhythm, the dancers express themselves with reckless exuberance, yet Pina tells one dancer that, “you have to get crazier,” thus pushing them to the limit of their abilities, telling them — and us — to “dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.”

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


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