Billesley to Bausch


Dance made my week last week. We spent five days with Year 5 in Billesley Primary School working on a big Space Project. This included recordings of astronaut interviews led by Craig, vast space maths led by me, building a grabber and a 1:1 scale model of the Apollo 11 command capsule with Johnny, design your own spaceship, research the planets and various other activities with their teachers. It was great to see the reaction the capsule got once a bit of lighting, landscape, music and smoke was added but for me the highlight of the week was their dance pieces. We claim no credit for these, the students devised them all before we arrived. They were brilliant, full of invention and wit, earnest attention and concentration, there was joy and charm and pride. My heart almost burst watching them.

On Sunday I moved from the sublime to the sublime: Tanztheater Wüppertal dancing Pina Bausch’s 1980 at Sadler’s Wells. I have previously seen Kontakthof and Neklen both major works but round our neck of the woods 1980 was always the legendary piece, possibly because at Lancaster University our second year project devised with Pete Brooks, Figures Walking Into The Sea, was a self-conscious homage to that show. None of us had seen it but Pete had and now I have too. The Homage was spot on though I suspect performed with significantly less poise and charm. Pete’s description of the original was also proved spot on; after three and a half hours I do feel as if I know all the dancers personally and you love them unreservedly.

The piece is haunted by childhood games and memories, despite its great humour it carries a maudlin nostalgia and sense of loss. There are great set pieces, seductive gestural choreography that feels tantalisingly close to something an inepti such as I could attempt. The tones are beautiful. The use of space equisite. I love the stuffed dear at the back constantly looking downstage at the action. Of course it is absolutely stuffed full of clichés – but is it?

It is a curious experience watching these seminal works now, so long after they were made and after I have seen so much that has been influenced by them, including – by proxi – Stan’s Cafe’s work. It is like seeing light from a star so far away that its light has taken longer to reach me than that those of closer stars I saw years ago. If you find this metaphor too taxing ask Year 5 at Billesley Primary School to explain it – actually don’t, we didn’t quite get onto the speed of light.

2 thoughts on “Billesley to Bausch

  1. I agree – a ‘falling into place’ moment – I loved it, and still so vibrant and inspiring.
    Funny too, we may have been there at the same time!

  2. I was in the stalls and was really pleased to have paid that bit extra for the perfect view – though I didn’t take full advantage by accepting the cup of tea which was on offer.

    It was interesting that the crowd wasn’t entirely self selecting. Three of the people in front of me didn’t return after the interval. They had clearly come because they had heard it was something to come and see and not liked it.

    I’m pleased you mentioned it being funny – I always forget the humour. The routine with the woman describing everything as ‘excellent’ was hilarious (it was ‘excellent’ wasn’t it – my memory is shot).

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