Fri, Mar 04, 2011 - Page 14 News List

DANCE: Hot on the heels

By Diane Baker  /  Staff Reporter

Dancers from Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch rehearse Agua on Wednesday at the National Theater in Taipei.

Photo: CNA

The National Theatre and Concert Hall programmers struck gold when they asked the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch back for this year’s Taiwan International Festival of Arts.

Tickets for the four-show run of Agua in the main theater went almost as fast as those for the quirkier productions in the much smaller Experimental Theater. That should have come as no surprise since tickets for Masurca Fogo, the troupe’s first show at the National three-and-a-half years ago, sold out almost a month in advance.

This is the company’s fourth trip to Taiwan, but the first since Bausch died in 2009, five days after being diagnosed with cancer.

The company is now run by Dominique Mercy, who danced with Bausch from the very beginning, and Robert Sturm, who she hired in 2000 as her artistic assistant and rehearsal director. Both men are determined to keep the troupe going and to preserve Bausch’s legacy.

“We will keep the work of Pina alive on stage,” Mercy told a press conference at the National Theater on Tuesday.

Critics and dance lovers know that at some point, for the company to survive, it will have to start commissioning works by other choreographers, but that time hasn’t come just yet. Bausch left a huge catalogue of works, many of which haven’t been seen in years or danced by those now in the company.

For now, Mercy and Sturm have chosen to focus on Bausch’s later works, especially on tours.

Agua premiered in 2001, and is one of the “global works” Bausch created by picking her troupe up and moving to another country for several months. They spent three months in Brazil brainstorming and creating this piece.

While most of the music is by Brazilian musicians — Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Bebel Gilberto, Grupo Batuque and more — there are also selections from David Byrne, Bob Brookmeyer, Tom Waits and PJ Harvey and several other eclectic choices that can make one wonder how on earth the playlist was ever put together. But since that’s a question that’s often raised by the dance sequences as well, it seems like it’s up to each individual audience member to interpret what he or she is seeing and hearing.


WHAT: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Agua

WHERE: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

WHEN: Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm

ADMISSION: There are a few NT$2,400 tickets left for tonight and tomorrow’s shows and Sunday’s matinee, available at the NTCH box office or online at

While Bausch built her reputation on dark, even horrific, theater-heavy pieces, Agua is definitely her most lighthearted and approachable work, if not downright joyous. She has conjured up images of holiday paradise complete with swaying palm trees, beaches, jungle animals and parades of drummers. Video projections of Brazilian landscapes and people serve as a backdrop to sexy flirtations, chases and confrontations.

Like many of Bausch’s works, Agua examines the foibles of human relationships and sexual attraction, but in a non-linear fashion. Don’t come looking for a regular narrative in her productions.

The sets for a Bausch work are always a challenge for stagehands and dancers alike. While Masurca Fogo had a water slide and a rocky beach for example, others have featured walls of mud, while in Agua there is a full-on water fight that leaves the stage soaked.

The length of Bausch’s works are a test of stamina for dancers and audiences. Agua comes in at a little under three hours.

For Bausch devotees, however, it’s still not enough.

Taipei audiences will be keeping an eye out for Taiwanese dancer Yu Tsai-chin (余采芩), who joined the company two-and-a-half years ago. Like several other young Taiwanese now studying or working with foreign troupes, Yu was a beneficiary of a Lo Man-fei (羅曼菲) dance scholarship that helped her travel abroad.

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