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Jo Tomalin

Palermo Palermo by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch at Montpellier Danse Festival

By July 5, 2023July 24th, 2023No Comments

The 43rd festival of Montpellier Danse in France and Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain Boris Charmatz presented Palermo Palermo /REPRISE/ on June 29, 30 and July 1, 2023 in Le Corum, Montpellier. Choreographed by Pina Bausch in 1989, this is the second piece of the series she created after visiting several countries and expressing her observations in dance theatre through her company of international dancers.

Palermo Palermo is immediately impactful when a huge wall of bricks wavers and falls backwards, then dancers emerge wearing high heels and dresses or fur coats walking across the broken bricks. Prescient in this image is the fact that the Berlin Wall fell a few months after her creation. Pina Bausch works are singular in their glorious construction, choreography, use of space, theatrical dance with movement and the Tanztheater Wuppertal company of outstanding dance theatre performers who also create characters with no or minimal words – sublimely.

Bausch created her works in collaboration with superb designers: Peter Pabst for stunning scenography and beautiful costume design by Marion Cito. Musical collaboration by Matthias Burkert is at the forefront in Palermo Palermo which includes a range from Grieg, Paganini, traditional music from Sicily, Southern Italy, Africa, Japan, Scotland – to music from the Renaissance and American blues and jazz.

This three hour piece with intermission is a feast for fans of Pina Bausch choreography and creative work and a bold introduction to new audiences. The Montpellier Danse festival has made an inspired choice to invite this company, whose ground breaking work needs to be seen in the world canon of choreography.

An international cast of twenty five dancers comprising several original Tanztheater Wuppertal company members who worked with Bausch before her death in 2009 are joined by recent cast members. They all create images and emotive sequences with verve and commitment. Character quirks and poignant expressive physical commentary unfold to reveal themselves with dramatic scenes and irony – then move on to a change of pace with ensemble dances that are fluid and abstract yet involve specific individuality, that are so visceral and moving.

Flashes of ideas and observations expressed by Bausch from her research in Palermo include gunshots, church bells and cocktails! Relationships are explored such as when a couple breathe on each other then perform a beautiful angular and flowing duet, so delicate and sensitive.

Long time (and now ex) company member Nazareth Panadero is an invited guest at this performance run. She is notable for her bold and fascinating character portrayals both physical and verbal. In one of her scenes in Palermo Palermo a male character irons her dress while she is wearing it and then she is taunted by another male character – her reactions evoke the possibilities of male and female relationships and attitudes at the time. Panadero also performs a brief and demonstrative scene about spaghetti, it’s absolutely wonderful!

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain Boris Charmatz have produced a superb provocative and highly creative production that is memorable – and an experience that would be greatly welcomed again at Montpellier Danse, in the future!

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
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