For Pina on 9/4/09

  
We all knew Pina,
each of us in a different way.
We knew her as a mother, as a friend, as a confidant,
as dancer, as choreographer,
as vigilant skeptic, indefatigable worker,
professional yet caring boss,
attentive observer and listener,
as a humble international star...

We all knew Pina,
and every one of us misses her
in his or her our own way:
very personally, very inwardly, very painfully.
But there's one thing about Pina
that all our memories have in common
- even if we're not (yet) aware of it -
her look on us.

If you've ever stood or sat across from Pina
and looked into her eyes,
or if you've ever watched her while she worked
and saw the way she studied her dancers during rehearsal,
you know what I mean by this look,
by "Pina's gaze."

Just recalling that gaze
makes her appear right before your eyes again:
the way she often seemed tired and exhausted at first
and then revealed a body and soul full of sheer endless energy,
her head cocked at a slight angle,
her hair combed taut and pulled back,
her fragile form and pale face with its large curious eyes
that seemed to look at the world a bit dreamily,
often giving the impression that her thoughts were elsewhere...
But they never were.
Pina was always present, as you'd notice with a start
when she'd suddenly gaze deep into your eyes,
as if looking through you,
at the same time to your bottom,
and all with this immense sadness on her face,
that was ready to break into a smile at any moment.

Over the last few weeks,
I've seen and read many interviews with Pina,
and it was impossible not to notice in them
how little she trusted language.
Sometimes she was struggling and tormenting herself
to finally say something
that was actually quite simple,
but then, not at all
in a world in which the simple things
have long become the hardest to get across.

She would often look around helplessly
when she couldn't find the rights words,
as if she might possibly find the answer with her eyes.
That's where it became evident
how much more Pina relied on her look instead on words.
At least she trusted much more in what could be seen
than in what could be said.

Blind people are supposed
to sharpen their sense of hearing in compensation.
About Pina, you could almost say the reverse:
her mistrust of words
made her rely all the more on her eyes,
but in a very particular, unique way of her own.
She honed her gaze into an extraordinarily sensitive tool
for recognizing and analyzing everything
we say and express with our movements and gestures,
for everything we reveal about ourselves through them.
We do that involuntarily and unconsciously,
and most of it remains invisible to other eyes.

Well, certainly not for Pina.
Pina saw, indeed, even when we were "in the dark."
She developed a unique phenomenology of gestures,
a view of the world, so to speak, or even better:
an explanation or interpretation of our humanity
that was wholly new and unexplored...

There was a time in my life once
when I was very shy
and would have never dared, for instance,
to walk up to a dance floor and dance.
I'd spend night after night in discotheques, though,
leaning up against a wall or a pole,
ceaselessly watching other people dance.
(Wherever you go, no matter the country or culture,
you'll always find people like me, like I used to be,
standing in the corners,
never dancing, but always watching.
Sometimes they move their shoulders to the beat a bit,
or snap their fingers, or shuffle around imperceptibly...)
In any case, during this "shy period" of my life
I once said to a friend, out of the blue,
perhaps by way of explanation:
"You can see right through people
when you watch them dance.
You don't even need to be a psychoanalyst.
You just have to observe closely how they move!"

At the time, I just said that to say something interesting.
I probably also thought there was some truth in it,
but I certainly didn't take my words seriously.
And I didn't sharpen this sense ob observation any further,
I merely realized it was probably possible to do so,
the way a graphologist can interpret people's psyche
by reading their handwriting,
given of course years of intense study and experience.

The only person I've ever met
who had developed this sense to the utmost degree,
to the absolute limit of sensitivity,
was Pina Bausch.
Her ability to decipher
what people are revealing through their bodies
was uncanny.

The purpose of her somewhat absent gaze
was to keep other things from distracting her:
language and words, accent, clothing,
hairstyle, facial expressions...
everything we usually look for to understand one another.
All this Pina did not need.
She didn't want us to lie down on her couch
to get psychoanalyzed.
All she wanted was to watch us, to see how we move.

Maybe this is where her aversion for perfection stems from,
to some degree.
Perfection involves first of all the display of itself.
Pina was more interested
in the private, playful, revelatory and unconscious aspects
of movement and gesture,
in the child sleeping in all of us
that is capable of expressing itself quite eloquently,
provided you understand its language.

That's what Pina could see better than anyone.
What Sigmund Freud could interpret in a person's dreams,
Pina could read in their bearing or posture,
in how they throw their hair back or move their arms.

We are, after all, open books, only:
there is no science for the most simple things in the world.
But Pina was a scientist, a researcher,
a pioneer of the uncharted territories of the human soul.

Because she had such an interest in people,
her great art as a dancer and choreographer
was not so much focused on aesthetics,
effects, "beauty," or appeal,
- l'art pour l'art so to speak -
but rather on an "image of man" (and woman)
a depiction of people in their time and their society,
subject to all their conditions,
pains, fears, joys, and passions.
There was an undeniable humor in this portrayal,
but it was never "making fun" of their subjects.

The section or aspect of this conditio humana
that Pina most extensively explored
was the relationship between men and women.
She created a genuine anthology
of gestures and behavioral patterns
to embody both "the game" and "the war" between the sexes.

If you go back in your memory
and imagine Pina's gaze on you once again,
you might realize, as I did,
with a certain amount of sorrow,
that you took that gaze for granted,
that you just saw it as Pinas very own and tender way of looking.

We all did not grasp
what kind of a look that was.
Clairvoyant despite its dreaminess,
incisive yet not "taking apart,"
with an ability to soothe and comfort
even if it was lacking the words for that,
seeing through you
without ever making you feel naked...
All of us who knew Pina took that look for granted.

But nobody will ever lay eyes on us like that again.
And this is more than just a personal loss.
It is almost a historic one.
(I'm far from wanting to judge here,
there are no bigger losses than personal ones.)

Pina saw with her heart, up to total exhaustion.
She never rationed her gift.
Don't get me wrong:
her gaze was strict at the same time,
every bit as critical as it was loving.
But in a way that made you feel protected, not unmasked.
It was never judgmental and would never put you down.
"You got to be cruel to be kind,"
to borrow a beautiful line from an Elvis Costello song.
The most profound achievement in interacting with people
is to bring out the best in everyone,
make it shine and make it visible.
At this, Pina was a master.

Even as a spectator sitting in the audience
she brought out the best in me, in us.
She let us see and understand things
to which no other art had opened our eyes before:
She showed us another way to overcome our fears
and to not feel imprisoned in our bodies any more.
She conveyed a concept of "freedom"
that was completely new for all of us, for me, too,
and that hit us right through the heart.

You, her dancers, know this much better than I do.
For years, some of you for decades,
you were the orchestra for Pina's gaze,
each one of you a precious, unique instrument.
With her compassionate rigor she got each of you
to reveal your best rather than to hide it,
thus allowing us to bear witness to her vision, and opening our eyes
to discover the hidden language in ourselves.

You carry Pina's gaze forth into the world,
as her collaborators and kindred spirits.
Without you we would have never heard Pina's music.
You deserve our deepest gratitude
for continuing to play it and perform it to us,
with your bodies as instruments.

"Continuing to play" cannot mean to merely conserve, though,
that would not be enough.
What Pina saw and shaped
by investing so much of her heart
cannot be passed on as a duty or a burden.
It can only be performed with enthusiasm and in her spirit.
You know this, of course, no one has to tell you.

But I also hope that this is appreciated by those responsible in the city of Wuppertal
and in the state of North-Rhine-Westfalia
who will continue to support and sponsor this heritage
- indeed, the world heritage-
of Pina Bausch's work with the Wuppertal Dance Theater.

I would like to ask all of you, finally,
to cherish this treasure of Pina's gaze
- that you can still feel upon you,
that we can still feel upon us,
that we can still retrace in her works -
and to carry it inside you full of joy and gratitude, appreciating that you knew Pina,
that we all knew her gaze
and were fortunate enough
to experience such a priceless gift.


Wim Wenders, on September 4, 2009,

at the memorial ceremony for Pina Bausch
in the Wuppertal Opera House
 
 
(c) Wim Wenders, Berlin 2008 / 2009
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