At the Opéra Garnier, a new life for “Kontakthof” by Pina Bausch

Under the dome of the Palais Garnier, at the top of an endless maze of corridors and stairs, couples embrace in a sad tango. Slender figure, graying hair gathered in a ponytail, Jo-Ann Endicott circulates between the women perched on vertiginous stiletto heels and the men in dark jackets.

Nothing escapes her gentle firmness, she replaces an arm, modifies the angle of a head by a few millimeters. The dancer, historical interpreter of the Tanztheater in Wuppertal, was part of the original cast of Kontakthof at its creation in 1978. In this late autumn, she directs the rehearsals with indications of extreme precision, guardian of a material that is both monumental and so fragile.

Transmitting a “sacred” but “living” work

Kontakthof is the third piece by Pina Bausch to enter the repertoire of the Paris Opera (at the instigation of the former director of dance, Aurélie Dupont), after The Rite of Spring in 1997 and Orpheus and Eurydice in 2005. The first since the sudden death of the choreographer in 2009. In the absence of this founding gaze remains the memory of Jo-Ann Endicott and the many dancers from Wuppertal who take turns at her side.

“We also use the many video archivesadds Breanna O’Mara, one of the coaches. I was the first to learn Kontakthof, not of Pina who had just died, but of the people who had created her with her. » She herself now embodies a new link in the chain of transmission, essential for the dancers of the Opera, most of whom have never worked with Pina Bausch. “It is important to preserve the spirit of the piece, the quality of the movements, but new performers must be able to appropriate itrecalls Breanna O’Mara. There is a sacred dimension when touching Pina’s work, but it must remain alive. Kontakthof is not a set piece, it has a lot to say today. »

Human relationships with a scalpel

Kontakthof, literally “contact court”, takes place in an old-fashioned ballroom, with high windows and faded moldings, a scenography by Rolf Borzik. For more than three hours, on a panel of music linking Juan Llossas to Jean Sibelius, thirteen couples in evening dress come together and come apart, while relationships of seduction, domination – even violence – are established.

“The resonances in the current period are numerousobserves Eve Grinsztajn, first dancer of the Opera ballet. For me, it’s also a piece about loneliness. It is about an unfulfilled desire for connection, even stronger in the digital age. The only tender gestures that the characters have are those that they offer to themselves. I also see this unbearable need to be entertained and entertained. Without passing judgment, Pina brings to light here the deep things of our humanity. »

An adventure for performers

To plunge into the mysteries of being, Pina Bausch dug her own furrow: the dance-theatre whose Kontakthof is iconic. The interpreters take the floor, for example, to tell the public a few sentimental stories. “We are exploring areas that we don’t usually practise, recognizes Axel Ibot, subject. It’s exciting. The coaches guide us a lot, then it’s up to us to let go, to find our own freedom.» Charlotte Ranson, coryphée, is also part of this distribution which gives pride of place to the corps de ballet. “Pina Bausch was not concerned with the hierarchyshe recalls. She chose me for the role of Love in Orpheus and Eurydice, when I had just joined the company. His gaze on me changed my life. »

Clear and piercing eyes that also left their mark on Eve Grinsztajn. “She had a presence beyond herselfremembers the soloist who will retire at the end of the last performance of Kontakthofthe 31st of December. I find it very nice to end my career at the Paris Opera with this ballet. After all these years serving the classic technique, I no longer have the same relationship to excellence. Pina’s dance asks us to accept our imperfection and do something about it. It’s a return to basics, we have to live it, quite simply, with our interior colors. »


A key piece with a multiple destiny

Founded in Wuppertal (Germany) in 1978, Kontakthof is Pina Bausch’s first long play. It will notably mark the Avignon Festival in 1981.

The piece was revived in 2000 with senior amateurs. This version is titled Kontakthof with ladies and gentlemen over 65.

In 2008, Kontakthof is this time transmitted, under the direction of Jo-Ann Endicott, to teenagers from Wuppertal who had no stage experience. This project, carried out a few months before the death of Pina Bausch, was the subject of a magnificent film, Dancing Dreamsby Anne Linsel and Rainer Hoffmann, released in 2010.

The Pina-Bausch Foundation, created and directed by his son Solomon, now oversees the preservation and transmission of his works.

Source : BBN NEWS

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