THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
View it from now till Fri 31 July at the price of £5 or equivalent on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/dancingatdusk/ Proceeds will help support the artists, the future life of the production, and Sadler’s Wells.
This is a stunning 40 min film, which you can watch on Vimeo, that captures the last rehearsal of a specially assembled company of 38 dancers from 14 African countries and documents a unique moment in their preparation for an international tour of their re-staging of Pina Bausch’s iconic The Rite of Spring.
It is danced in an extraordinary setting on the beach in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal and was filmed as the world descended into lockdown. Just days before the premiere in Dakar, all performances were cancelled as governments banned public gatherings and began closing their borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The striking widescreen vista of the beach at dusk, with a demarcated plot for the dance, adds whole new dimensions to Bausch’s quasi-religious piece. Numerous ballet companies around the world have restaged this since its 1975 premiere in Wuppertal.
We’re normally in peaty earth or mud but here it’s white sand and you can almost feel the warm sea breeze on your face as it wafts through the dancers’ costumes – the women in beige linen slips, the men topless and in black trousers.
The African company of dancers bring both the earthiness of folk to it but also an informality, moving beyond their obvious formal technique and forging a relaxed sinuous vibe. The director Florian Heinzen-Ziob brilliantly choreographs within the frame and isn’t tempted by medium shots until they really add something.
The horror of the Chosen One, singled out for sacrifice in this eerie Rite, is no less disturbing here but it jolts us more because of the soft sensuousness of the setting. As the light dims and Stravinsky’s brooding score mounts to an insistent fever pitch it generates a level of angst in the viewer which would be the envy of Hitchcock. In fact, you realise just what a huge debt is owed to that Russian by all the composers of every Hollywood suspense thriller ever since.
I suspect Pina would have loved it.