Invitation to the dance, or: Life imitates art

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled blog to bring you a dance review. Actually, it’s not so much a dance review as a series of musings on how parenthood has changed the way I view dance. That’s a life change I really didn’t see coming: one is generally prepared for the physical changes, the stuff about nappies and a bit of an emotional pummelling, but they don’t tell you bringing a small person into the world is going to change your relationship with live art,

Part of that change is to the frequency with which I currently view dance; back in the before-time, when evenings were fancy-free and bedtimes were late, this could be up to three times a week. Now, it’s three times a year, and I get really resentful if an evening out at the theatre takes me away from the bath-and-bedtime routine without very good reason. People who have known me for a long time do still expect me to be at the latest premieres; but I guess change number two is that (despite my still very much being part of the industry, and earning part of my livelihood from this stuff) I’m just not so all-consumingly interested anymore.

Unless, of course, the show in question happens to be by one of my all-time favourite companies performing work by one of my all-time favourite choreographers: Pina Bausch. Other choreographers do fine work with straight narrative (MacMillan) or the mechanics of movement itself (Maliphant, McGregor); but Pina, more than any other dance artist, made dance out of the very stuff of life itself. All the joy, horror, trauma, absurdity and mess of human existence is there, and if you haven’t yet experienced Pinaworld may I suggest you take a break here to go and check it out.

OK, are we back? Great. So, the company comes to London once a year, and this year’s show was Masurca Fogo, a piece inspired by Portugal and Brazil. It’s a lighter and lusher Bausch than some of the angsty earlier works, full of swirling solos and watery vignettes. But there was one section, I realise, that I now read completely differently to how I would have before. A series of dancers rush onto the stage, trailing toilet paper, running with scissors and leaping from chairs. One dancer, Rainer Behr, tries without much success to rein in the chaos, scooping up blades and catching falling bodies. It’s a scene that reads as funny, until the moment that you recognise in it your own daily existence and the constant anxiety that running after a scissor-wielding, TP-hurling, chair-leaping toddler entails. It looks remarkably familiar, and there’s a new undertow of horror to the whole scene. Life really has changed the way I view art.

I wrote earlier about how certain works of art and entertainment seem to have taken on additional poignancy since Scarlett’s arrival, and the number of these seems only to be racking up with time. Scenes which might earlier have seemed comic to me are now undercut with poignancy and menace; scenes which were earlier tragic are now downright horrific. A recent production of Norma, in which the heroine considers killing her sleeping young children to save them from a life of shame, has scarred me for eternity, and I’m still not sure I’m ready to face Betroffenheit. I might get there, one day. The Pina scene might read as funny to me again, one day. These things are probably going to take some time though.

There’s the practicals, too: going out for an evening involves all kinds of organisation that it didn’t previously, and it really does have to seem worth it to book the babysitter (well, the husband) and remove myself from the house for an evening. I’m not going to do that for any old shite right now. Being a dancephile, my version of “any old shite” does tend to differ from other people’s. I couldn’t care less about some of the big-name choreographers on national tours, and would much rather see an interesting idea from a younger maker; but the idea has to excite me if I’m going to bother heading out the door. So, if you knew me in the past as the woman who was always in the stalls, don’t expect to see me there this season or (probably) next. Unless it’s ENB doing Pina ‘cos of course I’m there with bells on.


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