For indigenous peoples the whole world is a dance with movement, energy, and rhythm. To be part of this is to be in harmony and communion with nature and all living beings. To dance is to pray and to meditate, to be open to the mysteries of life and death. And because the universe dances, an African proverb says it all: "He who does not dance does not know what is happening."
Dance celebrates the movement, motion, and strength of the body. Watching men and women running, leaping, twirling, and whirling; we sense the animal exuberance within us all and the sense that we are all one from the dance of the atoms to the body at rest in death. The great dancers and choreographers have taught us these things and pushed us to a deeper and broader appreciation of this art.
Pina is a cinematic salute to the German choreographer Pina Bausch who died in June of 2009 at the age of 68. She was set to collaborate with director Wim Wenders on a 3D documentary about her life and dance company but died just before filming was to begin; Wenders and her company decided to proceed, adding personal tributes by her dances. Here is the first film since Avatar to make the most out of the 3D technology. The director wrote about it:
"I never knew, with all my knowledge of the craft of filmmaking, how to do justice to her work. It was only when 3D was added to the language of film that I could enter dance's realm and language."
Pina blends performances from some of Bausch's most innovative works with interviews of dancers who talk about her and their personal responses to the craft they have mastered; many offer solo numbers that illustrate what they learned from her. One says meeting her was like discovering a language for expression. Another described her as a painter with the dancers as her paint. She asked her company to "be honest" and to "keep on searching."
Here is sense-luscious dance theatre and kinetic spectacle at its best. Four of Pina's most famous pieces are presented in the film. Watch the drama, the color, the incredible display of energy and strength in the sexual politics, the response to suffering and pain, and the resilience of the human spirit demonstrated in "Le Sacred du printemps." "Café Miller" makes creative use of chairs as the dancers move around the stage. In "Vollmond," the setting is a large rock surrounded by water in which the dancers splash playfully around in a cathartic way. "Kontakthof" takes place in a dance hall or theater with one side open to the public; dancers and amateurs of various ages, from 14 to over 65, assemble and reassemble in lines across the stage. There are also some dazzling visual scenes where the dancers perform in a park and under a monorail.
Wenders has come up with an immensely appealing documentary that pays tribute to Pina Bausch and to the spiritual quality that the dancers feel when performing this choreographer's material: yearning. When we watched the film we were reminded of a poem by a master of yearning, Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks). It sums up what we felt while watching Pina's many probes of the human adventure:
Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you're perfectly free.
Special features on the DVD include: Disc One: a high-definition digital master, approved by director Wim Wenders; an audio commentary featuring Wenders; Disc Two: "The Making of Pina; deleted scenes, with commentary by Wenders; behind-the-scenes footage; an inteview with Wenders; and the trailer.