Dance Theatre, 3D Cinema; Pina

Pina, 2011, Dir. Wim Wenders, 104 mins

Philippina “Pina” Bausch (1940 – 2009) was a German performer of modern dance, choreographer, dance teacher and ballet director. With her unique style, a blend of movements, sounds and prominent stage sets, and with her elaborate cooperation with performers during the composition of a piece (a style now known as Tanztheater), she became a leading influence since the 1970s in the world of modern dance.

Wim Wenders’s deeply intelligent 3D tribute to the work of the modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch was conceived as a collaboration with her. Pina Bausch, died in production (2009), just as Wenders, the director of ‘Paris, Texas’, was about to start shooting.

The resulting film achieves a poignant, elegiac quality, shot through with an overwhelming sense of loss, both on the part of the dancers of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, the company she ran for 36 years, whose thoughtful interviews and dance sequences form the film’s backbone, and the director himself. ‘Dance for love,’ one of her colleagues remembers her saying, recalling it as one of the few instructions he received from Bausch in years of working with her.

Bausch was a reticent figure, wary of personalities and insistent on letting her work speak for her. She would undoubtedly have been a distant figure in this film had she lived, but now her absence has a sombre, almost tragic quality.

If its meaning can be summed up – though it is arguably the point of an abstract artform that it can’t be summed up – it is probably in the words of a dancer who asks, “What are we yearning for? Where does all this yearning come from?” We spend our lives yearning, and then, in the shadow of mortality, our yearning is redirected backwards, a yearning to understand our past lives, our youth, and again forwards – a yearning to understand the point of our death. Wenders’s movie uncovers the crucial state of yearning in Bausch’s work.