Tuesday 31 May 2011

Baby steps: "Dancing Dreams"

Dancing Dreams, a crafty spot of audience-chasing, has one thing Wim Wenders' acclaimed Pina doesn't: Pina Bausch herself, who died before Wenders could interview her on camera, yet who appears in Rainer Hoffmann and Anne Linsel's diverting documentary - albeit fleetingly, and never quite front and centre - overseeing a troupe of untrained teenagers as they rehearse for a 2009 performance of Bausch's Kontakthof. Wenders' film was about the look, the legacy: it bought wholesale into Pina's perfectionism, which is why it struck me as somewhat monomaniacal, even with the stereoscopic trappings. Dancing Dreams is geared more towards the construction of these routines, staging a very human (and firmly 2D) examination of the flaws and missteps being worked out: these gauche, giggly, self-conscious teenagers, who have issues with touching one another and moving without their hands in their pockets, initially drive Bausch's regular rehearsal directors up the walls of the Tanztheater, but come eventually to a greater understanding of their own bodies, and of their co-stars' bodies, than an hour's fumbling in a Wuppertal bus shelter might otherwise have allowed them.

Hoffman and Linsel shoot these dancers as individuals rather than groups, contrasting the general psychedness of some (the lads, post-Billy Elliot, are well up for it) with the awkwardness and intimidation others feel at being under the eye of a great choreographer and having to pull off manoeuvres even trained professionals find hard to nail down with the requisite precision.
It suffers a little from repetition of the same piece - where Wenders could pick and choose - and clearly isn't aiming for the High Art that had Pina packing them in at the Curzon Mayfair, but it's good on the process, and benefits from finding voices and personalities that prove at least as forceful as Pina's own. At a post-rehearsal meeting, one of the teenagers voices the complaint "We don't know what the meanings of the meanings are" - a valid criticism of the fawning, analysis-light Wenders doc. Others have their own issues: "Lisa is upset with her boyfriend... Melissa is in tears," is the briefing one of Pina's minions receives upon entering the studio one morning. Dancing Dreams shrugs off any cash-in accusations by illuminating an entirely different, no less valid aspect of its real subject's personality: this is Pina Bausch not so much as cult founder as youth club manager - a choreographer of hormones.

Dancing Dreams is on release in selected cinemas.

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