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Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: Masurca Fogo – Review

Ruth Amarante in Masurca Fogo. Photo credit Zerrin Aydin-Herwegh
Ruth Amarante in Masurca Fogo. Photo credit Zerrin Aydin-Herwegh

There was a palpable sense of expectation and excitement in the Sadler’s Wells main auditorium on Press Night as Tanztheater’s Wuppertal’s Rainer Behr, slinked onto the stage to start the show. What ensued was a discombobulating array of demi-dramas; beginning with a suspense-filled silence, followed by a long, deep, repeated, sigh. Couples moved snakelike, the shuffle of their feet part of the beat. Dancers performed with radiant precision, animated by an astonishing energy, luxuriating in their ability. A woman swathed in fur strutted about the stage, pausing languorously to announce, “All the animals I had died.” This was the magic, and the mayhem of Tanztheater Wuppertal’s, Masurca Fogo (Fiery Mazurka).

Born from Bausch’s fascination with the Cape Verde Islands, Masurca Fogo evokes the exotic and the erotic. Audience members are exposed to an avalanche of sexual games, played by sensual sirens and willing swains – the elaborate explanation of an orgasm, the trio of mermaids flipping their fins, the bevy of bathing beauties, exposing slips of skin.

By Bausch’s standards, Masurca Fogo is deceptively entertaining – lacking the simulated violence and confessional cruelty of previous shows, yet it is not without its moments of darkness. A shudder swept over the audience as company veteran, Julie Shanahan found herself caged within a male dancer’s arms, bent over a bowl and forced to bob for citrus fruit. She later reappeared, wearing only a cluster of balloons, reciting a childhood memory of a narcissistic teacher. As she spoke she offered each of the men surrounding her a cigarette. They later descended upon her, cigarettes sadistically making said costume go pop.

Nevertheless, it is joy that triumphs – the dancers giggling within a waterslide, the twice-appearing waddling walrus, the brief dance party within a makeshift beach shack, and the seductive smile of Regina Advent, nestled within a bubble bath. Images to be emblazoned upon the brain.

The show’s final stretch was a thing of fantasy as dancers shifted seamlessly between worlds. It is a stunning climax to the evening, enhanced by astonishing projections. This show is a tribute to its visionary maker, not one to be missed.

4 and a Half stars

Review by Venetia Byles

The endlessly inventive genius, Pina Bausch, created Masurca Fogo, an absurd and delightful work which takes on the subject of desire and the desperate, achingly human need for love, treated to Pina Bausch’s tongue-firmly-in-cheek wit. Dancers fling themselves down water slides, breathe into microphones, feed watermelon to a live chicken, and cram into a crowded beach hut for a party, but always with “Bausch’s sharp mudlarker’s eye for social ritual” (The Guardian).

Set to a soundtrack that features a gloriously eclectic mix of k.d. lang, the Balanescu Quartet’s reinvention of German electronic band Kraftwerk, and traditional African and Portuguese music, Masurca Fogo is an upbeat piece of dance theatre with all of Pina Bausch’s trademark ingenuity on display.

Sadler’s Wells
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R
9 – 12 February 2017


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