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Friday, December 14, 2012

Post-Pina Pick-Me-Up: A Transcript of Our Twitter Q&A with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

If you’re suffering from Pina withdrawal like we are, we have a little treat to tide you over—well, at least until Pina (the movie) comes out on DVD. (Thank you, Criterion!) In conjunction with the Pina Bausch Legacy Iconic Artist Talk in October, we conducted a Twitter Q&A with three of the dancers—Eddie Martinez, Fernando Suels Mendoza, and Thusnelda Mercy. Below is a transcript of the talk, with expanded, more robust answers that didn't quite fit within the confines of 140 characters, along with some archival photos and video screened during the talk from the BAM Hamm Archives. Enjoy! And thanks to everyone who participated on Twitter; it was so much fun to relay your questions to the dancers in real time.

Eddie Martinez in Bamboo Blues. Photo courtesy of the BAM Hamm Archives.

Pina Bausch Twitter Q&A Transcript (from October 25th, 2012)

Question from @docwaller: Do you find Pina's work as haunting as you find it beautiful?
Fernando: Pina’s work has so many different faces and phases and emotions. It goes through all possible emotions, both outside and inside.

Question from @BklynParis: How much do you improvise during your solos?

Thusnelda: I don’t! (laughs) Most of the time we don’t, because it’s completely choreographed. It’s always very personal, though.

Question from @oceanhopper: I want to know who the real comedian of the group is.

Eddie: The first time Pina saw me dance, I danced a solo and it was very dramatic. You know what she said after? “This guy is a good comedian!”

Fernando: I’m the most dramatic one!

Question from @kaeio_bk: What was the process on how music was selected?
Fernando: We have two people who work on the music. When we worked on a co-production in a city, they would look for music at archives, record stores, and take recommendations. Sometimes Pina would bring the music, or the dancers would recommend songs.

Question from @santunov: What is the construction of those expressive dresses? They stay up and allow the dancers to move.
Thusnelda: The clothes come after we create the movements. Sometimes we adapt to them or introduce them to the movement.

Eddie: But they don’t always stay up! Sometimes you get a sneak peak from those dresses.

Question from @CarlyMMC: Saw the show; was continually surprised by the choreo. Do moments in the piece continue to surprise the dancers?

Thusnelda: I get surprised by the emotion I feel. You know what’s coming next in the piece, but I’m often surprised that I can still cry or laugh. It never becomes a routine for me.

Fernando: When you’re in a piece, it’s refreshing to then watch it from the outside, because you pick up on all the nuances, and are surprised there, yes. Pina always said you need to feel at home when you perform a piece so you can feel free and perform without thinking. I trust the space she created for us. Every time you start a piece, you feel home again, and you are again free to do what you must do. You surprise yourself that after dancing the same solo many times, there’s a new emotion, a new look, that changes things.

Question from @kittenwithawhip: There's frequently food in Pina Bausch’s work. Did she care a lot about meal rituals?

Eddie: She cared about ritual in general. It’s part of life. She enjoyed food, going to restaurants, especially when we were on tour. It’s about enjoying life. A theme that we worked with a lot while choreographing a piece (like Nefés, for example) was the concept of a picnic. The idea of gathering people together to share.

Nazareth Panadero (right)  in the picnic scene from Nefés. Photo courtesy of the BAM Hamm Archives.

Question from @wperrondancemag: Question for Thusnelda: How old were you when you first started dancing with your father, the amazing/wonderful Dominique Mercy?

Thusnelda: Palermo, Palermo was the first time we were on stage together for the first time. The first creation we did together was for Ten Chi. Then I also did Iphigenie auf Tauris with him. That was 10 years ago, so I was 24, 25.

Below: Footage from the BAM Hamm Archives of Dominique Mercy in Two Cigarettes in the Dark [1994]:

Question from @DanCart61147169: What was it about Pina that made such a unique & personal connection with her dancers and the audience?

Eddie: Love. Honesty. Reality. Generosity. A sense of childhood. She was looking for something that we all have. There was no limit or artificial construction. The emotion we go through is the emotion that everyone has. Love most importantly. You could always feel the love from Pina, even between with her and a stranger. I don’t know how she magnified that.

Question from @niccadena: Since Pina's passing, has the piece transformed at all? How true is it to her original vision?

Fernando: The piece breathes new every time we do it. It changes especially after one week to two weeks. It’s not the same for any piece, even when she was here. And she gave us that freedom. If we went too far, she brought us back. We are not machines. The intention may be the same, but there’s still a little room for us to take it somewhere. It’s not the same, but we try to keep it as Pina wanted it. That’s our goal. To bring back what Pina wanted. And that’s hard; it’s not easy. Because it’s live, you cannot repeat the same thing every day. But on the other hand, the composition is like it was at the beginning. The path is the same. But our work and what we are looking for every day is like an instrument you need to tune. That’s the work every day—to try to get back in tune with the piece. At the right point where she wanted to have it. Now we don’t have the eyes of Pina to say no, no, that’s wrong. We have a video to look at. We have Dominique [Mercy] there to tell us what he knows. That can only take us so far. We have to get back to what Pina was. We have to remember those things that [were] originally there. And between us, also. The piece is the same. We don’t change any things. The scenes are the same, the music is the same, but here we are three years older, and we’ve performed the piece more, so it is more mature. We really rely now on each other. Now that Pina’s not here, we rely on each other to know what certain things were or were not. We want to keep this, what Pina had. We must use this root to keep it as Pina wanted. Of course it’s going to change, but we want it to change as little as possible from what Pina wanted.

Question from @ephemeralista: Question for Pina's dancers: What kind of style is your daily company class, or does it vary?
Sometimes modern, sometimes ballet. Different teachers. But it comes from a ballet base, mostly. We’re always at the barre. This was Pina’s training. She has a ballet background.

Question from ‏@nietodickens: I see a lot of water in Pina's work. What was her approach or real purpose with this? And how do you feel about it?

Eddie: We never really talked about “why water” or “why not water” but water is there. It’s in our every day lives. It’s life. Life starts with water. We never analyze the elements of the pieces. And we as dancers also use a lot of water. I remember Pina saying, don’t use so much water in your improvisations because the floor gets wet. So we are also somewhat responsible for the water.

Thusnelda: We’re not responsible for the rain!

Question from @ephemeralista: What's your favorite thing about Brooklyn?
Thusnelda: You feel like home. You come in this hotel, and you feel like you were there two years ago. You go to Fulton Street, or to Smith Street, to BAM, and [it] feels like you were here yesterday. You know where to go.

Eddie: For me, there is less busyness. I lived in Park Slope for six years in ‘86. On 15th Street. There are less people. I love it. This area has changed so much. And I love it, I love Brooklyn. It’s less busy than Manhattan. And it’s become such the “in” place since I lived here.

Fernando: Brooklyn is the big New York lover for Tanztheater and the company. It’s loyal to us. We don’t go to any other theater in the city. We love Brooklyn! You can do very good shopping in Brooklyn, by the way!

Question from @amej: Does the company see a lot of dance? Who are some of fave choreographers besides the genius Pina?
Thusnelda: We are just speaking for ourselves, not the entire company!

Fernando: James Thiérrée.

Eddie: It’s really tough because of our schedule to see other companies. We work from 10am to 2pm, 6pm to 10pm in the evening, so we don’t have time to see other shows. When we’re on tour, it’s also hard. But we try as much as possible.When Pina was doing her festivals, this was a great opportunity to see things around Wuppertal. For me, it’s very difficult to name people by name because it’s always changing. But there are so many beautiful dancers and companies. It’s always nice to discover people who are not so known. You may have never heard about them, and it’s just as touching as say a piece by Sasha Waltz.

I miss this downtown dance from the city or from Brooklyn. When we’re touring it’s hard to see these more experimental, not so established dancers and companies.

Question from @sallendigital: Where can we learn more about the dancers?

Thusnelda: Come to Wuppertal!

Eddie: Come to the show. We don’t bite!

Fernando: Next we’re going to Antwerp (in November). We’re doing Ten Chi.

Thusnelda: I would invite everyone to come and see Pina’s work.

Thusnelda Mercy in Bamboo Blues. Photo courtesy of the BAM Hamm Archives.
Question from @ElisabethLeo: There’s so much emotion in Pina's dance. I think of u as actors as much as dancers. How do you stay inspired emotionally?

Thusnelda: By going through life with open eyes. That’s the beauty about Pina’s work. You get inspired by life. By people you meet, things we go through, bad and good.

Eddie: Her work is incredibly strong, and it’s a tough thing to find this way every day to do it well. It’s not easy. To stay in character for three, four hours is not easy.

Fernardo: You can get inspired by anything. It’s important that you keep curious. Curiosity is important for inspiration.

Question from @planetaclaire: Do all the dancers learn/speak German? What language(s) do you communicate in among yourselves?
Fernando: I think everyone speaks German now. Pina once said “We don’t really speak any language... but we can communicate.”

Eddie: But everyone speaks English, everyone.

Fernando: I think the most important thing isn't to speak a language perfectly. When you need to communicate, you don’t need to use language. When new people came to the company, [Pina] would speak to them in German, but it wasn't arrogant at all. She believed they would understand. And then you’d see this person start to answer in German. There are so many different nationalities in the company. People speak Spanish, French, English, Italian, Korean, Japanese... But it’s German and English the most.

Question from @cynephile: My question is for the women: what shampoo do you use? And where can I get some?
Thusnelda: Not the one from the hotel. Though it depends on the hotel. I wash it every two days, and brush my hair all the time during the show.

Eddie: There’s lots of hair queens in the company, including the men!

Fernando: I’m not a woman, but I use Pantene, for curly hair. And I don’t use shampoo and conditioner, I use the combination. But there’s one rule: no one can put oil in their hair because it gets on the floor and we slip!

Question from @whitewavedance: What advice would you give to performers + emerging choreographers?
Thusnelda: Follow your instinct. Never stop searching for the right thing for yourself, the real thing.

Eddie: Everything is possible. Try all sorts of things, not just one discipline. Be open. Be a good listener. Be good at taking critique. Enjoy what you’re doing. Be who you are, don’t try to imitate someone else. It’s not going to work. Find your path, not someone else’s.

Final note from Eddie: Thank you everyone for the warm reception. When we’re on stage [at BAM] we feel that they’re happy and that makes us also very happy. We feel their warmth. Thank you for being open to Pina’s work, because she still can make people a little crazy with her work, and the BAM audiences have always been very receptive to Pina. That’s why it was always nice to come back to Brooklyn because people always wanted to see us. It’s nice to feel that people want to see us, that we have an audience here.

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