Brexit struggles reminded me of Pina Bausch's Cafe Müller. I saw Cafe Müller when her company came to London in 2008. It echoes in my memory today.
Three men and three women. Two men in suits. Third wears a loose white shirt tucked into trousers and is barefoot. Two of the women, (one Bausch herself, while alive and dancing) wear white dresses, barefeet; the third wears a dress, overcoat, and heels.
At various moments, one or more dance with eyes closed, rushing across the stage strewn with chairs while the other dancers rush about them moving furniture out of the way. The dancers rely on each other to clear their paths as they dance with their eyes shut.
The movement is often frantic and repetitive, halting with a feeling of exhaustion. There are themes of manipulation and dependence throughout the dance, which are realized through intense repetition as well as trust between dancers that they will keep each other safe on stage in varying states of awareness.
Pina Bausch, in my mind, is with Caryl Churchill as one of our greatest theatre creators. Perhaps, Bausch is more internationally known. She could be credited of starting out a whole movement of "Dance-Theatre" (at least in parallel with the dance language coming from the US via Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham) and certainly, I do not think her work was well understood at its beginning.
Still, her work is awkward and difficult to convey with words. I wrote in 2008: " the story seems to be on the edge of your mind. You can’t complete the narrative in any straightforward way, some of the dance, physicality and atmosphere has to complete it for you. And so, the pieces becomes highly personal as the work only makes sense in your head...but yet somehow quite deep and universal as everyone grasps the themes: alienation, love, patterns of history, stress, confinement, rushing through life half-blind, hoping trusting that some persons you can't see will make your journey OK..." and that feels still somewhat glancing at it.
"If you have been exhilarated, stirred and moved by what her dancers do, then you too are an expert. You get it. And it's this ability to speak directly to an audience, to pierce right through whatever critical apparatus they arm themselves with, that is at the heart of her unique genius. She offers big, complicated truths without footnotes; it's high art without homework. And she has changed for ever my sense of what can be achieved inside a theatre. " wrote Helen Hawkins, Culture Editor, Sunday Times in 2008 and perhaps she has it right.