Last updated: October 23, 2012 5:49 pm

Tanztheater Wuppertal, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York

Made in 2009 when its choreographer Pina Bausch was dying, this dance is programmatic rather than revelatory
Pina Bausch’s ‘Like Moss on a Stone’©Stephanie Berger

Pina Bausch’s ‘Like Moss on a Stone’

Como el musguito en la piedra (Like Moss on a Stone) begins with a woman on all fours. A man dashes in and picks her up without disturbing the position (the audience laughs). He carries her a distance before depositing her neatly back on the floor. Then another man and another run on and transport her until there is a crowd. So far, so typical of Pina Bausch, whose women are often inert and whose men eagerly cart them around. But then the men get the woman, Silvia Farias Heredia, upright and toss her between them in a game of catch so tumultuous that she seems to come alive. I lean forward to see where this will go. Nothing ever goes anywhere, though, in Bausch’s antic dance theatre.

The choreographer was dying when she made Like Moss on a Stone in 2009 at the age of 68. Though the opening scene may allude to that awful fact, the dance does not consistently mine a revelatory vein. Last works are rarely the summations we hope for: the artist is too ill. But this two-and-a-half-hour dance is especially programmatic. It could serve as a Bausch primer.

Like Moss shuttles between the social and the internal: in Bausch the two rarely meet. In one, the women stride about in oversized stilettos, sloshy evening gowns and bright lipstick, with their gleaming hair hanging down. Chairs, meals, drinks and the promise of romance materialise along with conservatively dressed, brightly servile men. The jokes revolve around these static roles, and though I titter along with everyone else, the parody feels stale and thin. The demanding, proclamatory, glamorous woman is a retired stereotype – it does not resonate.

For the inner life, Bausch offers the solo. The women discard their heels and their presumptions, and everyone takes a turn alone. However private the dancing, though, the format belongs to the audition, which only a few of these 16 silken, sumptuous dancers make you forget: Ditta Miranda Jasjfi with her harsh, anguished moves; Pablo Aran Gimeno tying himself in knots as he collapses along the floor; and the ever-compelling Dominique Mercy in a mourning dance that manages, like the best dancing, to be personal and impersonal at once.

3 stars

Until Saturday, www.bam.org

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