Zany, rainy, overlong Vollmond (Full Moon) – the first of Pina Bausch’s works to appear stateside since her death from cancer in June 2009, at age 68 – begins with two men swinging water bottles so completely empty that the air whistles through them. The dance ends with the cast of 12 cavorting in water up to their knees. And yet, as so often with this beloved prolific choreographer, the two-and-a-half hour work is essentially static. Wildly entertaining in its antics, eloquent and evocative in its magnificent international cast’s gloomy solos, Full Moon ultimately offers a moribund worldview because a solipsistic one. Everyone invents – and howls at – their own separate moon.
In the past few decades, as Bausch increased her performers’ role in shaping their parts, the dances have consisted of two kinds of scenes. The first, involving brilliant physical comedy, is social – which in the world according to Bausch means sexual. Bossy Azusa Seyama, for example, gives mute, anxious Michael Strecker a lesson in unhooking a bra. (Bausch women do not generally wear bras, which makes them seem mildly lunatic in their low-cut, floor-length satin gowns, as if they had mistaken the fancy outfits for nighties.) When the task takes him eight seconds, she announces: “Women cannot wait that long.”
The women are consistently desperate, domineering, self-involved and, even when they are brushing their teeth, in seducer mode. The men, in sombre button-downs and trousers, are puppyishly eager to please so they can get what they want. No one ever crosses over.
The solos that alternate with these moments are more individual – less bound by gender – but no more liberating. The solos emphasise the most expressive part of the body in Bausch, the upper back, from which the arms gain nourishment and direction as tendrils do from a plant. The upper back aspires and cowers in the solos, with the arms flinging out and folding up as the legs collapse.
Whatever people reveal in these soliloquys, however, does not show up in the group interactions. Nothing ever bleeds into anything else, growing more nuanced along the way. Bausch has created a complete world in Full Moon, but – as long as its inhabitants are incapable of affecting one another or being touched by circumstance – it is not a true one. () Until October 9, www.bam.org