Kontakthof, Pina Bausch

The Pina Bausch's speech without words

How can one dance so clearly to say what speaking bodies do not say? How can one dance so little and yet unfold a whole world of dancing animated by what one only says while dancing? How can one dance so little and create a unique choreography that one recognizes in an instant? How can one dance so little and create a unique choreography that one recognizes in an instant, and whose minimal gestures seem to marry the grace of the greatest ballets in a single image? Pina Bausch sometimes said that dance is the only true language, yet she staged a speech without words. A saying, a real one, a true saying, embracing what a saying wants to say, what it knots, cuts, slices, here without words. Some words however are heard, rise in the silence, but as the words of dream, they are absurd, incongruous, they look without sense and necessity, punctuating what shows itself without them.

What is about this speech that does not speaks? In truth it is not long mysterious. Called Kontakthof, courtyard or contact center, the stage looks like a ballroom as they were known in the past, where women went to wait, sitting around a dance floor for a man to come and get them to dance, while many were consumed with anguish that no man does it and that they remain forgotten, like trash of a beauty that the ball designated as fate, but a few intrepid ones sometimes overturned the choice. As far back as we can remember, such a merciless choreography was repeated here and there. It has now disappeared because ballrooms no longer gather men coming to choose women, but solitary dancers who expect nothing from the other sex to dance, animated by the rhythmic movement that they share alone in a crowd. A revolution took place, challenging this one-sided vector, this banded bow throwing a man towards a woman, one feared to be refused and the other to be forgotten. This world disappeared here, which established in universal these subjects of a sex supposed to be active face these objects of the other supposed not to be.

They look now like charming memories when our lives are increasingly aware that such a choice is now made one by one, that each one determines himself in the desire for another or of another. And this is already what Pina Bausch told us, before this destiny of the dancing sexes was thus partly overturned.

Her ballet settles into this sort of minimal tragedy, showing us what followed from this sexual grammar that has been at work between men and women for so long. Each one presents his or her physical assets, shows off what he or she has to offer, the couples approach each other, form each other, become electrified, the dance begins. The women especially sway, eroticism emerges, jazz swings and the sensuality of the rhythm accompanies the ballet of the chairs, which join and dance with the couples. The men then go wild, a trivial greed is celebrated by big slaps on the asses, repulsing the women and transforming them into nervous rag dolls that they shake with clumsiness and resentment. Confrontations, abandonments, anxieties clash, women's screams fly, a man even amuses himself by shaking a mouse. All sorts of escapes brutally reveal what is wrong in this gathering. Sometimes a woman is cooing with pleasure into a microphone, the sounds she emits, like cries of pleasure, mime an interminable orgasm, which she then evaluates, satisfied, even ironic. However, nobody provoked the said pleasure in her, she experienced it, showed it, staged it absolutely alone. Another woman advances and climbs on a small horse of merry-go-round which goes up and down when one puts a coin in it, she rides the wooden animal, alone in this pleasure which evokes riding a lying man.


And all these meaningful scenes are danced in Pina Bausch's unique way, of graceless and inelegant gestures, which seem to be everyday gestures, not really or hardly danced, and yet reach you pf an unspeakable beauty.

Then the black covers the dancers ‘outfits, they scatter in the darkness, not knowing which other to join, wanting to form a couple and not knowing which saint to devote themselves to and how to go about it, running around with one and then the other, lost, panic-stricken, little by little famished. Pina Bausch stages a powerful metaphor for what this eternal choreography of the sexes was producing. The dancers lined up on the stage, thirteen men and thirteen women, are interviewed, and all of them tell of their childhood obsession with sex and love, kindergarten years for the women, adolescent love for the men. They are interrupted, all continue to speak without being listened to, they speak to nobody, they speak alone of the trouble they have had with love since always, of the obsession that it is and of the anguish too. Yet they still try, couples again try. A woman calls "Darling!" one doesn’t know who, nobody answers.


When the stage returns, something has given way. The dancers walk abruptly in line without any of them joining each other, their step seems a martial dance, they are alone, in line, one behind the other. A woman agitates and shouts to put them in order, she shouts that it does not go, these gymnastics. This world has changed, now the dancers sitting on chairs turn their backs to us, a film is shown to them on the screen at the back, so we see it too. It shows diving ducks that have found a very good place to procreate and produced a large brood. The young ones already swim and eat very well, the mother duck watches, the tone of the accomplished happiness fills the vocal organ of the speaker, the dancers applaud.  They stand up, the eroticism has disappeared, the men and women in black walk with their heads down, or sit on the ground looking at their feet, a woman in white remains there, alone, her shoulders hunched and her eyes on the ground, she is indifferent to everything and looks for nothing.

Men surround her, stare at her, feel her, weigh her, examine her kneecaps, carry her and try to awaken her, but nothing does, desire is dead. The baby ducks represent the future, and from now on the couples are formed slowly without impetus, embracing with the tenderness installed on the ashes of the desire. A women again ride the little horse, the only possibility where desire still pierces, without impulse.

And all of them make the round, quiet and ordered, the assembly of the men and the women does not concern any more couples which confront themselves with the desire, but a turning in round which serenely makes babies.

Curtain! At the exit, you hear young people say: What's this about?

What more can you say? Nothing to say. You have seen all this story dancing without words. And it has been mesmering.