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Cafe Muller in Athens July 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Athens Festival.

Following her staging of ‘1980’ five years ago, German choreographer Pina Bausch returns to Greece invited by the Hellenic Festival.

Hailed as the “empress of modern dance”, German choreographer/dancer Pina Bausch will be in Athens this month for three sold-out performances of her landmark Cafe Muller, one of her more personal works with the Tanztheater Wuppertal Dance.

Bausch, the theatre’s artistic director, began dancing at the age of 14 next to Kurt Joos and studied in New York under the guidance of Anthony Tudor, Jose Limon and Louis Horst. She has headed her famed company for 33 years now. The 66-year-old dancer is best known for combining expressive dance with theatrical improvisation, her influential art bringing together images, music, ranging from opera to popular tunes, text and pantomime. She was given the Berlin Theatre Award at the 1997 Theatertressen and the great European Theatre Award in Taormina.

Personal relationships, obstacles to communication and the eternal love-death diptych run throughout Bausch’s work. The last time she was in Athens in 2001, Bausch staged 1980, a piece that examines dreams, games and childhood, merging the dramatic with the comic. In Cafe Muller Bausch returns once again to one of her favourite themes, the pain of love and separation. In the work the performers’ grief and despair are reflected in the piece’s soundtrack provided by Henry Purcell’s Fairy Queen.

Cafe Muller was first staged in 1978 together with pieces by three other choreographers who had agreed on the setting of a dimly lit coffeeshop, with Bausch dancing one of the four characters. A fragment featured in the opening sequence of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s 2002 drama Talk to Her about two women, a promising ballerina and a bullfighter, both in a coma, who stir feelings of passion and jealousy in the men surrounding them.

Similarly, Cafe Muller’s dancers shift from immobility to frantic movement and back again. Solitary figures with outstretched arms express a mute cry for human contact, as a barren “landscape” of wooden chairs and tables suggests the lack of it. Instead of adhering to traditional guidelines of choreographed steps and codified movements, Bausch allows for expressive improvisation to enhance a basic outline. Here, as elsewhere in her work, the existential premise is coloured by satirical, even bitter touches of humour.

Pina Bausch’s ‘Cafe Muller’ is on at Pireos 260 on July 9-11. Performance time is 9pm. Tickets are sold out.

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