The American Dance Festival is held every year in Durham, NC. It made me think of an interview I heard with Wim Wenders , the filmaker best known in the US for ‘Paris, Texas’ and ‘Wings of Desire’. He never understood dance and had to be dragged to dance performances. He was taken to see Pina Bausch perform “and then I found myself on the edge of my seat, crying like a baby after five minutes, and crying through the entire thing,” he recalls, amazement still in his voice after 27 years. “I was hopelessly, helplessly crying, and didn’t know what was happening. It was like lightning struck me.” He says it changed his life. ”Pina Bausch showed me in 40 minutes more about men and women than the entire history of cinema.”
The idea that dance is a narrative, a way of examining humanity’s identity and longing, was what I was thinking about as I watched Kyle Abraham and his company on stage performing ‘Radio Show’ In creating the piece ”I was thinking about so many things,” Abraham says. He had returned to live, briefly, in his hometown when his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. ”Driving by my high school, I remembered how my dad would pick me up from rehearsals. But I wouldn’t talk to him” because, of course, he was a teenager. But they would listen silently to WAMO a black radio station. Years later, driving around Pittsburgh, he would cry wishing he could change that. (how many of us wish we could go back and change things especially with our parents?) The music from the piece intersperses radio chatter, hip-hop and classic soul music, the dance itself goes from movement to halts, all a way to speak to the isolation of Alzheimers.
Don’t we create out of our stories and how we look at them. As artists, we speak to our experiences of being human. Dance is no exception. As Pina Bursch said; “To understand what I am saying, you have to believe that dance is something other than technique. We forget where the movements come from. They are born from life. When you create a new work, the point of departure must be contemporary life — not existing forms of dance.”.
Be sure to see Wim Wender’s recent documentary called “Pina”.