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Probe Sacre

By Pina Bausch

L’Arche Editeur, 2013

ISBN: 9782851817983

In this film, lasting a little over 45 minutes, we see Pina Bausch preparing Kyomi Ichida for the role of the chosen one – the sacrificial victim – in The Rite of Spring.  That’s it, pretty much.

Some background: the dancer who normally played the part had apparently fallen ill, so Bausch had curtailed a film project (it became Die Klage der Kaiserin) to work with Ichida.  Already present, the cameras were put to work.  They document the process.

What do we see?  Bausch wears wellington boots and a kind of pilot’s cap, unfastened at the chin.  She looks slightly ridiculous and she chain-smokes even as she stands close to her dancer.  Kyomi Ichida doesn’t object; this would be in 1987 or late 1986.  It is curiously engrossing, and becomes steadily more impressive too.  The thing is, it is clear that Bausch knows exactly what she wants from Ichida and, furthermore, can show it through her movements.  A lithe woman, tall (at least in relation to Ichida), the role’s requirements are as familiar to her as the landscape of a recurring dream.  She has traversed this terrain before, will go there again.

Probe: the German word means ‘rehearsal’ yet also ‘test’ and this feels like both.  Bausch is attentive to Ichida’s movements, patient and encouraging in her comments, critical and corrective when necessary.  Her level of concentration is extraordinary, so too Ichida’s, and they fuss about what to an outsider seem small details: e.g. whether a shoulder is slightly raised or not.   Bausch is meticulous, utterly serious when it comes to such details; they both are.  You feel it’s as ridiculous as Bausch’s costume then, at a certain point, the penny suddenly drops: all this fretting and fussing is necessary.  You’re watching the real thing.  The banality of art.

The film ends with Kyomi Ichida actually performing the given role in the Tanztheater Wuppertal production of The Rite of Spring.  Intense.  Terrifying.  Extraordinary.

You have the option with the film of English or French subtitles.  And there is an accompanying booklet containing a transcript of the Bausch-Ichida dialogue, a few stills from the film, and an excerpt from Norbert Servos’s fine book about Bausch.

The publisher’s description of the DVD and booklet can be read here.

 

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