Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Performs ‘Nues Stük II’ and the New is Made Old Again

Words by Courtney Henry | Images by Mats Bäcker, courtesy of Tanz Im August

Watching Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s performance of “Nues Stük II” — which I saw this summer in Berlin as part of Tanz Im August, an international festival of performance —  was like watching an old foreign film. Three hours at this cinema left me in a dream state; a bit blurred as if, I too, had been drinking the champagne they indulged in onstage, and with a strong urge to rest my head on my partner’s chest while slow dancing in a floor-length evening gown.

While it was a new work for the company, choreographed by Norwegian choreographer Alan Lucian Øyen, there were enough love notes to Pina that the new was made old again with smoking onstage, audience participation, and no-frills humanity as a mirror of shared experience. Stand out dance solos by Johnathan Fredrickson, Douglas Letheren, and Çağdaş Ermis were appreciated amidst the primary modes of communication: monologue, song, and striking imagery. The heavy subject matter of death and childhood memory, was made both real, relatable, and easier to swallow when it was accompanied by simplistic, beautiful vignettes.

Inside a set of revolving rooms within a home and office, the piece struck a comforting and slight melancholy. The kind of melancholy you want to snuggle up against; the sort of pain that somehow keeps you warm and not so alone. This company undoubtedly conveys the truth of a particular human experience, through movement and performance, better than most. They are adept at capturing and shedding light on dark feelings like loss, death, tragedy, love.

Every time I see them perform, I feel more connected and more compassionate towards my neighbor. After this show, there was an extra softness I felt inside; a vulnerability amidst chaos that was transferred from the artists onstage to the audience. There was also a sense of familiarity. When I looked at them I could see my aunt, my cousin, my father. I saw both excess and minimalism, and the struggle to strike a balance between the two.

The varying ages of the dancers was unique and refreshing. There was a moment of parody when dancer Nayoung Kim played an old woman. Kim spoke about beauty in her advanced age and in a quip about her curved spine and receding 20/20 vision, praised how it allows her to notice the ground and gives everything a hazy halo. The bit brought laughter and inclusion to the common, but oft-shrouded narrative of the aging body in dance.  

I floated away from the theater with a sense of nostalgia from several past lives. Weeks later, I am still finding myself looking at others with a little less judgement and a bit more curiosity. Øyen’s “Nues Stük II” was a reminder of the secret lives and thoughts we all have hiding in so many revolving rooms. You might never know, and certainly not from a first glance, what the true story of a life is.

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