Review: Kontakthof (Luminato Festival)

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Tanztheatre Wuppertal Returns to Toronto with the Triumphant Kontakhof

I could feel the anticipation from the audience before the sold out show began. It’s been 30-years since the legendary Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal has performed in Canada. Finally, on the 40th anniversary of Tanztheater Wuppertal, Luminato Festival brought them back to show us one of Bausch’s most memorable productions, Kontakhof.

Pina Bausch was one of the first to introduce theatre in dance. Her choreography spoke to the human spirit as she stripped away the layers of pretense and got down to talking about what’s real. First staged in 1978, Kontakhof touched on the relationship between the sexes and the deep desire to be loved. The performers were first introduced as individuals, not really connecting with each other but humorously walking to the front of the stage to show the audience their profile and their teeth!

What I found very interesting is that all the performers looked like they could be an audience member sitting right next to you. At intermission, I had a surreal experience that the people around me were also part of the production. This is the genius work of Pina Bausch. She had made it a point to keep her work as authentic as possible. Her performers were different shapes, sizes, backgrounds and ages.

As the show progressed, sexual tensions between the performers also increased. A comical moment in the show was when a coin operated kiddie horse was brought on to the stage. The cleverly used stage prop was first used by one of the female performers. Suddenly, there was a line-up of other female performers wanting to ride the horse. Let’s just say, that by the end of the horse riding, the sexual tension and the need to connect was quite apparent.

I was captivated by the display of emotions, the repetitive movements, the hand and facial gestures, the interaction with the audiences, the dialogue in different languages, the use of the projector and most of all the strength of performance that each performer brought on to the stage. Pina Bausch, who sadly passed away at 68, lives on in her stellar choreography. She is missed but not forgotten. Her visionary work continues to impact audiences across the world. Kontakhof is a must see production.

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Photo provided by the company

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