Sweet Mambo. Pina Bausch. Edinburgh Playhouse. Edinburgh Festival.
This piece was premièred in Wuppertal over six years ago but is a UK première in Edinburgh. It is poignant that this was made just before Bausch’s sudden death on 30 June 2009.
Her disappearance shocked the dance world. It was surely Bausch who brought a long-forgotten pre-Hitler tradition of Expressionist Tanzteater to postwar Germany and which influenced generations across the world. I remember her amazing work from the 1980s which seemed to herald an amazing crossover between theatre and dance and to unite the innovative study of the research into the sexes. Her use of repetition, her studies in human cruelty were unforgettable. It was political and it was personal. Hers was a new dance theatre voice and vocabulary.
However the later ballets, particularly World Cities, seemed to be exploitative of her earlier vocabulary and added little to her to her brilliant creations 1980 and Kontakthof.
Sweet Mambo, as her final offering, feels like coffee table dance. With a cast of nine, her six women parade in long, elegant gowns. Sometimes they have their backs caressed by the male dancers. They speak, often inaudibly and give us their names. Do we care? The text is so banal that I cringed. There is almost no dance at all but a great deal of wandering, posing, shouting and self-love. Repetition is merely for its own sake and never has the power it did in her earlier choreography. Did Bausch run out of anything to say at the end of her life? Sweet Mambo is a great deal of noise signifying absolutely nothing.
End 25 August.
Julia Pascal © 2014.