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„WUNDERTAL“ in Wuppertal Sonnborn

It was a very well organised event, characterising the first appearance of the new artistic director of the Wuppertal Dance Theatre, Boris Charmatz, in his new place of work.

HERE you can find our video impressions

a commentary and reflections on this by Klaus Dilger

He may have made some, probably at least the 180 participants of the „Wundertal“, new fans of himself and not only „incidentally“ brought the city of Wuppertal, at least for a few days, into the centre of cultural interest of many citizens all over Germany, maybe even beyond….

When was the last time there was so much „action“ under the suspension railway? This, of course, also pleases the politicians in the city and the state, who have given Charmatz an eight-year contract. Pure celebration and relief! At least for three days, because then the artistic director will also make his first artistic appearance when he dances two performances of his solo work „Somnole“ in the former Schauspielhaus (and hopefully future Pina Bausch Centre).

The fact that the participants, who were fit enough to take part in this marathon lasting more than three hours, gave their all was already evident after the first twenty-minute time slot: in many cases they were already at the end of their tether. This was where the differences between professional dancers and amateurs became particularly clear, because only the former have the experience to manage their physical strength accordingly. In terms of movement technique, they blended in extremely sympathetically with the possibilities of the participants. „Everybody a dancer“, according to Beuys, who is also closely associated with Wuppertal.

However, this only describes the shiny view of the medal



Charmatz meets Bausch!

Involuntarily, in this view of complete exhaustion, the „sacrificial dance“ of Igor Stravinsky’s „Sacre du Printemps“ even creeps into one’s thinking for a second as a principle and thus one of Pina Bausch’s iconographic works for and with the Tanztheater Wuppertal. But this only dramatically increases the fall between „action“, „happening“ and dance art.

Coincidence? That Boris Charmatz is a calculating mind is also evident from this: with the recordings of strong organ music passages, he already refers to and sets the mood for his „great cathedral“, with which he wants to and must set a sign for the first time in the coming season, as the new artistic director of this ensemble, which has so far been world-famous with Pina Bausch’s works alone. And this, mind you, in a very unusual anniversary season: 50 years of Pina Bausch!

The French conceptual and non-dance artist would never have dreamed of being able to place himself on the same level as the dance theatre icon, who embodies a quasi world cultural heritage, qua office, at least in terms of his creative sovereignty as artistic director.

He would reject this by far, because he is (as I said) a clever man who has been given the authority to help shape the future of this heritage for the next eight years.

However, such thoughts occur to a dance journalist at most, because last Sunday was „SUNday“ and this too must be allowed.

The media interest was at least as great as that of the audience! When was the last time there was such a thing on the Wupper? Between four and a half and five and a half thousand spectators were counted and every ten metres some TikToker was live blogging. This too, perhaps, or presumably, a strong publicity campaign by the Tanztheater? Of the future Pina Bausch Centre? Of „TERRAIN“, the artistic director’s label?

„We’re bringing life back to Wuppertal…“ had been mentioned several times by various! bloggers as live commentary…. „Do they still „tiktok“ right in their head…?“, someone might ask…, but who wants that when there seem to be so much joy and success?

We don’t want to, but we have to! Also because Boris Charmatz should have experience with such large-scale events and with the other side of the medal…



The other side of the coin

Throwing the „body into battle…“ is not new. From Pasolini to Raimund Hoghe, Johannes Odenthal and Ismael Ivo, there are a large number of reflections on the power and (impotence) of the body in politics, society and in (dance) art. „To dance in the rain and mud…“, as Boris Charmatz put it at his inaugural press conference as an option for Tanztheater Wuppertal, …why not, if it is done of one’s own free will, in nature, with dignity. The supreme and noblest task of an artistic director is always to ignite the courage and imagination of his fellow artists and to explore and traverse unknown „terrain“ together with them. In doing so, however, the artists may and must always be able to rely on the care and protection of their leadership as the overriding principle.

„Dancing in the rain and mud…“, today, however, means (unfortunately) not only exposing oneself to nature, but especially in the here and now, to social media such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, etc…. Were the artists of the dance theatre and the „volunteers“ acting together with them prepared for the storm and rain, mud and dirt of social media? – We so hope that the answer to this will be an unequivocal YES. And who will make it clear that this was an „event“ here, a „happening“ that cannot be equated with Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal and their works?

It is not only supposed comedians and sadists, but, among others, elected members of the Bundestag who accompanied the (self-)performances with their smartphones and edited them together in the most brutal way in order to generate as many (partly very encroaching) comments as possible.

The accompanying comments of these „influencers“ are often perfidious because they seem accurate in their simplification. Each and every one of the estimated four and a half thousand who were there has, via a mobile phone, the basic equipment to create a campaign in social media. The direction of such a campaign is not at the discretion of the organiser.

Professional and journalistic photographers and filmmakers are bound by a professional ethic that guarantees protection to those who occasionally put themselves in very fragile situations in their portrayal, for whatever reason.

What we as editors have had to see and read as comments on the „Miracle Valley“, for example on TikTok and YouTube, in recent days, in addition to a diverse media echo, is shocking, to say the least, and raises questions about the protection of those involved, especially for those non-professional participants who have come into particular focus here. But not only…!

Charmatz has dragged the „Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch“ onto the street. For the first time without any protection. Some, perhaps even many, may think that’s good. The only thing is that Charmatz did not show any of Pina Bausch’s filigree works in a „revolutionary act“ freed from the stage space on the street under the suspension railway, but rather 180 people who got involved for very different reasons and in some cases improvised their innermost feelings to the outside. „Premier degrée“ is what the French would say, when the works of Pina Bausch are characterised by their complexity and precision. Many of the spectators under the suspension railway who think they have now seen the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch have probably never experienced her works live. If you follow the comments on social media, then … NO, better not!

Boris Charmatz:  „Together we do a three-hour dance marathon that includes countdowns, unleashed running, but also love and protest movements, everyday gestures … We even incorporate sudden death and zombie dances, interwoven with Else Lasker- Schüler’s famous poem Mein Tanzlied („So tanz ich schon seit tausend Jahr, Seit meiner ersten Ewigkeiten“) … We are surrounded by threats of war, climate change and the energy crisis, but our society is still dancing, further, more, unceasingly, come what may – and together. Come on! Join in! What we propose is strange, but beautiful, and afterwards, just like that, without a set transition, we celebrate a party in the street that is just as wild as the happening before…“