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Thursday, October 16, 2014

In Context: Kontakthof



Pina Bausch's Kontakthof runs at BAM from October 23 to November 2. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Program Notes

Kontakthof (PDF)


Read


Article
On Pina Bausch and Killer Heels (BAM Blog)
The designer of Brooklyn Museum's Killer Heels exhibition shares his thoughts on high heels and Bausch's work.

Article
Pina Bausch's Kontakthof—Innocence Regained (BAM Blog)
Marina Harss recounts Kontakthof's storied background and the process behind the documentary Dancing Dreams.

Illustration
BAM Illustrated: A Portrait of Pina in 35 Objects (BAM Blog)
Nate Gelgud pays tribute to iconic objects from past Pina productions.

Article
Difficult Dances: The Choreography of Pina Bausch (Stanford.edu)
“This isn't art rendered as life,” writes Janice Ross, “so much as living rendered as art.”

Article
Pina Bausch: Building on a Great Legacy (The Telegraph)
Tanztheater Wuppertal is now in the hands of former company dancer Lutz Förster—and that’s good news.

Article
Pina Bausch Tributes (The Guardian)
Leading figures in the dance world pay tribute to the legend.

Article
Pina, Queen of the Deep (Ballet.co.uk)
“I loved to dance because I was scared to speak,” says Bausch. “ When I was moving, I could feel.”

Article
The Mighty Pina Bausch (The Telegraph)
"Bausch is one of the few creators who have transformed the art form in which they work."


Watch & Listen 


Video
Arts.21: Pina Bausch (YouTube)
A profile of the legendary choreographer from Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

Video
Kontakthof Redux (YouTube)
Bausch set this version of her work on a cast of dancers 65 and older.

Video
Excerpt from Kontakthof  (YouTube)
From Wim Wender’s remarkable film Pina.


Now your turn...


So how did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below.

56 comments:

  1. Brilliant choreography, brilliant actors, lack of a stage director.

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    1. After reading the comments below, I decided to see the performance again and write this blog post about it:

      http://kitbakerii.blogspot.com/2014/11/fear-and-loathing-in-kontakthof.html

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  2. Interesting and provocative which I liked, but too long, scenes repetitive, boring and too little movement. Almost left at intermission but hoped it would get better. It didn't really.

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    1. Completely agree with this comment

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    2. Sums up our view exactly

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    3. Definitely not my cup of tea. We left at the intermission.

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    4. I agree completely. We left at intermission as well. I love Pina Bausch's choreography and have followed her career for years, but this was terrible. I doubt if I would go again, especially at $85/ticket.

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    5. It was good, as it always is, but the first part was too long.

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    6. Also left at intermission which was disappointing at $95 per ticket. Wanted more dancing. Scenes way too long.

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    7. I agree as well. I love Pina Bausch, have liked all that I've seen of her work, but this one I could have done without. There were several humorous moments, what you come to expect of Pina, but it was way too long, repetitive and frankly boring.

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    8. couldn't agree more. Too slow, not enough of the wonderful dance portions of her works-have seen most of them. This is my least favorite.

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    9. I agree, way too repetitive with not enough dance. The picking at the one woman dancer toward the end was really horrible. I might have liked it better if the seats in the balcony hadn't been uncomfortable and it hadn't been so hot but it was more of a "think" piece and I wanted dance.

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  3. Awful. Repetitive. Un-engaging. Arrogant, indulgent choreography. Far-too-subtle ideas that just got recycled through the company and never went anywhere, dimly lit as if to exploit it's audience. One sequence where the company caught fire- the rest was just nonsense. The company didn't have the courage of it's convictions- there was always a gimmick layered over the ensemble work. Left at intermission. I agree with above post- first act was interminable. Wondered if ANYONE at BAM had vetted this tedium before putting it into season.

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    1. what is "engaging" choreography?

      Are you implying the choreography has to engage with you not the other way around?

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  4. I don't know what you were expecting! Pina's dance theater is not for everyone I guess. I loved it. The vignettes were charming, funny, adorable, sexy, and unforgettable. The players were in sync at every step and executed to perfection. Intermission had me checking the site for tickets so I could see it again. Curtain call had me wishing there were more. Congrats to the players and crew for pulling it off effortlessly - it was wonderful.

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    1. I am totally with you! I am a big Pina Bausch fan and seeing this work live for the first time was a true joy. I was sad when it ended. I wanted it to go on and on and on. Even for days afterward, my husband and I imitate the gestures and laugh.

      FYI - No paid promoter here. I am a frequent audience member of dance and contemporary art. If I could afford it, I would go see this piece every night during this run, and anytime I could. I loved it.

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  5. agree with everyone above, except mark, who seems to be a paid agent of the company. loved the company the first time i saw them, which is why i came back, but will never do this again. what were they thinking? self indulgent and insulting to the audience. were they crazy about making us watch a 7 year old's duck movie? hated the later scene with the woman being abused by all the men. wanted to scream out to stop, but figured a woman in the audience would do that. all the undressing and dressing, and teasing - cheap tricks. what was BAM thinking? embarrassed that i invited friends from far way, who hated it so much they walked out at intermission. wished intermission was the end. the fact that so many people left at intermission, and the lack of sustained applaused at the end, says it all

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  6. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. Every pot has a cover.
    I totally panned last weeks group, and was enthralled by this Theater/Dance group. A delightful dance hall with changing characters and motifs, from the preening to start the evening, and filled with energy until that lonely time when the lights go out at the end. Always changing patterns with many "dancers" clearly not in the classical mode, but fitted perfectly for the demands put on them.
    And kudos to BAM for putting on this Next Wave festival. Individually, each of us may not love every program, but I am happy to be exposed to and to support the whole.

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  7. "Kontakthof" was 180-minutes of pure brilliance. It blew me away as much as "Vollmond" did from a couple of years ago. I wish the Tanztheater Wuppertal came to BAM more often, so that us New Yorkers don't have to wait every other year. More Pina, please!
    A shame for some of the above audience members who weren't sophisticated enough to understand the brilliance of Bausch. A note to some of the above reviewers: if you're not familiar with dance and/or Ms. Bausch's work, please don't comment on it...Pina didn't direct it to entertain you...just because it went over your head, doesn't mean it was bad.

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  8. Interesting, innovative, creative. Didn't know what to expect but was delighted with the event!!! BAM, as usual, did a superb job!!

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  9. The performance was so gorgeous, funny, skillful and surprising. I loved every moment. It is so wonderful to hear dancers speak, especially in 10 different languages! Suddenly, they seem so much more real, and we can imagine ourselves living in the 'contact yard.' As for the comments above about the violent and unpleasant scenes, all I can say is that this piece was written in Germany in 1979. Pina Bausch and her generation were coming of age in the shadow of WWII and the Berlin wall. In that context, it is amazing that there is so much joy in her work.

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  10. A spiritual experience, a ceremony of beauty, grace, wit and intelligence. New York loves Pina Bausch, and her legacy lives and grows with her wonderful company; may we always be worthy of her work. Those who seem to have totally missed the point might very well envy the ducks in that little movie--they, at least, knew where they were, and what they were doing.

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  11. I echo the sentiments of Anonymous at 10.49pm, although I would put it somewhat differently.

    I think anyone who comes to the BAM Next Wave should be prepared for a challenge. If you want to sit back and be spoon fed and pandered to, there are always plenty of shows for you on Broadway.

    I had to laugh at the notion that Mark Spano was paid to write positively about the performance. If BAM were to pay all the audience members prepared to post a positive comment here, I predict a budget shortfal.

    It's quite an achievement for a performance created 36 years ago to play to packed houses at BAM for two weeks and make audience members want to scream. Now that's powerful art. Pina, you live on!

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  12. Went to see this last night and have to agree with the doubters. This one was too long, too repetitive, and too downright dreary to sustain our interest. We were one of those who left at intermission incredulous that it was not the end. "No!" to Anonymous (10/26, 10:49 am) whose comment mentions that those who didn't like "Kontakthof" should keep quiet because we aren't "sophisticated enough" to understand Ms. Bausch's work/s. I saw "Vollmond" and loved it. This was an entirely different experience, and a real let down compared to the phenomenal and extraordinary "Vollmond." Just because an artist puts his or her name on something doesn't mean it is great. That's the point of critical thinking. Something "true intellects" employ in an effort to maintain the exacting standards of truth.

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  13. I think many of us would agree that Pina is great, and that anything that has her name on it should be treated with the respect due to great artists. That doesn't mean you have to like everything she did. It means that if you criticize it while ignoring the wealth of context that is readily available for better understanding the context of her work, you can't expect to be taken seriously.

    Pina created over 40 works. Vollmond is one of them. Pina made Kontakthof when she was 38 and had worked largely in Germany for predominantly German audiences; she was 64 when she made Vollmond and had by then created and presented her work on a global scale that is arguably unrivaled.

    That's just one perspective from which Kontakthof needs to be considered. The previous poster who mentioned the complexity of the socio-political climate in post-war Germany in the late 70s rightly suggested that there's a whole lot more we need to take on board if we genuinely want to understand the work.

    Finally, if you have problems with long and repetitive performances, are you sure you are going to the right place? Einstein on the Beach is twice as long as Kontakthof and goodness knows how much more repetitive, and it's been revived three times at BAM with phenomenal success.

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    1. Actually, we did recognize the socio/political undercurrent of Kontakthof. Of course. It’s very obvious this was part of the meaning of the work. Still the subject matter was not presented in a way that sustained interest. Maybe Einstein on The Beach is better. So what? Certainly that is not because it is long. In any event, it might have been worth remembering that “brevity is the soul of wit” when Kontakhof was created.

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    2. Another bit of context that is useful to know when approaching Pina is that like Kontakthof, the majority of her works are 3 hours long. So if you go expecting brevity, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed.

      I brought Einstein into the discussion not to say which is better or worse, but in response to the complaints above about length and repetition. The use of long duration and repetitive structures have been key elements of major works of the late 20th century, and Pina and Robert Wilson are two of the most important examples of artists who have used these to powerful effect.

      Also, BAM was a pioneer in providing a home for major artists making long and repetitive works for the big stage. Robert Wilson made his debut at BAM in 1973 with a performance that lasted all night (it was supposed to be 12 hours, but ended up being more like 14).

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  14. 4 of us saw it this afternoon . We are all immense lovers of Ballet , have seen it for many years , and all over the world . Anything from Classic to Modern works for us . This was as dreadful as any ballet we have ever seen . Our views were unanimous . We left in the intermission . Heard a lot about Pina , and were hoping for much more . Hopefully another time we could discover she has more to offer . This was BAD ! Pity .

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  15. Boring and repetitious, both in dance and music. Interesting idea but carried on ad nauseum. We left at Intermission, which seemed to take FOREVER to arrive.

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  16. I am a huge fan of Pina and absolutely loved Nefes and Bamboo Blues a few years back at BAM. However, this show was immensely difficult to watch. Really tested your patience. Slow is fine, but what I was disappointed with and I think most ppl were disappointed with was hardly seeing any of Pina's wonderful choreography/dance in this particular performance. I hope BAM can show more of her entertaining work, and keep in mind people are paying a lot of money and want to be entertained as well as challenged intellectually.

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  17. From Nelken (Carnations) in 1982, four years after Kontakthof was created:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKy9MiOey_s

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  18. Overall, conceptually fascinating, and with many lovely and arresting images. Such a "non-narrative" dance as this, however, usually works better as a shorter piece (forty-five minutes max). But I think I just need more time to digest it; I certainly don't regret seeing it, but, as of now, wouldn't recommend it to prospective audiences without caveats.

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  19. Am a former modern dancer of an age dating back to the heyday of ultra modern choreography, e.g. I am capable of appreciating it, I did not enjoy or appreciate Kontakthof. In fact, I was bored silly, as were my three fellow attendees. So disconnected and meaningless to me, and in parts, insipid, to the point I found myself feeling insulted. Great costumes, beautiful performers, but so what? Wish I had my money back.

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  20. I have never been more moved or inspired by a dance performance in my life. Anyone who thinks this was boring and repetitive please stay home next time and watch CSI. People asking "What was BAM thinking?" - um, BAM was thinking of staging one of Pina Bausch's (an internationally acclaimed choreographer) most famous pieces, which hadn't been seen in New York for many years, and which has been featured prominently in both Wim Wenders PINA and Chantal Akerman's One Day Pina Asked. The scenes of the group walking in circular motion are iconic - and feature in both films. The piece was seldom repetitive, instead it ebbed and flowed - from quiet, from one person on stage, to a few more to the whole place exploding in ecstacy, violence, passion, hate and love, then back down to quiet, and the whole cycle begins again. The overwhelming statement seemed to be both about the stages and different kinds of relationships, from courtship to passion to love to anger to violent hatred. Did you not notice that any time anything really violent or disturbing happened, the room ignored it - or the two women came out in pink to do Ziegfield Follies-type dances? The idea that the response to the piece was tepid is laughable. The applause was long and sustained and everyone i spoke with afterwards felt deeply affected by it. And if you have the gall to suggest that BAM shouldn't have showed this, fuck off. Go join the Death of Klinghoffer protest where you belong.

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    1. get over yourself. embarrassing how hard you try to show you have some culture. it's fine not to like her.

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    2. Thanks, Adam, this is the most interesting post on this thread so far.

      Never considered the "neutral" attitude that Pina cultivates in her dancers that way before, as a response to the shock and violence of some of the episodes. I would only suggest that this may not be ignorance, but rather a stoic refusal to show emotion and thus become more vulnerable. I never feel as if the dancers are not aware of what's going on, in fact they constantly express their awareness in their movement, even if it's only walking more slowly and with more sensitivity.

      I was reading Janice Ross' lecture linked to on this page, and it was interesting to learn that Arlene Croce was perturbed at the performance's refusal to take a moral stance during Pina's US debut in 1984. Maybe that's what is bugging these people so much.

      Personally, I'd put it down at least partially to the context in which it was created - most importantly by a choreographer who as a child experienced her region bombed in WWII, then as a young woman watched during its traumatic aftermath as the true cost of the war was revealed piece by piece and everyone's responses became more and more complex and hidden and burdensome...

      I share your surprise. I've been enthusiastically going to see Pina at BAM since 1988, and I've never experienced this kind of hostile reaction before.

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  21. Even though I am very familiar with her work and techniques...it was exhausting.
    Very disappointing almost to the point of thinking she is underestimating her audience.
    bla bla bla...to all the insecure people in this blog blaming lack of sophistication when a comment is negative. It is perfectly fine not to like her his time. Get over yourselves. I liked the set design but quality seemed poor. Thank you.

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  22. California Jack CassidyOctober 27, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    The show was fabulous -- emotionally engaging, endlessly inventive. I only hope that someday I can write a play that approaches Kontakthof in its ability to communicate the human condition. Also, wonderful performance by the dancers. The people who left early missed the standing ovartion for the company at the end.

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  23. I went with high expectations, expecting to be dazzled, but left at intermission. The piece seemed
    dated as an exploration of the battle of the sexes. Although some of the performers inhabited
    their parts brillantly, the endless repitions, unexciting choreography and tedious silliness began
    to annoy me. I could not exit the theater quickly enough.

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  24. Have to agree with Adam above. Stunning and beautiful. I saw the piece 30 years ago and loved it again tonight! Not for everyone that's for sure and the younger "shorter attention span" audience members are probably just not patient enough or not familiar enough with the performance/dance of this period to enjoy. I do understand those who said they missed the "all out" dancing of Pina's company but this was a different kind of work at the time and still is. Every choreographer I know or worked with at the time stole ideas from this work!! Stands the test of time. Bravo.

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  25. I thought it was beautiful. The piece and the performances were everything I was hoping they would be and more.

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  26. This is the fourth time I've seen Kontakthof (including once on film) and it is as beautiful, disturbing, moving as ever. A brilliant work by one of the truly-original choreographers of our time. Thank you BAM, from a devoted dance-goer.

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  27. My first contact with Pina Bausch's choreography was Danzón. At the time, I did not care for her style of dance. I found it too silly and not serious enough. It was too theatrical, I thought. I did not attend another performance of her dance company until “… como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si …” Something shifted inside me and it was then that I fell in love with her work. The pure humanity — the universal feelings and emotions — finally spoke to me. The humor made it all the more poignant. Her dancers were accessible. Knowable. And that is exactly what I saw in Kontakthof tonight. Real humans having messy, sad, romantic, funny encounters with each other. I love that there are older dancers. Short dancers. Dancers who sing and talk. I love the repetitive gestures in the choreography, and am amazed at the precision of the dancers as they execute the moves. I love the costuming and set and lighting. If I had to choose one scene to cut or at least shorten, it would have been the length of the duck film. But that's a minor criticism, and even that made me chuckle. I do regret all the Pina Bausch performances I chose not to attend in years past. Maybe some day I will be able to see Tanztheater Wuppertal reprise them. I commend BAM for continuing to present her work, and I am glad I gave her work another chance.

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  28. An inspiring , poetic and profound creation.

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  29. Saw it twice, from row A. Have seen other of her pieces at BAM, always twice, although could go 3, 4 times, that's how much I like them and never find them boring, regardless of the lenght. Will be going to Wuppertal next year to see one of her pieces in her theater.She is one of the originals, Balanchine,Graham, Taylor. And like Paul Taylor can, combine humor and sadness, even despair in a piece.

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  30. It was a dazzlingly great night.
    No stage director needed.
    All the dancers had internalized their roles and their relations to each other over time.
    Bausch starts with the dancers blank.
    And suddenly, step by step, they go through a wondrous range of variations on the
    meaning of the feminine form and sexuality.
    It was dazzling.
    And even without Pina, they will get better. My best t
    Dr. Frank Braio

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  31. Hated it; my 5 guests and I left at intermission; cutting losses.

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  32. Loved it, I can see how people don't like it, but I can't see how they think it is bad. Well whatever, I thought it was outstanding, both performance and choreography.
    One thing though, and this is for the people at BAM: What the heck where you thinking testing the hip hop music for the Halloween party in the mezzanine lobby while the piece was still running?! I completely understand if someone accidentally started the music, human error is a common phenomena, but why in the world did no official rush there and told them to shut it off ?! It was playing for a good 5 minutes, 5 minutes in which we were totally disconnected from the piece.

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  33. Kontakthof is absolutely outstanding: one of the most engaging performances I have seen in the past decade. Despite it deals with heteronormative relationships, Bausch's mediation on the at times playful and pathological nature of human interaction and romance is provocative and beautifully choreographed. By mining everyday motions and re-presenting them as dance, Bausch renders uncanny actions that normally are naturalized--prompting an interrogation of our own daily performances (of gender) in the world. The various devices she employs to prompt reflection on spectatorship and even to break down the fourth wall were effective too.

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  34. I'm a big fan of PB's work. Seen several of her shows, in London as well as the BAM ever since I moved to NYC. Also seen the movie with Q&A w/ Wim Wenders at BAM. Pina Bausch full on!
    It is interesting to see one of her early work (done in '78 after group was founded in '73 or so). Very clear what conventions they tried to break with back then, still fresh today. The show was funny, passionate, intense, intriguing and so much more.
    'Aua!' and 'Daaaaaaarling!' will stay with you for a while and you will probably never hear it the 'un-Pina Bausch-ed' ever again.

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  35. Didn't like it. Too boring and repetitive.

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  36. I saw Bausch's Orpheus and Eurydice performed by the Paris Opera Ballet 2 years ago and enjoyed it immensely. The audience had mixed reviews then as well.

    I loved the movie Pina and especially enjoyed the excerpts from Kontakthof, so I was pleased to hear that it would be performed at BAM. I made a trip down to NYC to see the piece and was especially moved by the recurring dance with small gestures. The dancers are wonderful and I liked the music, which comes from a time period that I find interesting.
    My only problem is the theatre itself. Luckily I had an orchestra aisle seat and could see part of the masque parade. Most of the people on my side could not see it or quite a bit of the action on our side of the stage. I guess you have to skip the side seats if you want to see a whole performance in the orchestra.

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  37. I bought my ticket online from Norway, arriving New York saturday. Sunday afternoon I thought I wanted to make plans for my metro-travelling and dinner-eating nearby BAM in good time, only to find out that the show already started. I just assumed it would be at 19, or 19.30. Totally my own responsibility, but I was so dissapointed! I did really look forward to it. I saw the company in the opera house in Oslo and liked it very much.

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  38. I first saw this piece in 1978, when it had just been created, in Buenos Aires. I was very young but I still remember clearly being blown away by this masterpiece.

    Now, so many years later, it has not lost an ounce of its hypnotic beauty.

    Thanks to the company for having restaged it.

    Love to all

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  39. I have followed and loved the work of Pina Bausch for several years and was thrilled to see that Kontakthof, one of my favorite pieces was returning to NYC so that I could see it again and encouraged others to do so as well. But I was disappointed…not with the performers or the segments that were left intact. But a number of segments were either left out, changed or watered down taking away from the depth and brilliance of her choreography and vision.

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