Tanztheater. This performance genre, once revolutionary and now classic, was developed by German choreographer Pina Bausch in the early 1970s. As a form, Tanztheater mixes dance and choreography with theatrical elements such as text, songs and acting, and moves away from a linear narrative to focus instead on interwoven scenes and images. Bausch famously said about her work: ‘I’m not interested in how people move, but in what moves them.’ So what moves us in 2018?
More than 40 years after Bausch’s innovation, another woman proposes her own version of this hybrid genre. Like Bausch’s rebellious punk daughter, Vienna-based Veza Fernández seems to have inherited a taste for spectacle, a courageous tendency to romanticism and emotional oversharing, as well as an undeniably kitsch and yet delicately beautiful sense of aesthetics.
References to Bausch’s body of work are sincere and palpable in Fernández’s Tanztheater, as if this traditionally German/Austrian theatre form had been resurrected through choreographic lineage. Indeed, Fernández says ‘there are so many things that I find extremely interesting about Bausch’s work, like the concrete that becomes universal, the poetics, the collages that make sense, the expressivity. All of it is relevant today – maybe not so common any more, but still relevant.’ Yet her contemporary version of Tanztheater also marks a drastic departure from Bausch’s, and it is this constant oscillation between referencing and updating which makes her recent Wenn Auge Mund Wird (When Eye Becomes Mouth) so fascinating.