Premiered in 2007, Pina Bausch’s exploration of India is far more lyrical and contemplative than many of her other works in the World Cities series. Clearly entranced by the colours, grace and even aromas of the continent, Bausch and her company have responded in a languidly positive and often beautiful way, with the ebb and flow of movement and gesture echoed by the gently swaying draperies at the back of the stage.
Ruth Amarante, Rainer Behr and Damiano Ottavio Bigi in Bamboo Blues at the Barbican Theatre, London Photo: Jong-Duk Woo
Given the cornucopia of Asian images with which we are now all too familiar, Bausch makes some curious - though not unwise - decisions. And while it typically skims the surface of the culture and society it rarely lapses into cliched depictions or parodies. Thus, Bollywood doesn’t appear until the second half with a huge projection of a film poster image accompanied by dance that skittishly prods at the form rather than recreates it. There are some very good visual jokes (speech is kept to a minimum) involving yoga contortions, chairs and ice cream cones.
The inclusion of Shantala Shivalingappa - an authoritative practitioner of the kuchipudi style of classical dancing - is an immeasurable enhancement to the proceedings that include visual references to the erotic texts of the Kama Sutra as well as Hindu deities like Ganesha. Extended sequences of washing and purification in The Ganges and a parade of women and men crossing the stage in twos rewrapping cloth into loincloths are mesmerizing. If the musical selections too often seem over-dependent on Asian lounge music it is a pleasurably dreamlike work. And at least I know now how to wear a sari.