Tanztraume -- Film Review

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BERLIN -- Given that Pina Bausch was a renowned German choreographer who died last June, it's not surprising that the world premiere of a documentary about her influence on students electrified audiences at the Berlin International Film Festival. But "Tanztraume" ("Dancing Dreams") has enough historical and entertainment value to draw appreciative art house audiences in America as well. While the film serves as a fitting elegy for Bausch, it also speaks to young people seeking creative fulfillment.

The film centers on a group of young dancers rehearsing for a performance of one of Bausch's signature pieces, "Kontakthof," a stylized presentation of the entanglements of the sexes. Many of the kids are not trained dancers but have signed on for a unique educational project Along the way we learn some of the piquant personal stories of the kids, but the main focus is on the dance scenes. And here the film takes on a measure of controversy that is typical of Bausch's work. Many of her famous dances feature erotic, sometimes perversely sexual contortions, and seeing teenagers involved in these simulated though ferocious liaisons will make viewers uncomfortable. Yet the truth is that for teenagers trying to deal with their emerging sexuality, the opportunity to stylize some of those inchoate feelings through dance may be clarifying rather than traumatic. In any case, the film is not just an academic dance film, but also a stimulating examination of the many ways in which art can give an electric charge to everyday experience.

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Director Anne Linsel, working closely with cinematographer Rainer Hoffmann, captures the dance scenes with immediacy. Among the most memorable moments are those in which Bausch herself joins the two principal dance instructors, Jo Ann Endicott and Benedicte Billiet. The first day that Bausch meets the students, peering at them intently and encouraging them to relax, we can feel her charismatic but formidable presence. And the ending of the film, in which she comes onstage to offer her thanks to the entire cast on the night of their debut, works as an affecting homage to Bausch as well as to her young charges.

Venue: Berlin International Film Festival
Director-screenwriter: Anne Linsel
Producer: Gerd Haag
Director of photography: Rainer Hoffmann
Editor: Mike Schlomer
No rating, 89 minutes
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