Published in Rheinische Post on October 1, 2016
By Thomas Hag
What to do with a story that has already been told? For Fabien Prioville who had been dancing with and for Pina Bausch for many years, there was still more to tell.
Bausch’s “Café Müller” is considered a masterpiece of dance theater; it would not have made much sense to just reopen it without changing it too. Even though Prioville used the piece as a starting point for his new choreography, he created a discourse of its own. Those who are familiar with Bausch’s “Café Müller” may compare, yet those who are not might have an actual advantage. Already in the beginning the writing on the wall says “Closed” – the “Café Müller” as we know it no longer exists. Prioville now calls it “La Suite”.
What remained are fragments of Bausch’s signature, those almost compulsory repetitions, a virtuosity among details, the narrative, theatrical element. Dancer Vivien Wood plays an important role in emphasizing these elements; over and over again she interrupts the flow of movements only to push on a moment later. She already does so by inserting her texts in unison with a band that is more than just accompaniment. The mixture of jazz, blues and chanson is a work of art on its own. The expressive jazz singer Emma Bonnici as well as legendary drummer Chris Cutler, who is considered one of the most influential avant-garde drummers, are mainly responsible for that.
So, what is happening now to the former guests of this café, among them Prioville himself? Well, they are still visitors of this literal ‘Kontakthof’, in constant search for close contact. Love is sparked, yet disillusion lurks just around the corner. “We got married already two weeks after we’ve met. Then he took all my money” it states. Here, lust turns easily into pain.
While Pina Bausch’s dance theater has often used simple wooden chairs, Prioville replaced them with the ubiquitous plastic furniture emphasizing the overall impression of an ‘arte povera’ – the art of poverty. And yet this sterile paltriness also features moments of virtuosity during which tableware is being juggled with and the lonely characters seek and find something like refuge.
“Is this still dance?” a member of the audience asked after the long applause had ended. It depends on the expectation. With “La Suite” Fabien Prioville has proven himself a dancer and choreographer who is able to look back and ahead at the same time.