A beach of white sand. The light bleaching from the sky. A girl lying on a red cloth. An eerie bassoon piercing the silence. This is the way in which audiences get their first glimpse of a remarkable collaboration between the Pina Bausch Foundation, École des Sables in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal, and Sadler’s Wells to create a new version of Pina Bausch’s ground-breaking The Rite of Spring.
Restaging this work was always a bold venture: the first time The Rite of Spring would have been performed by a specially-recruited ensemble, the first time by dancers from African countries. But the onset of Covid-19 meant that its planned premiere in Dakar was cancelled just days before it happened, as was the subsequent tour to Sadler’s Wells in London and other European ventures, including the home of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in Germany.
Out of that postponement, however, the documentary film-maker Florian Heinzen-Ziob and his team, who were documenting the project, have conjured something wonderful. By capturing the final rehearsal on camera, he has underlined what those involved in the project had always hoped: that this production of The Rite of Spring would provide a new way of looking at the piece, offering different inflections and insights. It is clear from this evocative film that the dancers from 14 countries across the African continent have come together to create something that is both true to Bausch’s intention – and yet somehow singular and distinctive.