Lisbon in London: ‘Masurca Fogo’ Dance Review

‘Masurca Fogo’ – Pina Bausch & Dancers (1998)

The late Pina Bausch’s dancers brought a refreshing splash of Lisbon to London’s Sadlers Wells Theatre during a particularly long and dreary February. A dreamscape of intertwining vignettes personifies the gaiety of Lisbon’s summertime in Bausch’s mostly playful “Masurca Fogo.” Throughout, dancers alternate between sunbathing and scampering across a massive igneous rock on an otherwise minimalist stage. They flirtatiously stride, pursue each other and appeal to the audience in the dance version of a brief monologue. The solos and acts exhibit a range of relationships and demonstrate love across its varying stages.

Completely Out of Love

A woman exhales sharply over music, whose lyrics describe meaninglessly making love. Her sighs permeate the audience and surround them in an aura of hazy hopelessness. The woman relaxes as a group of men pass her supine body overhead. And she remains unengaged as they escort her around the stage, accelerating and banking around corners. The pure dissatisfaction bleeds out of her in rhythmic, punctuated exhalations as men grab her ankles, suspend her body and spin her around.

Similarly unenthusiastic, men twirl seated women around in chairs. The panting from the ladies crescendos quickly into cries of ecstasy, but the thrill is short lived. Moments later, their partners set them down and their ephemeral connection instantaneously broken. Their brief pairing leaves the audience flustered and equally unfulfilled.

Flirting: On the Verge of Infatuation

A woman struts on stage, accompanied by bossa nova type music. She titters, as she relishes the attention from a crowd of men. They lust after her, eyes fixed on her figure as they groan “oooooh!!” at her beauty. But their enthusiasm is so strong, their displays of desire borderlines hilarity as they continue to swoon. She approaches them prefacing her kisses with the phrase “Let me kiss you” before glancing away and spitting out her explanation to the audience: “A job is a job.”

Interest in the opposite sex continues as a love-struck man attentively watches a woman gracefully dragging her mug across the table in swirling patterns. Completely mesmerized, he perches near her. She swiftly flings the mug off the table, and he catches it, handing it back to her. Then the game begins again. She purposefully enthralls him, and the audience can just imagine him clinging onto her every word, every movement and every breath.

Comfortably In Love

Bausch’s choreography shows that love can be completely comfortable. Warmth and friendship are incubated as a quartet dashes across a self-made slip and slide, and a sense of love in “togetherness” allows the whole group to collectively construct a home. The simple act of sharing time and space is pleasurable, especially with dance. Couples naturally pair off during the impromptu dance party. Enveloped by soft bluesy music, the pairs shuffle together, gently rocking their hips. They are perfectly connected and synchronized.

As the couples find their own spot to lie down with their partner, the audience can rest, too. Bright, slightly campy, projections of flowers open. Their flourishing beauty reminds us that although relationships constantly evolve, love blooms eternal.

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