“Palermo Palermo”, the intact plume of Pina Bausch

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November 9, 1989 falls in Berlin the “wall of shame”. A month later, on the stage of the Wuppertal theater, the new creation of the German choreographer Pina Bausch opens with the collapse, with a great crash, of a wall of rubble stones, on the rubble of which the dancers will run in high heels or barefoot for two hours and twenty minutes. For the press, dithyrambique, here is one of the first works to greet, hot, this historic moment. Pina Bausch will have to repeat it over and over again: she never wanted to create a document on the coming reunification! For months now, she and her scenographer, Peter Babst, have been developing the technical means to design this floor of collapsed concrete blocks, a metaphor for walls invisible to knock down (whether geopolitical or emotional), an evocation of resilience, but also and above all reverence to this splendor of a city in ruins whose artist cherishes the derelict magnificence, Palermo.


At the time, the inventor of “dance-theater” already had fans all over the world, but one of the most fervent was a Sicilian, 42, and had been mayor of Palermo for four years. Leoluca Orlando (still in operation today) is then in full deployment of its “Palermo Spring”, plan to fight against Cosa Nostra in which the rehabilitation of the historic center abandoned to real estate speculation also requires attractiveness and prestige Arts. So he invites the Wuppertal Tanztheater to create “at home” what will become Palermo Palermo, one of Pina Bausch’s great works, the first to initiate a long series of city portrait pieces. “We met Orlando several times, in this magnificent Teatro Biondo where he had invited us in residence for three weeks, but also in Germany where he returned to see us, remembers Madrid-born Nazareth Panadero, 33 at the time. The guy is unforgettable, an incredible, colorful charisma, a hero for his city, really. ” For three weeks, in May 1989, she imbibed, like the 25 other people on the team, the raucous exuberance of the Palermo streets “Much more dangerous than today”, with its old madre sitting in the doorway of their houses “Which all look like little theaters”, its fortuitous assemblages of concrete and Arab-Norman palaces deliquescent. The dancers work every day around the death threat that hangs over the island: volcanic eruption as the omnipresence of the mafia. But above all, it is the wacky colocation of the profane and the sacred that guides the improvisations, “Basically everything you could see at Ballaro market” with her middle-class women in pearl necks sitting on Miko chairs next to blood-stained ox-eye stalls.


Who, really, digested these images with as much panache and poetry as this crazy German girl from the archaic cultural mix of the island? There is something to wonder, today that we see (or discover) on the site of the Pina Bausch Foundation this baroque drama which, far from postcards a little more photoshoped than we lend it at its end career, recalls on the contrary the extent of his genius of metaphorical collage, absurd shift and impressionist compositions. It’s this Camoristo-Rococo waiter who whistles while blasting apples on the table, it’s this widow descending her half in the brothel of church bells and four pianos playing Rachmaninov at the same time. It’s also this Saharan wind, the sirocco, covering the scene of red earth in two squalls – “We really saw that in Palermo, it was crazy!” It is also his way of dissecting the anatomy of the passions, of extracting from the paintings of yesteryear these postures of ecstasy, subtle harmony of suffering and enjoyment, which delight here – in this woman, for example, supported by a group of men in suits, peeing in a plastic bottle to signify their desire as much as their shame to feel it. Another wall, that of sexuality and gender this time, against which Pina Bausch will hit her head until blood and until her death, but with infinite chic.

Eve Beauvallet

Palermo, Palermo of Pina Bausch www.pinabausch.org



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