muddled notes on “Café Müller” with “Split Sides” and “Cursive II”


the following are notes on work by choreographers pina bausch, merce cunningham, and lin hwai-min, respectively.

cafe muller notes:

lights up on calf-searching – white flecks of slipgown movement. The windows and doors – the bang of the chairs. It is purposeful, even the misstep a redirection. It is tragic – how does one maintain interest? Why do we not look away? It is within the technique of the dancers. Melodrama as normal. “Canonical” melodramatic (God) – the IS – the big question. Flailing, lagging, sadness – serpentine and slow. The dance is the melodrama. The other is just a stage hand. The watchers / observers of behavior – there serving them and keeping them stationary – in the place of their torment. Sadness creates art – what does turmoil do to creativity?

She comes to the barefoot man blindly, they touch with no feeling. Search an embrace and hold each other in. The stagehand separates them part by part to put them back together; a mechanical kiss then he cradles her lifeless form. She drips dropped and they snap back to embrace. The stagehand repeats the situating sequence and leaves them. Again, the drop. More assertive and quicker each time, by the end of the repetition the stagehand is frantic trying to keep her held in his arms. Each time he leaves them and she drops, he turns upstage to rush back. Until he rushes away and they quicken the flailing failure with grunts and grace until they rest and breathe each other in, in embrace. She backs away blindly, a calf-being banging small studdersteps into chairs, lost with upturned palms at her side. And then she quickly throws her gown off and she is nude sitting upstage with her back toward the proscenium, hair sprawling from her head on a table, motionless.

The red woman passes through.

The stagehand carries the hunching barefoot man vertical like an awkward piece of lumber. The man sinks and clings to the stagehand’s legs. Then he is lifted to expose his open legs in a pas de chat. It is the first time we see the front of him. The red woman flits.

Enter Pina. She moves from her insides. She trembles walking, unseeing but purposeful in her going. The stagehand tries to dress the woman naked sitting. She strips and sits again. The man flings about on the floor crashing chairs in lament and stretched backward bends that seem to come from behind the spine. The red woman flits abut him like an insect, stammering interest and persistence. Pina exits – round and round the revolving door. The barefoot man comes to the naked sitting, now dressed in her slip gown for the encounter. They embrace tenderly, meaningfully. She crumples, falling still. He sits at the table with the red woman who is seated above her crumpled form on the floor. He spasms floor work and running lost, repetition of arcing arm fall to pelvic push as red flits about him in heels and coat. Her naked’s other is Pina banging against walls. He increases and hits against walls hard. The Stagehand in a suit moves chairs once he’s hit them. What do the chairs do? Sometimes moved before contact with him or her, sometimes to block path or clear trail.

Trying to get out of Red. He falls against walls. Red takes off her shoes and marks a pathway as the man lay softly thrusting against the wall, facing away from Red across the floor. She rises, naked holding dress in front against her skin. Pina is seated looking after naked as She exits. As Red reaches Pina across the floor, Red suddenly stops path, gathers coat and shoes and runs out. Enters another She in a gown – is it the same naked she woman back in her slip? She walks over him weightless as thr stagehand man in a suit lifts her to do so. They embrace front over back to slow to the ground. She rises and walks to the chair, feet walking on wall while lying on back. Like a lanky turtle. He sees her and leaves, slow walking. Red runs through their space and is there to kiss him before he exits opposite Her. And again at the table US. They go to leave together and he turns, running searching for naked slips. Red runs following. Naked She in gown-slip enters opposite and he runs in to sit. They close in on eachother and stagehand picks up chairs in their wake. A slow duet table remaking arcs, lifts, and front over back embrace. Walking, they hold for time supporting hands on bellies. Red solos now with arm gestures of diving-in and undoing things wearing a light blue dress with a plea. The barefoot man and naked she dressed repeatedly and violently throw each other against the wall then exit calmly, separate. Red continues and a man returns, is it the stagehand clad in a coat? He’s been running in and put the doors coming near Red. Pina comes from stillness at the wall and summons barefoot man and naked she to one another with moving sorrow of grace in shoulder and forearm, Her fingers and facial expression follow in longing. The lights dim and Red puts a coat over Pina who is then silhouetted by walking outsiders or passers-by which are the other characters walking across in repetition of depth seen at a distance.


Split sides notes:

human unison


contact without self-globbing. Boundaries of body kept – doesn’t puncture form of self, is unchanged by contact.

plus washes of paint, soft backdrop upstage. Dancers in purple pink yellow unsuits stripe-splashed in black. Cage music box sound, all unison, human unison. placement of limbs, arms held in angular arcs of port de bras as feet work through develope and ballet positions, bare. Attitude, directional changes leapt to. Angle and spatial changes are on a grid. Same movement sweeping in canon by soloists across the stage. Formulaic, personal timing of dancers – small differences like the linger of a focus or catch jump to arabesque, the spatial reaching. Soloists against the group. they dance for us. They relate to each other the way birds do – aware but not involved. Emotional involvement or effected affective response is contained in self. The stage clears repeatedly taken instantly by another phrase – a series of steps on releve, arm placements in space. directional exactitude. The feet move only through intention, not necessity. Point walks. She against the group. They look at one another for timing, not for story. Duet- head tilts and inversion, ground work after dégagé and foot placement series. Open angels of arms. Grab a wrist, hold a hand for promenade and balletic partnering on tilt. They smile at the difficulty. Off balance weight sharing with hands. I do this and look here. I do this and then this. the arms hold nothing, and are held in space. Group enters on duet. Duet exits. Solo of stillness against group unison. Spinal tilts, curves. All exit.

Female soloist with screech pitch sound which becomes loud and unbearable in its distortion. Larger limbs, spinal tilts. Black and whit backdrop falls slowly behind her. Dancers enter in black and white unisuits.

A large, heavy circle hangs above the dancers, gray/black/white wash light underneath of dancers. The weight of the circle threatens drop. repetition of phrases, more now with body to body weight exchange and lifts. closer to floor. more turns and higher legs, larger steps and tilts of spine increased. Groups of duets. The partners relate to each other, when you do this, I do that. Catch, flick, lift, hand down, up rate on horizontal line of path. Arms up, bend, out, wrap. Repetition of sequence, different timing, human unison. pelvic push, run run arabesque. the stage is empty for the first time, for two seconds. Then enter running one at a time. Trio: 2 men 1 woman – she was the last soloist of the color section. Variations on holding wrists and other phrases. Risk increases in leaps, balances, higher legs. Kick the back of own heads. Bent torso lean and bring to ground. More leaps, jumping balances. Sharp head turns. Men lift her until her head touches the ground, upright an continue. Men balance her as she stretches. They exit with held foot hops an debt leaps. A dute- male/female. He partners her. Use of contact to perform a higher leg lift. repetition. they exit hand in hand running. While solo M runs in. The sound slows. eery. A technical arabesque balance stretching legs, facing. Arm curves. Spinal orientation. It is exact. Standing foot outward rotate, inward, switch arms, look.

He exits, group enters. Same phrase, human unison. 4×4 All M partnering W. slow, releve – stay point other foot in, out. Trace partner side and under arm, she plie sinks. 1/4 switch facing. repeat. slow pike lifts or w over l side, lay arabesque over r side. repeat. stillness. exit phrase, repeat arm wrap lean attitude lift. group enters all on floor, one is carried off. repeat sequence. more enter. all. same sequence, slightly different timing, spatial pathway. exchanging entrances/exits. final group, more of the same. end in stillness. task done, arms fixed, coupe balances, facing maintained. lights out.


Cursive II notes:

The female soloist


She writhes stretching, turning up/down pelvis and hands articulate. Shins parallel to floor. The other is lit. slowly she rises, in front of the first. They echo one another. The pelvic floor is low to the floor. their cursivity moves throughout their body, leaving nothing untouched. DS soloist moves, the first echoes fast, they are dueting, sometimes unison form, brief moments. in/out down/up and through around, unfolding silky effort. A 3rd enters. they are not unison but sometimes the effort, the shape, the timing is the same. the black curtain rises on a white screen, 1/2 way. They move surveying slowly from the inside. Another enters, echo reach, arc, fall, leg sweep tornado. A diagonal, DSR. Repeat. They move slowly, steady. Turns and direction changing in unison. Still steps slow. The foot is articulate, supinated. Hip turned in. High kicks, stag leaps, turning battements. How is it so different? Felt somehow? 3 exit. a soloist. floor rolls on diagonal. an other enters, timing catalyst for other’s movement. Hitchkick turning, the fingers seem connected to undulating organs. Slow sequential through levels, articulating grace. Dynanmic hits of leg kick, drop to floor. An other enters and another, they exit running. 6 men enter.

i against group. same diagonal, rotating spirals and the 5 move into a shape, unison. Timing cues. Crescent kick w slap things then a slow arc of arm. Diagonal focus on soloist. Bent wrist, crane. Different movement of group – same timing back to unison. the slow reach, arms, legs – away form unison , then back to it again. Separate and still, slow moving. geosth of drop, reach. spirals and stillness. solo female enters, 2 m leave, slithering. the focus is exact. the timing of wave, the undulation of r b chng. the jump kick, fall. swirling rhythm. we can see the shift from one another. the f soloist chases the m. on left. on. they play is space and timing, look at one another come, a different kind of promenade, whirling grace and a f enters. the duet exit. lights change. now the backdrop is a cellualr microscopic like image. a loud coronet or french horn sounds. more of the same, just different. she plays the diagonal. there is a sly smile as she watched her hands follow from her organs. her feet, her arabesque, turned in, separated foot. we can see their nipples. she pulls space slowly, whirls legs and speeds sequentiality, then back to slow pulling grace. quick and sharp, against pulling time. saxophone and lips < ? >. a direct exit. direct entrance, painting palms. 4 men stance. a slow circle of outside of hand. they trade running off wings and leaping on. now one – sustained battement. the 4 move in, now f. they stand facing US. each strikes a pose as if in defiance of something. and now unison they face DS grow stance, tilted torso spiraling slow arms to turn them US. one against group – he is fast low when they are up and sinking as they rise. kick turn and legging – fall to ground. the other diagonal now. one phrase – variations and individual timing. turns, curving hands, rise and fall, kick and lean. an aerial – effortless. blue light, the men run circle and exit. 3 stay and 4 women enter. 3 duets and a soloist. unison movement, men low, women high behind them on diagonal. turnign grace undulating time in limbs through belly. up down toes spread leg up, stay. canon of spiral turn, balance, whip legs, reach, they do not look at one another, they do not touch her. they play close and around one another. women shift to morphing glob US. tendrils of time spiral through their articulate hands. the men encircle them. their mouths are closed. the focus clear on diagonal. the face cool. unison until each woman breaks from group to own slow stalking wave. they form a line / group. all walking slow upstage, big toes lifted, hips and arms waving. the canon of spiral hands to defend brings them to diagonal spread, focus DSR. hands hidden, deep plie – solo against group. synchronous growth into splitting space. exit, turning direct. 3 remain – 2 women, i man. backdrop is brown cells, changing, black wash of ink on white, 2 remain, women, no white pants just nude leotard. rectangles of light see their floor. she is sitting, this is the first time so much floor is had. she contorts beauty twisting. laying, foot behind head. he is repeating a phrase, aware of her timing almost as if he is making the marks that she is <?> . he partners her. holds her back while she holds her leg to her ear standing. they mirror space and shape, his spine and her leg. her toes and his finger. they remain in the rectangles of light. he exits. she does after. stage goes blue wash, backdrop black ink remains. six enter – 3m 3f. us/ds line – unison, foot stamps and arm shapes. 6 more canon. they open and close the space w canon of slow, floor, upright hits of arms and turn of shape growing. the other diagonal is held in focus, in facing, in stillness and slow arms raising. repetition and undulation in timing. they are all on floor – 1 stands growing spirals into placed sharpness, waving grace and open stance. it is fighting. it is defense. it is ripples of sensation finding places of certainty. quick , quick, quick, slow… 3 are up now, dive rolls and leg sweeps. turning double kicks and squirreling to balance. i against group. pushing rise and sink alternately. supinated feet held high as sweat glistens on the calm face. side lying and rising slow, finding pathway to sharp through undulation of limb, kick kick fall, whip hands strike, hurricane legs on back. deep lunges and group timing. exit running. exit spiraling in silhouette. black curtain drops on spotlit soloist. b/o. narrow, tall amoeba-like grid backdrop unveiled. 1 m enters DS of it. he seems to mark the lines of the drop w his body. jumping high, split legs. athletic and whipping to reach. exit. 3 w lit in rectangle of grays. he stands still – looking out. the 2 move, wrapping flesh around sequentiality. the rectangle grows a triangle. they move into it. turning legs and stretching undulation to arrive sharp at strikes. a 4th enters. running in. a 5th, the same. there are moments of unison in timing among spirals and pirhouettes and leans and lunges and waving arms. another enters. 3 move. 3 remain still. they revisit side-lying and high kicks to arcing. arms. feet. an other walks slowly on. the backdrop becomes a blurred light splotch. the Sr curtain opens. the light drop is golden. all women – walking, rolling, taking space w pelvic undulates. sl curtain opens, 2 quartets. the m enter running, interweaving into a diagonal. w – unison. m – unison. 1 men wears white pants. duets – group unison. slow walking sink/rise toward audience. 1 m steps to the side, plie. 1 woman. another. they float heavy through stationary seaweed like movement. articulate and cool. eyes focused on. 1 male, quick whip cartwheel. some response w timing shift. return to slow. th stage is full. no unison, but all the same. pelvis floating low but not touching floor. quick m, return to lull, close to body sequentiality. now more run, turning kick jumps, leg slap. fast exit, slow remain, sweeping space, watching their marks as wrists and fingers paint space. grow and shrink to find movement in every nook of the body. circle run to exit. duet remains – 1 F, white pants male. leg sweeps and turns. spirals to unison. stop and repeat. group against soloist. the focus strong on diagonal. moving through deep lunges and arms unfolding. tiny wave of belly, side of pelvis. men rise, women sink. and vice versa. all face ds. open legs. the women breathe together. the rise and fall of chest in unison. the men paint space. the brown cell is back in diagonal. mouths closed. eyes ds. i knee breathes in, out, m exit slow, w trace circle w hand. rise slightly through deep plie to spiral fingers in front of face. an extension to that diagonal of arms as rises to standing. growing with. cs now. slow lunge, 1 runs around group. exits. another runs. exit. another, another, an other. 1 m runs in around group. exits. backdrop is white. each <?> exit. 1 m enters, runs circle with last woman. backdrop is small, shrinking box. silhouette. disappear.