There is nothing more fascinating than being able to see two pieces by the same choreographer a brief distance apart. This is particularly so if the choreographer is Pina Bausch. Last year, the company spoiled the London dance community with a ten-show marathon in a month-long residency at the Barbican and at Sadler's Wells, a titanic endeavour for dancers and technicians. Even though this year the company has presented only two works, it is still possible to see how Bausch’s style changed over the years. Produced in 2006, Vollmond (“Full Moon”) is a piece familiar to many of us as the title image for Wim Wenders’ poetic documentary Pina (2011): a female dancer in a orange skirt caught flying in the air in the pouring rain.

The performance opens on a giant rock in a black background. Two men enter with empty bottles and start spinning them, producing a hypnotic, hollow hum. A third man swishing a stick completes the improvised sound composition. As the trio exit and the real music begins a fourth dancer’s serpentine movements spellbind us. His solo, somewhere between sensuous and desperate, becomes a puppet-like interaction with another dancer as the two drag one another by the trousers. Finally, a young woman in a pale pink dress runs across the stage, only to be stopped and lifted by a group of men. The first real Bauschian sketch comes as she kisses a machine-gun like a man across the stage. He is, obviously, taken aback, disappearing quickly.

We are told to “fasten our seatbelts” and, from then on, beautiful creatures alternate on stage, narrating their stories in an unknown language of swift and poetic movements: like the woman in darker pink moving with a fragile bird-like quality, hands and knees as wings in a nocturne solo or the woman whose already full glass is being continuously filled by her overly gallant partner. Slowly the dancers begin to interact with the water that has gone unnoticed on stage, stepping and dancing in a pool as it starts raining, a drizzling and continuous rain. This is only a taster of the explosive ending to come with dancers splashing like kids. Bausch’s images are all aquatic, with shipwrecks, sea monsters and mermaids that smile at us, all before the interval. The rain keeps falling on the solitary rock, and we exit only after taking a picture to post online.

When we come back, the rock still stands and the rain has ceased. Even without the dancers, the setting is a piece of art in itself. Similarly to her Le Sacre du Printemps (1975), in this choreography Bausch introduces a natural element and allows it to mould the piece. In this case, it is the water that distorts the movements and the appearance of the dancers. Vollmond is a finely crafted and accessible piece without the exotic influences of the World Cities series. Created when Bausch was already an international figure, the work addresses different types of audiences, making it a good introduction to Tanztheater.

Less complex metaphoric games and free associations are alternated with insider jokes directed at the dancers among the audience, and with moments of pure poetry in motion. So we have: a woman transformed into the Pink Panther with some fabric, one that is caressing her own hairs on the chest of a man, a faun waiting for a nymph to bathe, and a dancer complaining about wrong partnering grips. If compared to her previous piece, Two Cigarettes in the Dark, there is a clear difference in the use of dance sequences, with longer solo sections and extremely short sketches. The later one feels like an intermission from the dancing, like the girls carrying numbers at a boxing match. In general, the piece is less dramatically tense, with less consistent metaphors throughout the piece. Even if we see bathing beauties dancing to a cheeky Au Clair de Lune by Sublime and Miyake, a modern Ophelia/Lady of Shalott floating on an inflating mat, couples gingerly changing partners and women performing everyday movements associated with water, there is no angst. To compensate for this, there is more dance: solos and group section with men jumping on chairs to kiss their partners or waltz seated on the floor. All of this is visually extremely pleasing (I don’t think it would be possible to take a poor picture of the piece), especially as the dancers repeat each of the solos under the rain at the end before the final outburst of splashes.

An intensive piece, the dancers are visibly exhausted at the end as they are saluted by a standing ovation. They silently recede, bringing with them the mysterious title and the water. It was full moon, we drank “without getting drunk”; there were no werewolves, but only couples, lovers strolling under the moon in a grown-up version of musical chairs.