The Canadian première of Vollmond by Tanztheater Wuppertal - Pina Bausch at the National Arts Center in Ottawa came just a day after the full moon, which is fitting, given the title's literal translation is 'full moon' or 'high tide'. Both these elements, the moon and the water, make both figurative and abstract appearances in the piece. They make for the backdrop to stories of love and loneliness, the sober and the fantastic all play themselves out between characters of all types. It’s a representation of humanity that resonates deeply.

Throughout the performance, I caught myself thinking: “Yes, you can actually do that!” You can cut out a chunk of the moon and set it up for man to scale. You can build a flowing river on a stage and make it rain for hours. Who says you can’t? Pina’s world is filled with unbridled creativity and an overall sense of positive faith in humanity. There is a beautiful abandon of the latent fear of judgment so many of us hold on to so tightly. In flowing gowns and put-together suits, men and women dance out the changing phases of their emotions in the constantly gathering rain. They aren’t afraid of getting wet.

© Laurent Philippe
© Laurent Philippe
Though the dancers are technically excellent, this show shouldn’t be considered through a break down of the physical and elemental aspects of its choreography. For what stays with us is how we identify with the characters' experience. Humour, sadness, love, want... a roller coaster of emotions runs through this performance, which, I’m certain gives you something new and intimately relatable each time you see it. Each dancer has his or her individual moment in a solo portrayal, and no two are alike. For over two hours we are getting to know these characters as if they were the many sides of ourself.

Peter Pabst designed the transformative set design, which bring this magical world to life. It isn’t all just for show; the rock and the river act as partners for the dancers as they swim and climb and make full use of this environment. The whipping tide on the rock, conveyed through the movement of arms swinging buckets of water, is more beautiful than fireworks. The splashing brings life to the dull sound of the recorded music, whether dulled by the splendor of the other components or simply by poor acoustics.

My first introduction to Pina Bausch was through the retrospective film, Pina. On screen, I didn’t quite get what all the hype was about. Now, having experienced one of her creations live and in person, I truly see it. With Vollmond, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch transported me into a whole other world, opening my eyes and my heart. This is a masterpiece beyond any doubt.