The curtain falls – for the last time. Farewell to the stage, to the audience and to a time that has left its traces in the lives of the KONTAKTHOF ensemble, the dance company with ladies and gentlemen ‘over 65’. They have performed this piece by Pina Bausch for over eleven years and toured with it in places including London, Amsterdam, Madrid and Marseille. Some of the dancers had been there from the very start, developing the piece under the direction of Beatrice Libonati and Jo Ann Endicott during more than a year of rehearsals until the premiere on 25 February 2000 in Wuppertal.
These men and women have stories to tell: About what they experienced during the KONTAKTHOF era. About their most beautiful and most difficult moments. About things that changed them.
After Tanztheater Wuppertal made the decision to terminate the project at the end of 2010, the Pina Bausch Foundation decided to follow the final guest performance in February 2011 in St. Nazaire. Jakob Haahr Andersen and Dörthe Boxberg went on tour with the ladies and gentlemen. Their job was to capture this special moment – the retrospective view of all those years and the related events – in diverse ways. The dancer Jakob Andersen had performed on stage together with the ensemble, standing in for a gentleman who dropped out. He had also conducted autobiographical interviews with some of the performers several years previously. This time he was to capture the moods and vivid memories of the present moment with short conversations. Dörthe Boxberg accompanied the tour as a photographer, taking photos during the final dress rehearsal and behind the scenes, as well as portraits of the ladies and gentlemen in the set of the piece.
In June 2011 the Foundation showed a small excerpt of the results in an exhibition in Wuppertal, LEBENSROLLEN (LIFE ROLES): 25 production and portrait photos, some of them accompanied by audio stations where visitors could hear parts of the interviews with the ladies and gentlemen. They explained how they had to learn a new way of walking, standing and sitting, or recalled their special performance at the World EXPO. Lilo Mangelsdorff’s film, “Damen und Herren ab 65”, was screened on a monitor. It shows the beginning of the rehearsals and the story leading up to the premiere in Wuppertal. Private photos, reminiscences, and notes by the senior citizens on a bulletin board created a lively collage about the years of KONTAKTHOF.
Maybe the ladies and gentleman are encouraging – with their descriptions of embarking on completely unknown things, learning to be patient, to take criticism, and struggling to carry on even if it is difficult. Maybe they show that it’s possible to jump over your own shadow. At any age.