Nur Du (Only You)

Photo: © Jochen Viehoff
Used with permission

First performed May 11, 1996




Perhaps the cruelest disappointment of Pina Bausch's latest dance-theater epic "Nur Du" (Only You) is how little time it spends satirizing its ostensible subject: the people of the American West. After all, what's the point in living here if foreigners and Easterners don't call us unsophisticated, and Southerners and Midwesterners don't call us immoral?

Commissioned by six Western arts presenters, "Nur Du" received its American premiere in Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley on Thursday, and came within 10 minutes of ending on Friday due to a late start and a generous intermission. Pickets out front gave the evening a classic Berkeley ambience by protesting declining American arts support in general and their own poverty in particular. "Will Dance for Food" promised one hand-made sign. "Can't Afford to See Pina" complained another.

Lewis Segal
Los Angeles Times
5 October 1996


Ms. Bausch arrives in Los Angeles without an agenda. "We'll move around with open eyes, open ears and our feelings," she explains at a news conference on Jan. 31. But moving around proves none too easy, and she is dismayed by the lack of urban street life. The natives, insulated in their automobiles, are not so readily observable. . . .

After class, the dancers spend the rest of the day answering questions. This has been Ms. Bausch's modus operandi since the late 1970's, when she shifted from a traditional choreographic method to a more collective process in which dancers generate raw material, prompted by hundreds of questions, or ideas, posed by her. A random sampling from "Nur Du": "Why is it called 'L.A.'?" "Something kitschy." "Do something leading with your elbow." "Spell Los Angeles with your body."

The performers' responses are not improvisations per se but more like studies. While some dancers work spontaneously, others spend quite a bit of time on preparation. Some create in their mind's eye; others rehearse extensively. Still others take their questions home overnight.

Ann Daly
The New York Times
22 September 1996


Nur Du is a string of visual one-liners about the American West, primarily California, ranging from Hollywood films to sushi take-out containers and hairdressers who give a string of beauties cookie-cutter dos. The set is Peter Pabst's menacing environment of massive redwood tree trunks; one is a mesa-like stump and another has an ax's wedge-shaped bite just big enough for Jan Minarik to crawl into. Nature, however, is never more than an ominous background here.

Australian-born Julie Shanahan opens the work by reclining across the backs of several men and purring, "Excuse me, I'm naked under all my clothes." This tone of teasing come-on, which recalls any number of advertisements (not exclusively American), saturates many of the evening's episodes. Marion Cito's costumes of loose Italian-cut suits for the men and stiletto heels and strapless satin ballgowns for the women leave Shanahan looking unsteady and vulnerable, as if her clothes were about to slip down - which they in fact often do. Nudity in Nur Du, however, de-eroticizes the body because it is so often coupled with a crude victimization of the individual, as when a woman folds the top, of her gown down to her waist and has a man perfunctorily draw a pair of black eyeglasses on her bare breasts.

Janice Ross
"Reviews: National"
Dance Magazine 71, no. 1 (1997): 102-3


Yes, I regret Bausch missed making points about what she displayed as trivia. Yes, I missed the depth of concept about California as a taste maker whose life from Levis to the children of flowers has informed the world about the extremes of this golden state. But I also know how difficult it is to convey the serious side of the world in these days of hyper media, over exposure, amplified sound. Yes, I think one day in San Francisco is too little, as recorded with elegant precision by Rita Felciano in "The Bay Guardian." Bausch, however, caught a California of the incredible dichotomy between natural magnificence and cocoons of narcissism weaving silken illusions around human lives along the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean. If she failed to make a statement about it, to nail it down, Bausch registered the malleable illusion of this state of hope, despair, manicured image and calculated possession. Dominick walked across the stage near the end, masculine elegance encapsulated in beige suit, hat and dark glasses, flicked a candy wrapper on to the stage floor as millions pollute the landscape daily, and announced, "All the land that you can see, it is all mine." He proclaimed the grasp of physical possession, expressed the attitude of the man responsible for the transformation of California's hills, oak-dotted gullies, acres of fields bleached dry under the sun. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Dominick captured the real estate developer's ethos, "Get it, possess it, chop it up, build houses on it, and spend the profits on your best fantasies."

Reneé Renouf
IDA Webletter Issue 6, Spring 1997

By Mimi Tashiro ©1999, Stanford University


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