A man climbs into a walrus costume and tells a joke about moths
A couple mime the surreal dismantling of one another’s internal organs
One older man sings the opening aria from Carmen. Another obediently translates each line into English for a third, who is dressed as a comedy “Chinaman”.
A woman attempts a detailed monologue about bees before realising that she is only talking because she craves our attention
A man reveals how free his diary is for the next week, month, year, lifetime…
A woman eats a meal alone, shoots a gun, the crowd disperses
A mini helicopter arrives
Another woman lies fully clothed, half submerged in a water tank
A woman tells a story about a taxi driver. He would drive her all over New York, she says.
These moments and many others might exist in the forefront of Peter Pabst’s cactus forest set (like a cheap Western). They may be happening alongside other events. They are perhaps not important. Perhaps nothing is important or perhaps everything is. Perhaps everything is connected or perhaps everything is purposefully entirely disjointed.
It is all of the world that Pina Bausch created with Ahnen however. Ahnen feels like its own planet, with its own traditions that we, as the audience, are curious anthropologists trying to understand but always at a level of removal from. It feels part of Bausch’s galaxy but has its own specific identity. We can see that they circle around the same star but each one is unique. Its components are a strange mixture of timeless and specific to the late 1980s of the piece’s creation, as if the world stopped or they were ripped from their context at this precise point.
You feel that the world of Ahnen will go on without you. That is simply exists and you have, for three hours, this view into it. Afterwards, you leave, return to your own world. While you were away, it kept moving. There are people on Upper Street, spilling out of pubs, restaurants, smoking, drinking, shouting, hailing cabs. All this life outside, going out without you, while you were away…