Pina Bausch’s “travelogue” works are less portraits of places than composites of haphazard snapshots, each scene filtered through the weird and sometimes wonderful lenses of Bausch’s international, multigenerational performers. The delicate but dense opening solo of Ten Chi, for example – Bausch’s 2004 “Japan” piece – sees Ditta Miranda Jasjfi’s typically Bauschian bearing (spiralling torso, wringing arms, gorgeous ballgown) flecked with orientalisms: miniature kabuki steps and stylised gestures. Later, she zooms around like a kid, brought gently to heel by a smiling Azusa Seyama.
A giant whale tail sticks up in the middle of the stage, with hump and dorsal fin at the back. The first half of the work contains a lot of swimming actions, as if the stage were a sea, but the overriding sense is of falling asleep: Dominique Mercy snores softly at the front row, as if encouraging them to drift off; Helena Pikon turns a man into a big bear and snuggles down on to his back; a goodnight kiss leads to a lullaby chorus of kissy noises as the cast search for imaginary songbirds.
Hushed music and a slow, continuous fall of white petals impart a dreamlike quality to the sharper second half. Seyama dresses up a houseboy and photographs him sweeping, as if he were a pet performing a cute trick; gravel-voiced Mechthild Grossman rolls Japanese words around her mouth like flavours for a refined palate; and a series of headlong solo runs hint at hidden ecstasies. But it is Aida Vainieri, playing a kind of bionic Godzilla demon woman hell-bent on annihilating a pillow, who highlights what is missing: a dangerous edge. Ten Chi is occasionally funny, often beautiful and consummately performed, but, as with the whale, you don’t see the underbelly.