We are watching an empty stage. Workers enter with loads of dirt, which they dump and spread with brooms into a thin layer, creating a square performance space. A female dancer lies face down in a flimsy, white negligee on a silky piece of red fabric. More female dancers appear, frenetically gesturing, increasingly smudged and dirty. They huddle together before a towering man; something terrible has happened. One woman comes forward with the red fabric -- a dress, blood perhaps, or proof of some awful indiscretion or crime. Each woman struggles to confront the man; each fails and returns to the safety of the huddle, the rest of the women moving emphatically, sorrowfully, in a synchronized, gestural language.

Pina, a Wim Wenders documentary on the work of Pina Bausch, is a beautiful, moving and at times disturbing tribute to the late choreographer. Referring to her creative process, Pina said, "My pieces grow from the inside out." One of her dancers remarked, "To work on compositions by Pina Bausch -- it always means working on one's own history."

Being drawn into another person's world, symbols, and imagery and allowing oneself to be profoundly impacted by them is familiar to a therapist watching the film. The therapeutic relationship and frame of the work form a stage for these internal, object-related dramas to unfold and come to life in a potential space.

In another dance, men and women are lined up on opposite sides of the stage, each gender moving in unison. At first the movements seems spastic, chaotic, impassioned and confusing. As the men's line starts moving toward the women, the movements slowly come into focus as interrelated. When finally face to face, it is clear the men are grasping, reaching, touching while the women are batting away, defensive. The gestural beta-elements become an embodied symbology, a relational interchange.

What starts as a scary and strange view of a person takes form and acquires meaning over time in relation to an other. The process by which movement is understood throughout Pina's work only through relationship, dynamic, feeling, and symbols forms a poignant representation of object relations. Through repetition, emotionality, and the collaborative search for new language, what is often hard to capture in words becomes embodied in a dance, on stage as well as in the consulting room, growing from inside each dancer out toward one another.

Jane Reingold, MFT
Impulse Staff Writer