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“I had a hard time finding the title,” Pina Bausch tells me during an interview about her most recent work, “Nefes.” The Turkish for “Breath” is the title of the latest in a series of works which the choreographer, who will turn 65 in July this year, has created in collaboration with theaters around the world, this time with Istanbul’s theater festival.

“Breathtaking” might have been an even more appropriate word; In the scene that opens the piece, dancer Fernando Suels, clad only in a bathing towel, comes to the front of the stage and proclaims in Japanese that “The Hammam is very hot,” before being beaten by his masseur. Then, peering into the cavernous, sparsely lit stage of the Shinjuku Bunka Center, as a woman dressed in flowing silk starts to brush her hair as though she was beating a carpet to the sullen rhythms of Mercan Dede’s music, we need little more to transport us into one of those steamy Turkish bath-houses that feature in so many 19th-century engravings.

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