Saturday, October 9, 2010

You Are Here

Last night at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby Crystal Pite presented her company Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM in a Mixed Repertoire of works in progress. It was a rare opportunity to see the acclaimed local dancer-choreographer not just talking about, but actively soliciting feedback on, four pieces she's currently building as part of a full-length evening of dance called The You Show. That show will premiere next month at the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt, which has stepped in where no Canadian institution or government agency has, and provided Pite and her company with a two-year residency to create new work. Thereafter, the show will tour, eventually ending up back in Vancouver at The Cultch in May.

But audiences this week at the Shadbolt were treated to a sneak peek in an intimate studio setting. Even better, a visibly pregnant Pite was on hand to chat with the audience and welcome commentary on the work in between pieces.

Pite introduced the evening's program by saying that the idea behind The You Show was to think about how one would compose works of dance in the second person, and how this might in turn enable audience members to locate themselves in a dancer's movements, and see their own stories and conflicts and losses reflected in the physically embodied language on stage. Her basic architecture for each piece is the duet, and the evening began with the only previously performed piece in the repertoire, "A Picture of You Falling," created in 2008 for Anne Plamondon and Peter Chu. Both dancers were back together on stage last night, and as precise and articulate as ever in their telegraphing not just of Pite's deconstructionist choreography, but of the narrated text (written by Pite) to which that movement is con-/dis-joined: "This is a picture of you falling--knees, hip, hands, elbows, head." Continuing Pite's fascination with the body's marionette-like qualities, the collapsings and strivings of which we are not always the agent (see Dark Matters, which also featured Chu as the puppet-master who comes to be controlled by his creation), the work establishes the leitmotif for the evening, which Pite has elsewhere described as a "kinesthetics of rescue," and which we might translate here as finding the you in me (and vice-versa).

That process can involve a descent to some very dark places, as the second piece in the program demonstrated. Going back and forth for the time being between two possible titles--"The Brother You Thought You'd Lost" or "The Other You"--Pite paired longtime collaborator Eric Beauchesne with new company member Jiří Pokorný in a study of increasingly high stakes brinksmanship and animal aggression that culminates in a surprisingly tender pas de deux to Moonlight Sonata. Afterwards, Pite said that she had no idea she would end up choreographing to that piece of music, but that when it became clear she would, she felt the prelude to it had to be even darker, in order to "earn," in her words, the romantic climax.

Then came an untitled work for Cindy Salgado and Yannick Matthon that began with an image of shattering glass, to which Pite then asked longtime musical collaborator Owen Belton to compose a score. Intensely physical and featuring an amazing lighting design by Robert Sondergaard, this was the one work of the evening that Pite herself labelled still unfinished. In the feedback she solicited, I couldn't help much with the movement, but I did, as per her instructions, suggest a title: "Pieces of You" is perhaps a bit kitschy and cliched, but she promised to write it down.

Finally, the evening concluded with the longest work, "A Picture of You Flying." It begins with dancer Jermaine Spivey sitting on a chair (!) talking to the audience about sacrifice, strength, endurance, the body's armor, and the physical and mental toll exacted by his line of work. At first you think this is a bit of self-reflexive commentary on his profession as a dancer, especially when he mentions the drawbacks of wearing tights. But then he lifts his pant leg to reveal a bit of red lycra underneath. And then dancer Sandra Garcia picks a bit of red cloth up from the floor and wraps it around Jermaine's neck, like a cape. When he mentions flying, you know he's talking about being a superhero, not a dancer. But then, as this piece (and others by Pite) reveals, what precisely is the difference?

In this 35-minute work, Pite has a great deal of fun playing with various iconic poses and movement imagery associated with comic book superheroes, and their related pop culture offspring. There's a lot of slow motion "ka-pow!" sequences and Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger moves. And the highlight is the Transformer-esque duet between Spivey and Garcia, these two friend-foes and possible lovers raised aloft, their arms and legs and heads shielded and manipulated by other company members as they dance/fight to the death--or sheer exhaustion. But, again, as Pite's work repeatedly suggests, what's the difference?

All in all, a thrilling evening of dance. I can't wait to see the finished work next May.


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