Yesterday was one of those goose-bump inducing days when you just have to marvel at the amazing opportunities afforded you. In this case the source of wonder was attending an open rehearsal with Crystal Pite and her company Kidd Pivot, who are in residence at SFU Woodward's for the next two weeks while they get ready to remount her latest evening-length work, The Tempest Replica. In conjunction with DanceHouse, who will be presenting the piece at the Playhouse in November, Pite invited members of the public into the studio for an hour of danced excerpts and talk as she took us through aspects of her (re)conceptualization of the piece.
The Tempest Replica premiered last year in Germany, but as Pite told us yesterday evening she was never entirely satisfied with the piece. And so the present rehearsals have turned into something of a radical rethink not just of different aspects of the choreography, but also of sound (which they were having a bit of trouble with) and design. Combined with the addition of a few new company members who are learning the piece for the very first time, and following a two-month hiatus from dancing for the rest of the company, we were warned that what we would be witnessing was very rough and exploratory. If that's the case, then judging from what I saw--which was frankly stunning--come November the superlatives will be unrestrained.
Conceptually and structurally, The Tempest Replica is in the same vein as Pite's earlier Dark Matters. Both works are structured in two parts, with the first part in each case laying out the "story" in more consciously theatrical ways as a prelude to the pure dance sequences then elaborated in the second halves. The black-clad supernumeraries/shadow puppets from Dark Matters are here replaced by all-white (including fencing-style masks) stand-ins for the main characters from Shakespeare's play, who telegraph, or "storyboard" in Pite's words, the key plot points in various tableaux. From what I could gather yesterday, the movement here is deliberately contained, with Pite gradually developing the outline of the gestural language that she will elaborate more fully and complexly in the all-dance sequences of the second half, or what she referred to as the "real" world. So, for example, in an early scene from the first part, we witness Miranda (Cindy Salgado) being manipulated (almost like the marionette from Dark Matters) by her father Prospero (Eric Beauchesne) into watching the storm that he has conjured to shipwreck Ferdinand (Jermaine Spivey), Antonio (Yannick Matthon), Sebastian (Jiří Pokorný) and the rest of the crew from Milan. In the second half of The Tempest Replica, we see the same scene replayed, with Miranda's desperation at having to witness the suffering of those on the ship translated into a series of quick pivots and staccato movements that viscerally convey both her panic at what's happening and her horror that her father has made it happen. All the caveats about rustiness aside, the dancers yesterday were superb, and it was such an amazing gift to be able to see them work there magic up close. The duet between Prospero and Ariel (Sandra Garcia) was especially breath-taking, because the lifts that magically send the enslaved sprite flying are less than ten feet away from you.
The Tempest Replica continues Pite fascination with combining text and movement, this time having lines from the play both repeated and manipulated acoustically on the sound score (created by Meg Roe and Alessandra Juliani in conjunction with composer and longtime Pite collaborator Owen Belton) and, as Pite herself conjured for us, projected onto the back wall of the stage. I got to ask Pite about her fondness for text in a Q&A session after the rehearsal, and her remarks were very helpful in relation to my own current research on dance-theatre, of which her work forms an important part. Hopefully I'll be able to continue that conversation with her at some point in the future. In the meantime, I thank her and her dancers for their generosity yesterday in giving us a glimpse of their working process. And, of course, I look forward to seeing the finished piece when it comes back to the city in November.