Friday, October 20, 2017

It's a Pite-A-Palooza in Seattle!

Choreographer Crystal Pite at work with Pacific Northwest Ballet company members
photo @ Lindsay Thomas for PNB
The first time I saw Crystal Pite’s company Kidd Pivot perform, I was sick to my stomach.

Literally.

I had a stomach bug but a friend insisted I go see Pite's show 'Dark Matters' at Seattle’s On the Boards. Oh my god, was I happy I went!

First of all, the Kidd Pivot dancers are mesmerizing movers. Their bodies bend, twist and float in ways that seem inhuman. But more than phenomenal dance, “Dark Matters” is one of those rare, complete gems. Pite created a world, a dramatic arc, a narrative without an explicit plot that always moved forward. It was thrilling and is a benchmark for me when I watch other dance theater.

When the show ended, I was both drained and exhilarated, and a convert to Pite-ism. I wanted more, more, more.

Lucky me, and lucky Seattle dancer lovers, because this fall we’ve just entered the Pite-a-Palooza of dance seasons.
Crystal Pite works with PNB dancers before the company's local premiere of  'Emergence' 2013
photo @ Lindsay Thomas for PNB 

Last weekend, the University of Washington Chamber Dance Company presented a fragment from 'Dark Matters,' just to whet our appetites. Next April, Pacific Northwest Ballet brings back Pite’s incredible ballet 'Emergence,' inspired by the social world of bees, and featuring a cast of thousands. Well, dozens, but they really do fill. I’ve seen this ballet at least five or six times and I find something new with every viewing.
PNB company members perform Pite's 'Emergence'
photo @ Angela Sterling for PNB

As if that’s not enough Pite for you, On the Boards and Seattle Theatre Group will present her monumental piece, ‘Betroffenheit,’ in late March. This is a not-to-be missed performance about extreme loss, grief, madness and redemption and IT IS AMAZING.

But we don’t have to wait until next Spring to enter Pite’s world.
From Nederlands Dans Theatre's 2010 premiere of 'Plot Point'
photo @Joris-Jan Bos for NDT

In early November, PNB presents the American premiere of 'Plot Point,' a work Pite created for Nederlands Dans Theatre in 2010. 'Plot Point' was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film ‘Psycho,’ and is set to the 1960 score by Bernard Herrmann, with additional music by Owen Belton.

I recently had the opportunity to watch Crystal Pite work with her PNB cast in the studio. Although she’s now a mother in her 40’s, Pite is still as nimble as dancers half her age, watching a video of the original production then demonstrating the movements with unflagging energy. She’s not only teaching this ballet; she’s tweaking and refining her choreography, making changes to both fit the PNB dancers and her own new perspectives on an older work. The dance promises to be as eerie and potentially violent as the Hitchcock on which it was based.
Elle Macy with Josh Grant, rehearsing Crystal Pite's 'Plot Point' for PNB
photo @ Lindsay Thomas for PNB

It’s fascinating to watch traditionally trained ballet dancers approach Pite's most non-traditional movement vocabulary. Where most ballet choreographers ask for long extensions of legs and feet, arms and hands, creating beautiful lines, Pite looks for angles and bending torsos, swooping limbs and lots of theatricality.

A tight clump of dancers slinks across the stage, bearing a cake for a waiting woman, wide rictus grins on their faces. Another woman moves away from the group, shoulder slumped, almost trudging, carrying some type of burden.
NDT production of "Plot Point"
photo @Joris-Jons Bos for NDT

After two hours of demanding rehearsal, PNB Principal Lucien Postlewaite was beaming. He says Pite has asked him and his fellow dancers to transcend their training, and it was clear he loved the challenge. Judging by the rehearsal, and these photos from Nederland Dans Theatre, 'Plot Point' is sure to bring PNB audiences something altogether new.

The American premiere of Crystal Pite’s ‘Plot Point’ is part of PNB’s ‘Her Story’ program, opening at McCaw Hall on Friday, November 3rd. It shares the bill with Twyla Tharp’s ‘Afternoon Ball,’ created for PNB in 2008, and Jessica Lang’s evocation of painter Georgia O’Keefe, ‘Her Door to the Sky.’ If you come to the Saturday, November 4th matinee, I'll be moderating the post-show talk with PNB's Peter Boal and selected dancers. It should be a blast!

https://www.pnb.org/season/17-18/her-story/

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