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Strikingly articulate: Kidd Pivot’s Crystal Pite at Jacob’s Pillow.

Photo: Christopher Duggan

The Same, Not the Same

By Lynn Hasselbarth

Kidd Pivot

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, Mass., Aug. 22

In her piece Lost Action, choreographer Crystal Pite creates a series of scenes which are seemingly disassociated. Such openness allows viewers to become lost in a web of their own interpretations, free to attach meaning to that which is undefined.

In her Vancouver, B.C.,-based company Kidd Pivot, Pite presents an unframed landscape, one that invites the audience to wander along aimlessly with each sequence of movement. Each vignette seems to present a unique climate, with varying degrees of intensity and momentum; some are deeply intimate while others are fierce and reactionary.

The piece opens with a shadowy stage taken over by a pack of zombie-like bodies, heaving from side to side as if on a midnight prowl. As the lights brighten, the heavy silhouettes become more distinct, each clothed in a dark, hooded parka.

The anonymous ensemble is then reduced to four male dancers dressed in casual street clothes. Standing against a red velvet backdrop, they appear stoic and unyielding until one of the men cuts out of the group, making a sudden dash to the front of the stage.

The others immediately follow like a cascade of dominos, rejoining the first defector. A sort of human slinky continues for several minutes with a different person initiating each escape, striking out into a distant space only to reunite with his frantic group of followers.

The exchange seems to portray a mind of scattered thoughts. This was made more evident by an electronic sound board which projected overlapping voices, whispers and humming motors.

As if commenting on the disjointed conversation, Pite herself enters the space for a solo that is strikingly articulate. She performs an ongoing series of robotic movements, and each clicked effortlessly into place. Each element of her body becomes isolated, expressing a distinct and independent statement.

The full ensemble then returned for a scene more interactive and relational. A man collapses while another approaches to resuscitate him, lifting him only to find his rescuer suddenly fallen at his feet.

This image of replacement seems to reflect the constant exchange of weight and pressure between the dancers. There is an undeniable sense of trust within the company, a collective energy that is available and overflowing.

We then see the exchange again, and again, and again. Like some strange video playback, the scene is repeated with absolute clarity, causing one to question whether one had seen it before and if it really was exactly the same.

The unexpected replay brings to light one of the central concerns raised by the choreographer. Pite is drawn to movement because of its inability to be recreated. It is an art form that exists in the moment without the possibility of being preserved.

Pite attempts to replicate certain events almost to prove that what is being seen is and always will be new. While the general images may appear similar, there is nothing at all identical about the movement or the interaction between the dancers. Time and space have changed, and with it, so has the body.

Whether one sees the movement as repetitive and ongoing or distinct and varied, the effect of Lost Action is a dizzying display of bodily contortions. The phrases are quick and complex, making it difficult to maintain a sense of focus, much less determine whether it is a repeat or not.

The process of letting go seems to be the closing message of the piece. This is first displayed by the smallest and most nimble of the female dancers who finds herself hoisted into the air by a sea of supportive arms. She is then swept through the space as if caught by a storm of waves, convulsing at the surface in search of breath. Her struggle wanes and she appears to surrender, casually walking offstage.

The final group sequence reinforces this image of drowning. The winter coats, which opened the piece, return and are handed over, one by one, into the arms of one of the more muscular male dancers. He then proceeds to falter under the imagined weight of the down jackets—positively overwhelmed.

The others collect the fallen pile and place them once again in his arms, then on his back and finally covering his entire body as he collapses. Whether one is stifled by a heap of feathers or consumed by a sea of waves, we each have our own burdens. And possibly it is that same acceptance which allows us to watch the movement before us and ultimately let it pass.

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