Rebuking One's Creator with Crystal Pite Feb 17, 2011

by Shango

Tonight, “Dark Matters” performed by Kidd Pivot and choreographed by Crystal Pite opened to a sold out audience at On the Boards.  Pite’s work has been seen at OtB two other times as well.  It is amazing when any artist can live up to the hype and judging by the standing ovation and the howling love at the end of the first movement, Ms. Pite has lived up to her reputation yet again.

I will not reveal any spoilers but suffice it to say that the first act is more narrative than I have ever seen in contemporary dance.  Indeed, I am usually the person who is insisting that the narrative for a work need not even be delineated and an audience member should be free to enjoy the visual stimulation without having to bring logic into agreement with what is taking place.  Nonetheless, the first act is downright dance theatre and it was magnificent.  The narrative is chock full of curiosity, horror, humor and moves at an edge of your seat pace.  It was during an NPR radio spot that I heard on the way to the performance that it was suggested as Frankensteinesque and with that I cannot argue.

Not very much dance that I have come across shares so much with a Poe short story.  There is darkness and storms and lightning and a very clear and successful attempt at accessing the spookier side of ourselves.  Themes for the evening include one life controlling another, betrayal, things falling apart, rebuking one’s creator and the human folly of trying to understand our existence from inside the Skinner box.  All good stuff!

The stagecraft was incredibly inventive as well.  Traditional stage layout was dismissed in favor of treating the entirety of the stage as a prop itself.  Again, not wanting to provide any spoilers, suffice it to say that the lighting is spare but used in incredible inventive ways and the stage implements themselves play significant roles.

When I sat down to read the program before the show, I was a bit exasperated to see the running time at 120 minutes when I was already wiped out from a long day.  However, this performance flew by like a really good movie.  At no point did I feel it was too long nor was there a point where I found myself wondering what time it was.  The pace is swift, the changes many and the quality of dance and choreography so intricate that I was totally engrossed.  I can strongly recommend this performance as a big win and hope you already have tickets because if a Thursday night sold out, you can bet the rest will as well.

-Shango Los