Is The You Show, the latest from internationally renowned contemporary Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite, perfect? No. Should you see it? Emphatically, yes.
The You Show, presented by Pite’s Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM (and breath…) dance company, is the follow-up to 2009’s hugely entertaining Dark Matters work. And where the richly and deeply theatrical Dark Matters pushed the goalposts of what actually even constitutes a dance performance a couple of dozen yards down the field, The You Show is rooted in movement that references several different streams of familiar, contemporary dance.
Pite, a product of Ballet BC and the Frankfurt Ballet under William Forsythe, has a list of honours and awards (including a Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Mentorship Award) longer than your average Castro birthday speech. She also has performance and choreographic credits with the biggest and bestest in the wide world of contemporary dance, having collaborated with Nederlands Dans Theatre, The National Ballet of Canada, BJM Danse and many, many more. Kidd Pivot, which Pite formed in home-base Vancouver in 2002 – but which has been in residency in Frankfurt for the last two years (hence, Frankfurt RM) – has toured some seven works over the last decade.
Built around universal themes (and universality becomes a kind of theme in and of itself) of love, conflict and loss, The You Show – which had its Montreal premiere last year at the Festival Transamériques (FTA) – is, for the most part, a much more straight forward and direct representation of those themes than one might have otherwise expected, given past work.
The staging is simple, no elaborate props this time around, with the at-times brilliant lighting (conceived by Robert Sondergaard) shouldering most of the visual load. Broken down democratically into four separate, very manageable pieces, The You Show is a study in physicality, though the thematic through-line does get a bit thin in places. Fortunately now, as always, Kidd Pivot is comprised of experienced, top-tier dancers, each of whom brings their own movement signature to the work.
Opening piece A Picture of You Falling, a kind of vignettes-based composition danced by Peter Chu and Anne Plamondon, while somewhat disjointed, is nevertheless chock-a-block with performance highpoints, not the least of which is a brief solo by the immensely talented and always wonderful to watch Chu. The droning dialogue over the piece, however, got to be a bit too much, and its prevalent sedative effect wasn’t necessarily what was required right out of the gate.
In The Other You, Pite asks the utmost of dancers Éric Beauchesne and Jiri Pokorny, and she receives. The duo turn in a demanding performance centered around repetition and opposition in a work that is somewhat reminiscent of a (more intense) La La La Human Steps. And the haunting, closing moments were memorably executed.
Following the intermission, Das Glashaus – evocative, transporting lighting is a key feature of this piece – again saw a pairing of dancers (Yannick Matthon and Cindy Salgado) pretty much leave it all on the stage. Embracing challenge, both stylistically and physically, has long been a key characteristic of the classically-trained Matthon, and again here, as always, he didn’t disappoint. Like the previous two pieces, the choreographic direction here stayed comfortably within recognizable contemporary dance paradigms. Which is to say, much of Pite’s habitual wacky and wonderful creative whimsy was – with a few choice exceptions – largely, and it would seem deliberately, absent. Though that was about to change…
The show-closing A Picture of You Flying is full-on Kidd Pivot performance excellence, and the kind of Pite climax her many fans have come to expect. Deftly clever and danced with precision and power, A Picture of You Flying is the sort of piece that separates Pite and Co. from their contemporaries in contemporary. The whole Kidd Pivot cast gets a chance to shine here as nine dancers take the stage for a metaphorical battle of the sexes (the superheroes edition), featuring Mortal Kombat-style death dances and an utterly unforgettable segment I’ll call “Ironman vs. Ironwoman,” and which was easily worth the price of admission alone.
Though the many parts of A Picture of You Flying would be well-served by a tighter editing eye, for pure, imaginative, beautifully-moved dance/entertainment value, it doesn’t get much better than this. And if it is, chances are it’s Pite that made it.
The You Show, presented by Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM, at Agora de la Danse (840 Cherrier), at 8 pm on March 23, and at 4 pm on March 24
Photo: Michael Slobodian