Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite and her troupe, Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM, bring the fantastic work "Dark Matters" to On the Boards in Seattle.
It’s impossible to be eloquent enough in describing the dance-theatrical feat that choreographer Crystal Pite and her troupe, Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM, have pulled off in “Dark Matters.”
The dancers are stunning, both in their sinewy, tumbling moves and their powers of endurance. The piece itself is as striking in its structure as it is strong in concept. The musical score, the lighting, the set — all brilliantly dovetail with the action onstage.
This is, in short, art of the highest caliber. And it’s spellbinding.
“Dark Matters” is divided into sharply contrasting halves. The first is, initially, a fablelike tale about a puppet-maker and his creation: an animated wooden puppet fully equipped with frisky playfulness, emotional needs and, increasingly, resentment.
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Although wielded by four puppeteers clad from head to toe in black (in the manner of the scenery-shifting kuroko in Japanese Kabuki theater), the puppet nevertheless has a strong will of its own. Its actions bring to mind the golem of Jewish folklore or the creature that Dr. Frankenstein built. There’s a definite story with twists here, however, so the less said about how it turns out, the better.
The second act, at first glance, seems to belong to an entirely different show. From the puppetmaker’s workroom we go to a misty, featureless limbo. And while a shadowy figure does open the act with a strong solo, five dancers in workaday clothing soon appear and usher in a purely dance-driven fugue and variations.
Gradually, connections emerge between the overt narrative of the show’s first half and the meditation-in-movement in its second. Subtly at first and then with sharper touches, Pyte explores all the ways that anything you shape can, in turn, shape you. As her dancers deliver one heady constellation of moves after another, it’s like seeing an ingenious series of puzzles posed and solved from ever-changing angles.
While every performer is superb, Peter Chu (as the puppetmaker) and Jermaine Maurice Spivey (in the evening’s capping solo) stand out. Their talents are handily matched in the duets, trios, quartets and quintets they dance with Eric Beauchesne, Sandra Marín García, Yannick Matthon and Cindy Salgado.
Owen Belton’s electronic score, ranging from industrial to ethereal, is intricately entwined with the action, down to the tiniest finger-flick. Rob Sondergaard’s lighting, with its eerily mobile shadows and spotlights with minds of their own, is almost another “character” in the show, while Jay Gower Taylor’s set design is just as full of surprises.
Last but not least is Robert Lewis’ puppet, which didn’t take a bow but should have.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org