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Kidd Pivot & The Tempest Replica at the Joyce…

December 1, 2012
Kidd Pivot performing Crystal Pite's "The Tempest Replica. Phot by Jorg Baumann

Kidd Pivot performing Crystal Pite’s “The Tempest Replica. Photo by Jorg Baumann

Ok, I admit I did not do my homework, I failed to get the Cliff Notes for Shakespeare’s The Tempest in order to better prepare myself for Crystal Pite’s The Tempest Replica, performed by her company Kidd Pivot this week at the Joyce Theater. Now, whether or not you are aware or scholarly in regards to Shakespeare or The Tempest, not a problem, you can still follow along….it’s dance.

What did I think about Crystal Pite’s The Tempest Replica?  Hmmm…I am torn…I was fascinated, confused, every now and then a little bit bored but still captivated.  Am I glad I saw it, yes. Would I want to see it again, NO!

I have only seen two works by Ms. Pite, first was Grace Engine, a brilliant piece I saw performed by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. Grace Engine blew me away! I can still recall the imagery of the work, the darkness of the soul it spoke to. Unfortunately The Tempest Replica lacked the context and depth of emotion I found in Grace Engine.

While the audience is filing in to the theater we see Prospero on stage, he is absorbed in his task of making what appear to be small origami boats. The boats are symbolic of the ship or boat that brought Prospero and his daughter, Miranda to the island leaving them exiled for 12 years. Ariel, a Spirit indebted to the Prospero, manipulates the ship as if in a storm tossed ocean by using on her wrists for motion, then she jams the paper ship into her mouth…

Kidd Pivot performing Crystal Pite's "The Tempest Replica. Photo by Jorg Baumann

Kidd Pivot performing Crystal Pite’s “The Tempest Replica. Photo by Jorg Baumann

This is where all hell breaks out. Through the brilliant manipulation of a translucent curtain and projected images akin to shadow puppetry we see the storm tossed ship, we feel the chaos and confusion, the fear felt from the turbulent waves and the impending knowledge of a disaster looming. With the use of lighting effects and smoke billowing you become invested in what is happening on stage for its visually exciting and much unexpected.

Ms. Pite’s vision of theater is cinematic in approach, she cuts and edits to different scenes using segues that intrigue and tickle your imagination. She is as much director as choreographer; each scene on stage is finely tuned for visual effectiveness. We know which character is the daughter Miranda because the word ‘daughter’ is projected unto her skirt. Miranda falls asleep; we know she is sleeping because of the ‘Z’s’ we see floating up from her via projection.

Everyone except for Prospero, portrayed by Eric Beauchesne, is costumed in all white with white mask. The mask and costumes are reminiscent of outfits worn by those that fence, body and face enclosed and protected. Still and yet the costumes enable the dancers to more readily portray the characters of Ms. Pite’s vision.

The movements are quirky and angular, elbows bent at right angles, the head is usually tilted as if in misunderstanding and often the dancers must be manipulated by other dancers to cross the stage, each leg moved individually and placed in readiness for the weight of the body. The characters have this other-world quality of both movement and reaction, sometimes insect-like in mannerism, quick and jerky that is lacking any organic flow.

But is it dance or theater or a combination of both, I go for the later. The work is not linear in many aspects, we are shown how Prospero arrived at the island even though it is established he is on the island already. We see him explain to his daughter Miranda, who is an adult why they are on the island, an event which occurred in her childhood. All of this is done though cartoonist, shadow puppetry manner that is both novel and somewhat genius.

But where I lost interest and got a little bored is when Ms. Pite turns to deconstruction. Removing their white costumes and placing the dancers in drab everyday street wear I lost the since of magic and mystery I had been experiencing. The dancers were wonderful, especially Sandra Marin Garcia as Ariel. Ms. Garcia involves her whole being, heart and soul into her dancing; she has a long lean line that allows her body to transpose movement into an ethereal experience for the viewer.

Kidd Pivot performing Crystal Pite's "The Tempest Replica. Photo by Jorg Baumann

Kidd Pivot performing Crystal Pite’s “The Tempest Replica. Photo by Jorg Baumann

Regardless of the effort poured whole-heartedly into the choreography by the dancers during this junction of deconstruction, everything I thought novel and genius was lost. Yes, the dancer’s moves were athletic and adroit for both the men and the women. The duet between Ms. Garcia and Mr. Beauchesne was great, but I had seen it before. The same abandonment of enforced technique giving way to freer movement and sense of direction so in vogue in today’s contemporary dance does not fit. Ms. Pite choreography loses the angularity as seen prior, it’s as if this section is nothing more the needed space filler to establish an 80 minute work that would have been richer without it. It is only when we return to the dancers once again in white with their sharp percussive movements do I again sit up in my set.

Should you see The Tempest Replica, I would say yes! Its novel in its approach,…for the most part…, and there are moments of actually genius. What I can say is that Ms. Pite’s previously seen Grace Engine is one of the most exciting and exceptional works that I have ever seen and that it guides dance toward unexplored territory. Anyone whole can create a work of such strength and ingenuity should be given a chance. Therefore, regardless of all my sniveling and yammer, one thing that must be said about Crystal Pite’s The Tempest Replica, is that it is a work of originality and vision…

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