Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Ten Duets On The Theme of Rescue"...Crystal Pite

For those of you not familiar with the work of Crystal Pite, you are in for a treat. This choreographer sees the body in its most versatile and poetic angles, never content to just tread the comfort zone of movement. What most surprises me about her choices, is the juxtaposition between movements we would not normally associate with each other, similar to a chef using non-traditional ingredients and combinations to create something unexpected and delightful. This is an excerpt from a longer piece, but it highlights her work nicely:

MUSICALITY: At first glance, it may seem like the camera shutter speed has been "sped up" to create the effect of frantic motion. However, I assure you that it has not been manipulated in any way. This is simply the eloquent brilliance of Crystal's work. She has carefully mapped out sequences that can be executed at top speeds, yet in perfect sync with the music. Certainly, this takes hours of rehearsal to nail the precision and nuance...but then again, so does a Chopin etude!

DANCER SYNC: What makes a choreographer's work particularly resonate with a dancer, is the degree to which a movement sequence makes "kinetic sense." At times, a choreographer might try to intentionally break up ingrained habits of movement by experimenting with forced exercises (eg brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand). This technique can lead to interesting conclusions that may, or may not, end up ever feeling truly at home in the dancer's body. However, what is even more impressive, is when a choreographer is able to find new paths that feel completely familiar, leaving that dancer thinking "wow, why didn't I ever think of that...that feels great!!" If you watch the partnering sequence from 1:32-2:00, you will see a lengthy movement idea that is expressed beautifully and logically, in the kinetic sense. One movement flows seamlessly into the next. When the bottom dancer places his foot on the shoulder, Crystal doesn't have him try to hoist his opposite leg over the braced one (as many novice choreographers might choose to do). Instead, she simply has him reposition the bottom leg and then brings the top leg down...simple and brilliant.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Another facet of the work I particularly admire, is Crystal's ability to throw the audience's attention and focus exactly where she wants it. As opposed to simply throwing everything up on the stage to see, she instead makes careful decisions about what to reveal and what to keep hidden. At times you might simply catch a glimpse of a hand or foot...and this has been meticulously calibrated. At the end of the video, notice the "running man" we see the desperate feet chasing violently in one pool of light, while the calm space between the silhouettes of two outstretched hands slowly closes the gap. This technique of guiding the viewer's eye is subtle and completely effective.

KUDOS to Crystal for shining an illuminating light on what has been right under our noses the whole time.

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