10 Minutes With Crystal Pite

September 30, 2014

Known for extraordinary movement invention and the darkly psychological aura of her works, Crystal Pite, 43, launched back into action last spring after taking a year off to spend time with her 3-year-old son. One of the most in-demand choreographers on the planet, she now directs her Vancouver-based company Kidd Pivot, while serving as associate choreographer for Nederlands Dans Theater and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. She’s also an associate artist at Sadler’s Wells, where she’ll premiere a new work Oct. 30–Nov. 1.

Tell me about your new piece at Sadler’s Wells.

It’s for an evening of works by four choreographers to the music of the British composer Thomas Adès. I’m bringing my company to work with 60 students from London dance schools. I’m interested in working with emergent structures that appear in nature, like flocking and swarming, and also more urban images—traffic flows and that kind of thing.

How are you juggling Cedar Lake and NDT on top of your own company?

I’ll be making a piece for NDT in April. I’ve been working with some of those dancers for nearly 10 years—we’ve built a lot of trust and understanding over time, and the work really grows because of that. For Cedar Lake, I have a new creation in the 2015–16 season. Also, I take care of the works I’ve already made for them. Every time a new cast member comes in, things change. You want to tailor the piece to suit the people in front of you, not try to hang on to old ideas.

Is there anything that all of these dancers have in common?

Yes, that’s why I love working with these three companies. They’re fast, they’re fearless, they’re open to trying new things. I’m always amazed at how quickly they can jump from one idea to another. They’re very resourceful and intelligent in terms of taking movement and finding all of its possibilities, the extremes and subtleties. They have really strong technique that I can either work with or push against.

Does your son travel with you?

My son and my partner, Jay. Since Niko was born we’ve done everything together. And Jay is a set designer, so we work together on some projects.

Has anything changed since Niko came into the picture?

I don’t have time to train anymore, so I don’t demonstrate as much. I’m not creating vocabulary out of my own body, and I think that has been a good thing. I’ve had to pull movement out of other bodies, other minds, to find new pathways. Also, I have to be more efficient: Before Niko, I spent a lot more time preparing. Now I don’t have time. You also have to let things go. That’s been a hard lesson for me—letting something be good enough for now.

What was it like to come back after a year off?

The hunger to create new work came flooding back in. Before, I was enjoying what I was making, but I felt that I was always responding to deadlines with a sense of dread. Now I feel like I really want to make something, and it’s a great feeling.