Even Crystal Pite Gets Nervous Before a First Rehearsal
Crystal Pite is a busy woman.
While her company, Kidd Pivot, toured the globe recently performing Betroffenheit—its acclaimed collaboration with Jonathon Young and fellow Canadians Electric Company Theatre—Pite herself launched three productions at three of the world's foremost dance companies: Nederlands Dans Theater (The Statement, February 2016), the Paris Opéra Ballet (The Seasons' Canon, fall 2016), and London's Royal Ballet (Flight Pattern, spring 2017).
Increasingly, her projects are at a scale to match their prestige, with roles for as many as 54 dancers (The Seasons' Canon) or, in the case of Polaris, more than 60. We caught up with Pite while she was at home in Vancouver.
It must be nice to be home. You've been quite busy.
It was intense, but wonderful. I kept pinching myself and thinking, Is this for real? After every hurdle, I had to just say, "Check. Done. Survived that. What's next?"
Does it still feel like the first day of school, to begin with a company that's new to you?
On my way up to the Paris Opéra studios I was so nervous! Literally shaking. But within about eight minutes, I was reminded, "Oh, yeah: This is the same old thing. It's just dancers in a studio, dancing." [Laughs]
Crystal Pite rehearsing with Paris Opera Ballet dancers. Photos by Julien Benhamou, courtesy POB
It must've helped that the other pieces on that program were contemporary.
I always benefit from being at a company during or right after the dancers have been immersed in contemporary work. They had just recently worked with Bill Forsythe in Paris when I started The Seasons' Canon; in London, for Flight Pattern, I had the benefit of following Hofesh Shechter.
I noticed that there was an openness, a willingness, a kind of articulation and understanding in their bodies that maybe would not have been there otherwise. Dancers just keep growing, keep gaining more information and dimension; the more people they work with, the better they get. It really is that simple.
True, but the body can only adapt so quickly.
That's an important point too. When I was in London, they were with me during the day but performing The Sleeping Beauty at night. I would literally have dancers running into the studio for my rehearsals and taking their pointe shoes off at the same time—hopping in on one foot, shimmying out of a practice tutu, throwing on a pair of socks and sliding into the center of the room into some deep, deep position, with their weight completely dropped and a rounded spine.
Royal Ballet dancers in Flight Pattern. Photo by Tristram Kenton, courtesy Royal Opera House
The Royal Ballet's dancers and the artists of the Paris Opéra are like the Swiss Army knives of dancers.
That's such a good way to put it. Which part of the Swiss Army knife do you think I am? The toothpick, maybe? The scissors? Oh, I'm the corkscrew, aren't I? [Laughs]
What do you fear?
Laziness, I suppose. That doesn't mean I'm not willing to sit with an idea for a while and give it time to evolve if it needs to, but laziness—complacency—is something else. It would be easy at this point for me to rely on what I already know. But I can't allow myself to be lazy.
What are you reading?
Jonathon Young gave me these great books by Robert Bringhurst; one of them is called Everywhere Being is Dancing: Twenty Pieces of Thinking. He has beautiful things to say about polyphony and polyphonic music, which have to do with coexisting differences and equal valuation of all voices.
There's something profound there, something to aspire to, that polyphony is possible, beautiful—and demanding. Worth striving for in our work and in our world.
Where are you today in terms of collaborating on new choreography and music at the same time, versus interpreting a score that already exists?
I really like working with existing music as a script, following its lead and dreaming of how I might bring it to life inside a body. I also love the experience of creating work together in parallel, from the first impulse right through to the very end. With a new work, it's a lot more work to build something from scratch, but that also leaves space for new discoveries and being nimble for new decisions. This month I have a new creation at NDT to the music of Caroline Shaw, who wrote an incredible piece for eight voices called Partita.
A theme that's emerged for me, especially in your bigger pieces, is that of the individual within the group; of the ensemble as a "body" of its own.
There's something energizing in that tension. It stems from my interest in connection, my desire to connect with the people I'm working with, for them to connect to each other, and then, also, for them to connect to the audience. I want to cultivate the sense that we're all one and that we're all connected.
National Ballet of Canada in Emergence. Photo by Bruce Zinger, courtesy NBoC
As in nature. Vancouver is so beautiful—do you consider yourself outdoorsy?
I should do something sporty. It might be time for me to try rock climbing or swimming or martial arts or something—to change it up. I'm in this weird limbo, no-man's-land with my body, where I feel like I've lost touch and connection with my dancing self, and feel like I have to rediscover my relationship with the physical in a new way, or in a parallel way. Maybe skiing—cross-country, though. Not downhill. I don't like to go too fast.
Anything we should keep an eye out for next season?
I'm looking forward to Revisor, which Kidd Pivot premieres in February 2019 in Vancouver. It bubbles away as I go about my day.
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Over the past 15 years, Gesel Mason has asked 11 choreographers—including legends like Donald McKayle, David Roussève, Bebe Miller, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Rennie Harris and Kyle Abraham—to teach her a solo. She's performed up to seven of them in one evening for her project No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers.
Now, Mason is repackaging the essence of this work into a digital archive. This online offering shares the knowledge of a few with many, and considers how dance can live on as those who create it get older.
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
When a musical prepares to make the transfer from a smaller, lesser-known venue to Broadway (where theaters hold 500-plus seats), often there's a collective intake of breath from all involved. After all, a bigger house means more tickets to sell in order to stay in the black, and sometimes shows with even the most tenacious fan bases can't quite navigate such a jump. But what about the transfer from stage…to screen? Is Broadway ready to be consumed from the comfort of your couch?
Daphne Lee was dancing with Collage Dance Collective in Memphis, Tennessee, when she received two difficult pieces of news: Her mother had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer, and her father had Parkinson's disease, affecting his mobility and mental faculties.
The New Jersey native's reaction: "I really need to move home."
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.