Congratulations to Dance Magazine Award Honoree Crystal Pite
She may not be the first choreographer to claim that movement is her first language, but when Crystal Pite says it, it's no caveat: She's as effective and nuanced a communicator as the writers who often inspire her dances.
Her globally popular Emergence, for instance, was provoked in part by science writer Steven Johnson's hypotheses; The Tempest Replica refracts and reimagines Shakespeare. Recently, her reading list includes essays by fellow Canadian Robert Bringhurst, likewise driven by a ravenous, wide-ranging curiosity.
The two categories into which most of her creations fall—intimate shows for her own company and large-scale guest premieres—have proven to be mutually beneficial. Kidd Pivot, founded in 2002 in her native British Columbia, is a "long-term relationship," she says, with a small cohort of trusted partners. One of those is director-playwright Jonathon Young, with whom she has deepened the narrative, theatrical and character-driven aspects of her work. (Revisor, their second collaboration, premieres in early 2019.) Meanwhile, Pite experiments with elaborate stagecraft through high-profile commissions from major companies, sometimes with casts of three dozen dancers or more, introducing her work to new audiences worldwide.
Crystal Pite & Jonathon Young - Betroffenheit - Trailer (Sadler's Wells) www.youtube.com
No matter what she's creating, she's prone to coaching her material by explaining its physics or how it should employ specific parts of the body. Yet even her straightforward notes ring with a keen sense of the poetic.
"See if you can fight for that moment," she told dancers in rehearsal for Flight Pattern, her 2017 premiere for The Royal Ballet. It was at once just encouragement about a simple step and a reminder of every artist's lifelong test. Another observation, given to the same group within minutes—"Because of that tension, your head has no choice but to change"—spoke not only to the physical logic of Pite's choreography, but also to the shifts in our perspectives prompted by extreme circumstances.
The Royal Ballet in Crystal Pite's Flight Pattern. Photo by Tristram Kenton, courtesy Royal Opera House
In conversation, Pite can slide effortlessly from one idea into its opposite, not unlike how torsion and oppositional force provide equilibrium within her movement. "I've been interested lately in old-school truths of choreography," she says. "Shifts in scale, unison, canon, entrances and exits, and so on. I've been enjoying thinking of the need for traditional ways, and also the need to subvert them. It's good to push against the conventions that you know, against the things that are familiar."
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Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.