Crystal Pite in 2010
December 15, 1970|
Terrace, British Columbia
|Occupation||Dancer and choreographer|
|Current group||Kidd Pivot|
|Former groups||Ballet British Columbia, Ballett Frankfurt|
Crystal Pite (born 1970) is a Canadian choreographer and dancer. She began her dance career at Ballet British Columbia and in 1996 she joined Ballett Frankfurt under the tutelage of William Forsythe. Upon returning to Vancouver she focused on choreographing while continuing to dance in her own pieces. In 2002 she created Kidd Pivot which produced her original work Double Story (2002) and Dark Matters (2009). She was also commissioned by various dance companies to create new dances, including The Second Person (2007) for the Netherlands Dans Theater and Emergence (2009) for the National Ballet of Canada, the latter of which was awarded four Dora Mavor Moore Awards.
In 2010 Kidd Pivot became the resident company of Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm and for the next three years Pite premiered her work in Frankfurt. The You Show (2010) explored different types of relationships in various duets whileTempest Replica (2011) was based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. When her arrangement with Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm expired she became Sadler's Wells' associate choreographer and created Polaris based on Thomas Adès' music. Her work Betroffenheit premiered at the 2015 Pan American Games. She resides in Vancouver with her partner Jay Gower Taylor and son Niko.
Early life and career
Crystal Pite was born in Terrace, British Columbia on December 15, 1970. She has two younger brothers. Pite stated that she began choreographing when she was a toddler. She grew up in Victoria, British Columbia studying dance under Maureen Eastick and Wendy Green. During this time Pite choreographed on her classmates on Saturday afternoons. She also studied at the Banff Centre in summer programs and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre.
She joined Ballet British Columbia as a dancer in 1988 and performed with the company for eight years. In 1990 she created her first professional choreography with the company called Between the Bliss and Me. The success of this work allowed her to create additional pieces with Ballet British Columbia, as well as choreography with Les Ballets Jazz De Montreal and Canada’s Ballet Jörgen. Pite danced in her first William Forsythe ballet in 1990 called In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and later danced in his production The Vile Parody of Address.
Pite was attracted to Forsythe's contemporary and wild interpretation of ballet and in 1995 she auditioned for his dance company Ballett Frankfurt. She was hired as a dancer and in 1996 Pite left Canada to officially join the company. Pite performed around the world with Ballett Frankfurt in Eidos: Telos, The Loss of Small Detail, and Endless House. Pite was also excited to develop choreography with Forsythe using technology and in 2000 created Excerpts from a Future Work. She was involved in the creation of Forsythe's educational film "Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye" as one of the four featured dancers.
Return to British Columbia and Kidd Pivot
Pite returned to British Columbia in 2001 and took up residence in Vancouver. Later that year she created a duet called Tales - New and Abridged with Cori Caulfield. In 2001 she was appointed to a three-year residency with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal to choreograph new works. Her first show with the company, Short Works: 22, premiered that same year. She expanded this piece to be featured in the first part of The Stolen Show, also performed by Les Ballet Jazz de Montréal. The second part featured choreography that was also called The Stolen Show and the third piece was called [xspectacle].
Pite formed Kidd Pivot in 2002 as an inter-disciplinary performing arts company based in Vancouver. Her first dance shows with the company showcased her shorter works and sometimes featured other choreographers. Among her first pieces was Double Story, which explored two perspectives of a romantic relationship. Pite and Richard Siegal each choreographed a perspective and danced each section as a duet. Pite's choreography was called Man Asunder and was created two years after Siegal's section. It contained a through line of childhood friends who were having various dreams. At some points in the dance the performers became adults that contemplated the mysteries of the universe. At other moments they stepped out of character into a deconstruction setting by rearranging the sets or drinking water on stage. The set on stage included two large mirrors and the choreography included puppetry and masks.
In Lost Action Pite explored the theme of the disappearance of dance. The piece showcased a violent scene that left a man dead and then replayed this several times, each with variations. Lost Action had a simplistic costume design and a few props in order to enhance the performance. Most of the piece’s budget was used to bring the cast of four men and three woman to Vancouver to create the choreography. The dancing consisted of “fractured movement...exaggerated to make a dance of broken rhythms and twisted limbs.” The piece blended classical contemporary and hip hop movements with immense control from the dancers. In 2011 the National Film Board of Canada recorded a section of this piece and released it as Lost Action: Trace.
While creating for Kidd Pivot, Pite was also commissioned to choreograph dances for other companies in Canada and around the world. In 2006 Pite returned to Ballet British Columbia to create Arietta. The title of the piece shares the same name as the second movement in Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32, which is also the music that the choreography is danced to. The dance departed from Pite's usual style of using props and text and focused abstract movement by the eight performers.
Pite choreographed a solo on Louise Lecavalier called Lone Epic in 2006. Lecavalier acted as a conductor of an orchestra while the stage was littered with music stands. As she danced she turned the music stands to reveal messages, including "What is she really thinking?" and "What do you really want, really, really, really?" Lecavalier then knocked over music stands with her dramatic movement. At the end of the piece she reached out towards what she really wants, which is not defined to the audience. As the choreographer, Pite was commended with developing a dramatic story of the physical breakdown of a conductor.
Longer pieces and larger ensembles
In 2007 Pite created The Second Person for Netherlands Dans Theater. Pite was inspired by Irish, Scottish and English folk songs. She gave this music to her longtime composer Owen Belton who added weather noises, acoustic instruments and voices to the songs. The choreography included 24 dancers who represent the youth and how they lose their innocence growing up. The dancers operated stick puppets that would make observations to the dancers and a large wooden marionette that performed as a member of the larger dance ensemble. Each performer had a different personality and movement style but retained a motivation to dance like the rest of the group. The piece was included in the Netherlands Dans Theater 2009 tour of the United States.
In 2009 Pite created her first two-hour choreography with Dark Matters. This dance explored the capabilities of unseen external forces on the body and mind. In the first act a man created a marionette that is controlled by four dancers dressed as kurokos, traditional Japanese stagehands. The puppet eventually turned on its creator and destroyed him with scissors. After intermission all the kurokos except one removed their black clothing and turned into humans, but still move like puppets. Towards the end of the piece the last shadow revealed that she is also a human but moved like a newly created puppet. The piece finished with the creator from the first act cradling the last kuroko as the kuroko pretended to sows strings onto the creator's body. The choreography was based on ballet vocabulary but was not considered a classical ballet piece. Instead it showed de-centered alignment so that the dancers could create asymmetrical shapes.
Also in 2009 Pite created Emergence for the National Ballet of Canada as part of the program Innovation. This choreography won four Dora Mavor Moore Awards for best choreography, best performance, best score and best production. The piece was inspired by Steven Johnson's work Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software. The dance mimicked the movement of insects, which was a metaphor for human behavior. Some of the themes in the piece included hive mentality, hierarchical mentalities and gender issues. The dancers often performed the same movements but at random intervals throughout the piece. There were also moments of solos and small group pieces that mimicked significant events such as a mating ritual or the coronation of a hive queen.
Return to Frankfurt
In 2010, Kidd Pivot signed a two-year deal (which was later extended to three years) to become the resident company of Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt. As part of the deal the company changed their name to Kidd Pivot Frankfort RM and premiered new choreography by Pite. This caused her to split her time between Frankfurt and her hometown of Vancouver. Kidd Pivot also increased their touring schedule that year as the company was invited to perform in various countries.
Among her first choreography with the renamed company was The You Show which explored different conflicts that couples may have with each other. The show was divided into four duets. The first piece A Picture of You Falling was the only dance that was a remount from a previous work. It was about a man and a woman who tried to have a relationship but kept missing opportunities to connect. At the end they connected, but she slid away as the male tried to hug her, and she left the man on the stage alone. Throughout the piece a voice-over hinted at previous events between the two dancers. The second dance, The Other You, featured two bald performers dressed in similar dark suits who danced as if they are physically connected; if one dancer swung his arm, the other dancer pretended that he was hit by the moving arm. The third dance was called Das Glashaus and featured an original score that sounded like broken glass. A Picture of You Flying was the final piece and it was a humorous dance about a superhero who struggled in a relationship with his girlfriend. Ensemble members of Kidd Pivot performed in this piece as various superheroes or villains.
In 2011 Pite premiered Tempest Replica. At first she explored film noir movies but felt these stories did not have enough humanity or spirituality. When she read The Tempest she was inspired to recreate the shipwreck at the beginning of the play. In the first half of the show Prospero was the only dancer dressed in street clothes while the other dancers dressed in grey clothing and face masks. Prospero manipulated the other dancers as if they were robots. In the second half all of the dancers are dressed in street clothes and Prospero danced a duet or trio with each character, showcasing his relationship with them. Throughout the piece Pite projected the act and scene number from the original play with a short scene description to help the audience understand the plot. At dramatic moments she also projected the corresponding line from The Tempest. Pite also used puppets and shadows to help explain the plot, creating a play-within-a-play feeling.
In 2013 Sadler's Wells appointed Pite as an associated artist. The following year Sadler’s Wells performed Tempest Replica at its United Kingdom premiere. Pite took this opportunity to rework and improve upon the piece, stating "it wasn’t done. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t what it was going to be. I knew that I would need more time and money to fix it." This version of Tempest Replica won Pite the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.
Polaris was Pite's first original work with Sadler's Wells. Premiering in 2014, it was part of a larger program called Thomas Adès: See the Music, Hear the Dance to honor the music of Thomas Adès. It was danced to Adès' song Polaris played by 75 musicians placed throughout the theatre. and featured 64 dancers from her company Kidd Pivot and the London Contemporary Dance School. For some of the piece all the dancers moved as one creature in synchronization. Pite also incorporated smaller group sections that were slower with more controlled movement. Pite won the Olivier Award for her work in this piece.
Pite premiered a new dance piece at Panamania during the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. Betroffenheit is a collaboration between Pite and Jonathon Young, co-artistic director of Vancouver-based theatre group Electric Company Theatre, with dancers from Kidd Pivot. The title refers to the indescribable shock after a traumatic event.
In 2017, the Royal Opera House commissioned a new piece from Pite, Flight Pattern; it premiered there in March 2017. Pite set the piece to the Polish composer Henryk Gorecki's 1976 Symphony of Sorrowful Songs; the conductor was Koen Kessels, the soprano was Jennifer Davis and the dancers were from the Royal Ballet. The critic Luke Jennings described it as "a sombre and deeply affecting work" that "cuts to the heart".
Pite's partner is Jay Gower Taylor, who is also Kidd Pivot's set designer. They met while both were dancers with Ballet British Columbia. In 2010 Pite gave birth to her first son Niko. She currently resides in Vancouver to live closer to her family.
- 1995 : Banff Centre's Clifford E. Lee Award
- 2004 : Paul D. Fleck Fellowship in the Arts from The Banff Centre
- 2004 : Bonnie Bird North American Choreography Award
- 2005 : Isadora Award
- 2006 : Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award – Dance, administered by the Vancouver East Cultural Centre
- 2006 : Jessie Richardson Theatre Award
- 2008 : Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Mentorship Award
- 2009 : Four Dora Mavor Moore Awards
- 2011 : Jacob's Pillow Dance Award
- 2012 : Lola Award
- 2015 : Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance
- 2016 : Critics' Circle National Dance Award : Best modern choreography (Polaris, Sadler's Wells)
- 2017 : Prix Benois de la Danse
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