Crystal Pite Choreographs A Meltdown
May 18, 2016
“You’re not stretching your face enough”, explains Crystal Pite, patiently. She demonstrates with a lop-sided grimace that distorts her rather beautiful, open features into a kind of agitated question mark. It’s not the standard rehearsal note from a choreographer to their dancers, but the eight men and women in the studio mimic Pite’s expression as they dance, and an unsettling new energy comes into their bodies. You can feel a shift in the atmosphere of the room.
It’s this close attention to detail, this hunting down of the precise physical image, that gives Pite’s work its unusually poetic quality. It’s also key to her passion to communicate ideas, emotions and even stories through her choreography. From works like the epic, elemental Polaris to The Statement – the study of conflict, which I’m watching her create for Nederlands Dans Theater – Pite’s instinct is always to reach through the steps for some direct connection with her audience.
Later, when the dancers have left the studio, Pite tells me that she always watches rehearsals with one eye on how the material will read to an audience. “I don’t necessarily want people to understand my exact intentions in a work but I do want them to feel that they’re inhabiting it. There’s a proverb, ‘if you talk to a man about himself, he will listen for hours’, and I think that’s key. If people feel represented onstage, they’re going to be leaning in.”