March 16th, 2012 | by HEATHER WISNER Arts & Books | Posted In: Dance

Puppet Master: Kidd Pivot's "Dark Matters"

nancy_puppets_peter_chu_of_kidd_pivot_dress_rehearsal_dark_matters_by_christopher_duggan-800w_600hPhoto: Christopher Duggan

Reality crowds illusion and chaos thwarts control in Dark Matters, a stunning new work by Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM. The company, run by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite and known simply as Kidd Pivot when it made its Portland debut in 2008, has returned with a work that’s thought-provoking and moving, as well as funny and periodically heart-stopping. It’s ingeniously lit and packed with the same sort of sculptural dance passages that won over local viewers on the company’s first visit. 

Dark Matters is a dance in two acts. What links them together is Owen Belton’s score—an industrial blend of clicking and clanking, scratchy cello and ominous basslines—plus some shadowy characters with equally shadowy motives.

The first act feels both theatrical and cinematic. It opens with a spotlight trailing over the walls of an apartment building like a flashlight. Inside, a man (Peter Chu) hunches over a work table, consumed with the creation of a puppet. But his creation turns on him, spectacularly, reversing their roles. The puppet itself is manipulated by black-clad dancers, but they aren’t just pulling the strings—when the puppet falls, they fall, too. Giving too much away would spoil the surprises thereafter. Let’s just say that the puppeteers transform into battling street-dance ninjas and mayhem ensues. 

One of these black-clad figures returns in the second act, dancing through smoke-machine emissions as silently as a cat, or a cat burglar. Is it Death? Entropy in a track suit? Where is it coming from, and how? (Thanks to some theatrical trickery, it takes different forms and makes some unexpected entrances.) This spectre haunts the edges of the pure dance sections that follow. These are a more obvious showcase for the dancers’ admirable technique, a blend of classicism and hip-hop, in which sharp, precise movements slice through a breathy fluidity. As with the company’s previous offering, Lost Action, there is a single breathtaking jump (Jermaine Maurice Spivey, backward, into the arms of Yannick Mathon) that interrupts clusters of group movement in which the dancers act upon one another like atoms, causing a chain reaction of steps. A voiceover, of Voltaire’s Poem on the Lisbon Disaster, gives voice to that image, referring to mankind as “thinking atoms” that will ultimately dissolve into dust. 

The evening ends with a duet that’s both puppetlike and divinely human. Taken with everything that came before it, you’re left thinking about manipulation of every kind, and power, to the extent that anyone has it. And that itself is powerful stuff. Not convinced? Check out this highlight reel:    

SEE IT: Kidd Pivot performs 8 pm Friday-Saturday, March 16-17 at the Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 800-380-3516. Tickets $20-$30 at whitebird.org

 
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