Addiction and trauma look like a faded Chicago on loop in the newest dance from Kidd Pivot, sweeping through the Newmark this weekend.
Kidd Pivot is widely considered to be Canada's best contemporary company, and this show breaks new ground for it. Artistic director Crystal Pite paired with Vancouver's Electric Company Theater for the company's first theater-dance hybrid.
As Betroffenheit opens, a gaunt man appears alone on a stage resembling Abu Ghraib.
"We meet our narrator when he's in a holding pattern, with elaborate habits that keep him clean," says Kidd Pivot choreographer Crystal Pite. "He's trying to resist the substance he's addicted to, [a fictional drug] called Showtime."
When the man's determination fails, life becomes a circus. Pite's choreography makes the experience of relapse into a dilapidated burlesque spectacle.
"The idea was to make a show that feels like it's been running for a long time," Pite says. "It used to be shiny and bright, but thanks to repetition it's losing luster. Now it's hollowed-out, faded and glitchy."
Pite, a William Forsythe-educated ballerina and Olivier Award winner, directs five company dancers, who wear faded sateen bras, pinstripe trousers and bowler hats and tap dance maniacally around the drab central figure. Lights strobe, dancers buckle at the joints, and speakers blast voices from places they don't belong—doorways, light fixtures and dancers' bodies. It's like cabaret torture, equally entertaining and horrifying.
The star, Jonathon Young, wrote the script for Betroffenheit when his teenage daughter died in a fire in 2009 and the loss sent Young into post-traumatic shock. When Pite discovered Young's play, she added dance to capture the inexplicable feeling of trauma.
"'Betroffenheit' doesn't translate into English easily," says Pite of the German word for "bewilderment," according to the playbill. "Loosely it means shock, or a violent event that leaves one speechless." That's where the show—or Showtime—comes in.
"It's a quest for an epiphany," Pite says of the final dance in Betroffenheit, though she could easily mean therapy, or drugs.
"He realizes that here is no epiphany," she adds. "You just do the daily work and live life in parallel."
See IT: Betroffenheit is at the Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway. 8 pm Thursday-Saturday, March 31-April 2. $25-$34.