Crystal Pite identifies with The Tempest’s themes of parenthood, inspiration and control.
THE TEMPEST REPLICA choreography by Crystal Pite. Presented by Canadian Stage and Kidd Pivot at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). Runs to May 11, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $24-$99. 416-368-3110. See listing.
Procrastinators, take note: sometimes avoiding work can lead to inspiration.
Back in 2011, Crystal Pite and her Vancouver-based company, Kidd Pivot, were commissioned to present something in Frankfurt as part of a residency there. She knew she wanted to work with a script - either an existing one or a new work - but had nothing. Rehearsal dates were fast approaching.
"And then, as a way of procrastinating, I picked up Peter Brook's The Open Door," says Pite. "There's a chapter about the creative process in which he says every director must make a decision about the shipwreck scene in The Tempest. It's the only scene in the play that doesn't take place on the island, so how much time - and money - should you spend on that shipwreck?"
That got her entranced with the idea of creating a shipwreck scene and possibly tackling Shakespeare's late play in dance. Coincidentally, a sound designer she works with named Meg Roe had recently directed a version.
"I read the play and realized it was too complex to do as a dance, but Meg held my hand as I tried to negotiate the play and helped me decide how to reduce it so dance could handle it."
That's the story behind The Tempest Replica, which Pite and Kidd Pivot are in the midst of touring throughout Europe and North America.
Like her dance/theatre piece Dark Matters, which wowed audiences several years ago, the new work is split into two parts.
"I use the first part as a kind of onstage storyboard," says Pite from the company's stop in Birmingham, England. "It delivers plot points of the play with dancers in what we call replica gear - faceless mannequins. In the second part we dance, and the relationships and emotions of the play come out."
Most artists relate to The Tempest's themes of isolation, control, parenthood, the muse and eventually giving up their creative powers.
"Those themes really resonated with me, especially since I'd just had a child," says Pite. "I identified with how Prospero has to release his power and magic in order to find his humanity and do the right thing by his daughter."
Recently, Pite herself faced some big decisions. Her schedule is hectic, what with Kidd Pivot and regular work with Nederlands Dance Theatre and other companies. (Ironically, she collaborated with Robert Lepage on a new opera version of The Tempest for New York City's Metropolitan Opera.)
So last year she took a sabbatical to figure things out.
"It was important for me to be home, focus on being a mom and not have a lot of pressure to produce for a while," she says. "I had to think about whether I wanted to continue to have a company, and at the end I realized that, yes, I do want to keep the company, and, yes, I do want it to be based in Vancouver.
"I have lots of opportunities to create in other places, but there are certain things I can't achieve in the same way unless I have my own group. So that was affirming."