Color me embarrassed! Last month I went to go see The You Show by Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM, and it wasn’t until long after I had seen the show that I discovered that instead of it being one dance performance in four acts, that it was in fact four separate dances combined together to make an evening’s program. Oooops. (And it’s obvious that my habit of going into a performance attempting to be a tabula rasa works). Then on top of that, my notes, which get scrawled in the dark, and sometimes are extremely difficult to decipher after the fact, somehow got mixed up and taken out of order. So I wasn’t certain that lines that I had written, such as “repetition of voice / with new moves / switch to her” were referring to something that happened before or after “moving together / all others leave / and we’re back to two.”
But I think I have everything sorted out as best as I can, and can attempt to make some sense out of what I saw (apologies, again for my lack of timeliness, but as per normal, things here have been busy). I find life is so much easier when I don’t really have to force some sort of narrative on something that doesn’t have one. Plus in this case, there are a whack of other reviews and articles to draw from and react to.
(Dance Magazine, The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, World Arts Today, Solomons Says, Seeing Things, Vancouver Courier, Dfdanse, Ottawa Citizen and Rover)
In this particular case I find it fascinating that without too much trouble I was able to find over a dozen reviews from a variety of places (at first I was concerned that they were all from North America, but then looking at Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM’s website it appears that it has only been performed outside of North America in three places. It’s also a little weird that it has been performed 22 different times in eight different cities in the rest of the world versus nine times in two cities here in Quebec. I wonder if there are any other international touring companies that spend 30% of their time here in Quebec? But I digress).
The reviews, as you might expect, were all over the place. Most took advantage of the fact that there were four different pieces to say that three of the four were great and one was not. But there was no consensus on which one sucked. I particularly enjoyed Wendy Perron’s take over at Dance Magazine, where she wrote “I’m skipping the third duet because it didn’t add much…” Imagine skipping the third side of Tommy, because it didn’t add much. Or skipping the lobster omelette in your review of the Pied de Cochon’s sugar shack? If you’re reviewing it, review the whole thing. Not just the good bits.
As for my take? Overall I thought it was quite good. The dancers (Eric Beauchesne, Peter Chu, Ariel Freedman, Sandra Marín Garcia, Yannick Matthon, Anne Plamondon, Ji?í Pokorný, Cindy Salgado and Jermaine Maurice Spivey) were all amazing to varying degrees – great amazing, really good amazing, very good amazing and just plain amazing.
In my notes the only dancer that I singled out happened to be Ms. Plamondon. I wrote “she quite accomplished dancer (sic).” But at the time I didn’t know that in fact she was who she was. Personally I think that her background (or what I know of her background, I’m no walking dance encyclopedia) in both Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Rubberbandance Group serves her well in dancing to Ms. Pite’s work. Where Rubberbandance does a very obvious and direct combination of hip-hop and classical dance techniques. From what I have seen of Kidd Pivot, their work appears to me to be more variations and modifications on hip-hop while leaning heavily on the rigorousness of both classical dance techniques and training.
The variations and modifications, for the most part work way more often than they don’t. Again, I think when it works, it has more to do with the caliber of the of the dancers in Kidd Pivot and when it doesn’t more to do with the caliber of the choreography. Or in blunter terms and plainer English, Ms. Pite is obviously trying to combine old moves (for the lack of a better term) in new ways while at the same time develop new moves. Because the dancers in her company are so good, most of the choreography shines really well. But occasionally, Ms. Pite stretches too far, tries too hard and no matter how good the dancers are, the moves aren’t as bright. Unlike Ms. Perron, I thought that the parts that didn’t work, were exactly that, small parts within the larger piece, not entire pieces.
If I were to get specific, one of the parts that didn’t work for me was when everybody else turns Ms. Garcia and Mr. Spivey into Transformers in A Picture of You Flying
I must’ve spent over an hour searching through my files trying to find the other time I’ve seen dancers become Transformers, however my searching skills are obviously not up to snuff, because for the life of me, I can’t. But I am completely convinced (unless I made it up) that I’ve seen something similar before. But whether or not I have almost becomes secondary, because beyond being derivative I thought there were other reasons why it didn’t work.
While it was obvious that Ms. Pite wanted something cinematographic, it ended up turning the piece into something more cartoony. During the piece Mr. Spivey recites what I was calling simplistic pop psychology. Things like “It’s about thinking about later, later / And know your own limits / And know what makes us vulnerable.” Or “It has nothing to do with the glory / You do it because you love it.” Which had the effect of making the piece comedic in nature – the audience laughed at some of the jokes in the text. However, I presume that Ms. Pite wanted the subject matter and the dancing to be taken somewhat seriously. In the parts when there weren’t any jokes, it was possible to take the subject seriously. But once they turn into the Transformers it makes it extremely difficult to take the dance very seriously, which then also ends up making the subject matter silly as well. And I am not convinced that that is a good thing. But as I mentioned, it’s a small part of a larger whole, and not a profound fault. More like a scab the day before it’s going to fall off. Something that you’re aware of, and is mildly annoying, but not major.
I guess at this point I should mention The Other You, and Das Glashaus, the other two pieces in the evening’s performance.
I’m not sure why Ms. Pite decided to use the Moonlight Sonata as part of the score to The Other You other than the fact that it is a very pretty piece of music. The dancing is also very pretty. Ms. Pite steals the idea from numerous other dance performances in that she has Mr. Beauchesne and Mr. Pokorny mirror each other and/or control each other like marionettes, but with invisible strings. But in this case, the moves that they do, again modified hip-hop, in my notes I called them “funky chicken” “kung-fu fighting” and “robot,” are pretty good. In performances like that the dancers need to be perfectly synchronized and Mr. Beauchesne and Mr. Pokorny were.
There’s not an awful lot I remember about Das Glashaus, and it also is the piece where my notes got all out of order. There was some crashing sounds (which other people called breaking glass, probably due to knowing the title in advance) there’s some wrestling or aggressive cuddling, and modified yoga according to my notes, but overall it mainly draws a blank. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, just how it happens to be.
I think that trying to combine the four pieces thematically is a little bit of a stretch – especially if you’re viewing them with no prior knowledge. Instead of “The You Show” it just as easily could have been called the “You Two Show,” or “Four Duets.” But that does not take away from the fact that the dancing was pretty gosh darn good. For the most part when I go to see contemporary dance, I’m not expecting a story. I’m hoping to see some spectacular moving. It seems to me that dance has become so technically sophisticated that for the most part trying to combine it with some other art form (like theatre) ends up making a mess. Either because the dancers aren’t as accomplished in the other art form as they are in dance, or that the choreographer isn’t as accomplished or quite frequently both. In this case, while I recognize that there was an attempt to combine things thematically, because I went in not knowing that, it was mighty tough to figure out on the fly. Which does not take away from the dancing or the choreography, in fact to me, makes them even that much better.