By Alice Kaderlan Special to The Herald
To fans of contemporary dance, Crystal Pite is a goddess.
She heads the Vancouver-based troupe Kidd Pivot, which wowed local audiences during appearances at Seattle’s On the Boards. She also serves as associate choreographer for the Nederlands Dans Theater and is in demand as a guest choreographer around the world.
Pite consistently creates striking visual imagery and her highly original dances masterfully blend imaginative sets, costumes, props and music.
Her only work for a classical ballet company, “Emergence,” will have its PNB premiere on Friday when it shares the program with three works by master dance maker Jiri Kylian in “Kylian + Pite.”
“Emergence” depicts a swarm of insect-like creatures ebbing and flowing against a towering hive-like backdrop.
It was commissioned by the National Ballet of Canada for a 2009 showcase program of young Canadian choreographers and was an instant hit, bringing audiences to their feet at every performance and winning four major dance awards.
For the PNB premiere, Pite has reworked a few of the sections, allowing her to go deeper into the theme of individuals coming together to create community. The cast is huge by Pite standards — 38 dancers — and uses women in pointe shoes, another first for Pite.
“When I think of pointe shoes I think of how they distort the body and that led me to insects,” Pite said, “and then how I could set up the movement to put the pointe shoes to good use.”
Pite admits that creating “Emergence” was a challenge. Her entire performing career was with smaller troupes performing contemporary rather than classical work and her own creations had, until “Emergence,” used movement only in bare feet or slippers.
“I learned that it’s not easy for me to understand both pointe work and partnering in a classical way,” she said. “So I rely on the dancers to help me understand what’s possible.”
That spirit of collaboration is, if not unique in the dance world, somewhat unusual and the experience of working with Pite has been uniformly positive for PNB.
“She’s phenomenal in the studio,” PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal said. “She diagnoses the problems (the dancers are having), that it’s not the lower vertebrae that are moving but the upper, and helps the dancers understand what to do.”
Sharing the program with “Emergence” is “Forgotten Land,” a Kylian ballet new to PNB and two Kylian crowd-pleasers that PNB has performed previously, “Petite Mort” and “Sechs Tanze.”
Kylian is considered one of the most important dance makers of the 20th and 21st centuries and his ballets are in the repertoire of most major dance companies. Like all of his work, “Forgotten Land” is acrobatic, abstract and surprising.
“If you want a broad scope of the greatest in dance today,” Boal said, “you can’t have it without Kylian.
“Kylian + Pite” runs through Nov. 17 at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle.
Tickets are $28 to $120 online at www.pnb.org or by calling 206-441-2424.