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Originally published Monday, February 14, 2011 at 7:00 PM

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Crystal Pite — no longer just a regional name — visits On the Boards with her Kidd Pivot troupe

Kidd Pivot, helmed by Vancouver, B.C., choreographer Crystal Pite, brings "Dark Matters" to Seattle's On the Boards Feb. 17-20.

Seattle Times arts writer

Dance preview

'Dark Matters'

Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM performs 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $12-$20 (206-217-9888 or www.ontheboards.org).

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You'd have to go back all the way to Mark Morris to find a choreographer from our corner of the world who's had as much of an impact on the international dance scene as British Columbia's Crystal Pite.

Pite, whose "Dark Matters" opens at On the Boards on Thursday, began dance lessons at age 4 in Victoria, B.C., and in her teens and 20s launched a career with Ballet British Columbia and Germany's Ballett Frankfurt (under William Forsythe).

By 2002 she'd founded her own company, Kidd Pivot, in Vancouver. In 2005, she started working with Nederlands Dans Theater, where she was named associate choreographer in 2008. In 2010, her company performed "Dark Matters" at the Venice Biennale.

Recently, Kidd Pivot found a residency and financial support in Germany with Frankfurt's Künstlerhaus Mousonturm. That's enabled them to become a year-round professional dance troupe. Hence their new name: Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM (for the Rhine-Main region).

Pite remains based in Vancouver, but all her dancers live elsewhere. While Frankfurt is their chief meeting place these days, they still consider themselves a Canadian company.

Seattle is the initial stop on their first tour since Pite had her first child late last year. Her husband, Jay Gower Taylor, a former dancer with Ballet BC (where the couple met), is the set designer for "Dark Matters" and is accompanying Pite on this tour — with baby in tow. "So we're a little traveling circus family now," she says.

Kidd Pivot made a big impression on Seattle audiences in 2008 with "Lost Action." In rehearsals last week, Pite's dancers — several new to the troupe — were as impressive as ever.

"Dark Matters," which premiered last year at the Vancouver Cultural Olympiad, takes some of its inspiration from astrophysics. According to NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, "dark matter" is a large component of the universe that "can be inferred to exist from its gravitational effects, but does not emit or absorb detectable amounts of light."

The dance also draws on Pite's experience of the creation process. A puppet show in the first act, she says, is "about creating something that ultimately destroys you or consumes you."

The puppet show, with its shadowy dancers operating the puppet, is folktale-spare physical theater, while the second act is purely dance-driven and "much more abstract," Pite says. It's informed by Act 1's ideas about manipulation and the unknown. But it drops the puppetry to explore its subject matter in a more sublimated, intuitive way.

Its central question: "What does it look like if I'm being danced by something that I don't know or can't see?"

Pite credits her earliest ballet teachers, Maureen Eastwick and Wendy Green, for encouraging her interest in dancemaking when she was a young girl studying ballet, tap, jazz and musical theater in Victoria.

"At that time, it was rare to facilitate young people in choreography," Pite remarks. "I also took a lot of initiative on my own. I was just interested in choreography right from the very first moments I started to dance."

That interest has never abated, even if Pite sees something bittersweet about her chosen medium.

"Dance is such an ephemeral, intangible thing," she says. "It only exists in the moment when it's being executed. In a way, we're always in a state of loss. I think that's one of the things that makes dance so powerful and beautiful — that heightened sense of the present moment."

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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