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Originally published Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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Kidd Pivot's 'Tempest Replica': a temporary farewell in Seattle

Last chance, for a while, to see dance troupe Kidd Pivot, which goes on sabbatical next year, after touring Crystal Pite's "The Tempest Replica," her multimedia dance adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." Pite's piece is presented at Seattle's On the Boards, Oct. 23-25, 2012.

Seattle Times arts writer

Dance preview

'The Tempest Replica'

8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; sold out.
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Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite is coming home.

After her company Kidd Pivot wraps up its tour of its latest production, "The Tempest Replica," Pite will take a year off to "recharge, see other work, read some books." Kidd Pivot will go on hiatus, and Pite's freelance commissions and contractual work for Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT), Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and other companies will come to a temporary halt.

"I'm not doing any creative work at all," she said in a recent phone interview.

That means our last chance to see Kidd Pivot for a while comes this week when "The Tempest Replica," Pite's adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," has a three-day run at On the Boards.

Anyone who caught Kidd Pivot's "Lost Action" or "Dark Matter" at OtB knows what kind of magic Pite creates onstage. And anyone who's followed her career knows she's been on an extraordinary trajectory over the last decade.

Pite, a native of Victoria, B.C., danced with Ballet British Columbia (1988-1996) and William Forsythe's Ballett Frankfurt (1996-2001) before founding Kidd Pivot in Vancouver, B.C., in 2002. By 2005, she was setting work on Nederlands Dans Theater where she began a four-year term as an associate choreographer in 2008.

Pite got a further boost when Kidd Pivot was invited to Frankfurt, Germany, to become the resident dance company for a three-year period (just ended) at Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, described by Pite as Frankfurt's answer to On the Boards, but with multiple venues, an art gallery and a café.

It was a generous arrangement, giving the troupe a budget of nearly half a million dollars a year while the company carried on touring almost continuously.

"We didn't live in Frankfurt," Pite says, "but we were there quite regularly."

The company's headquarters are, and always were, in Vancouver.

The bold, fluid style of Kidd Pivot's dancers is guided, Pite says, by her interest in "things that 'freeze' and also things that are seamless and flow. I like the contrast between a lot of ease in the body, a lot of release," she explains, "and then also a sense of work and torque and conflict."

Storytelling, especially in her longer pieces, is sometimes central to her work, and "The Tempest Replica" is one of those storytelling pieces.

"I wanted to work with narratives in a more overt way," she says of the project. "I wanted to work with an existing script."

"The Tempest" came on her radar as she was reading theater legend Peter Brook's "The Open Door." In it, Brook remarks that any producer of the play has to decide how much of their resources they want to spend on the shipwreck when the rest of the action all takes place on an island.

Pite found herself latching onto the word "shipwreck," and wondering how one would translate the notion of "shipwreck" into "some kind of emotional wreck or terror of the body."

Then she re-read "The Tempest" and was daunted.

"No, there's no way I could do this," she remembers thinking. "Forget it."

Director/sound-designer Meg Roe, who'd staged a production of "The Tempest" in Vancouver in 2008, encouraged her to reconsider. "She really was able to talk me into it."

Another lure of the project was the chance it offered to work intensively with sound effects, "really trying to get narrative hits through sound" — something Pite had already explored in some of her work with NDT. She was excited, too, by the challenge of trying to bring natural disaster and catastrophic effects into a theatrical setting to create "something epic."

"The Tempest Replica" promises to be just that: a multimedia tour-de-force of stage wizardry.

But Shakespeare's story also had a quieter personal resonance with Pite.

After becoming a mother (she and her partner, Jay Gower Taylor, have a son who's almost 2 years old), she grew more alert to the hold that art, magic, ambition and power had over her, on the one hand, and the pull that family had, on the other. The culminating moment in "The Tempest" ("Prospero letting go of his art and magic in order to connect with this daughter," as she sees it) hit home with her.

It didn't hurt that Kidd Pivot's lineup of dancers offered her what she felt was a perfect cast for the project: "I had a Caliban ... I had a Prospero, I had an Ariel, for sure."

"The Tempest Replica," Pite says, falls into two distinct halves. The first is "a kind of 3-D onstage storyboard," she says, in which white-masked "replicas" of the play's characters baldly outline the plot of Shakespeare's tale. In the second half, the masks are dropped, the dancers are costumed in everyday wear, and the aim is "to bring actual characters to the stage rather than just a story."

"The Tempest Replica" won't be Seattle's last chance to see work by Pite this fall. When Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet comes to Meany Theater in November, they'll perform Pite's "Grace Engine," described in the Los Angeles Times earlier this year as "a moody work that looked ripped from film noir."

Time to stock up on Pite/Kidd Pivot memories while you can.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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