You’d have to be in a really bad mood not to have a good time at Dark Matters, Crystal Pite’s widely-toured work for her Kidd Pivot company. It’s entertaining, spectacular and deftly constructed. The first hour flies by and flings you into intermission, while the second act plays with aspects of performance distinct from the first. It’s an astute way to compose 120 minutes. Everybody gets some, appealing to diverse desires and tastes without denying or exhausting audience members with different agendas.

Audiences who like that kind of thing can talk about the spatial and temporal traits of the ensemble choreography. Others can talk about what it all means, unpacking interpretations of the narrative that neatly bookends the work but which is also arguably absent for much of it. The official site says: “The revelations of Act One inform the way we view the dancing in Act Two.”

They might! You tell me.

MY NOTES: What?! I could have sworn this was a Pixar proof of concept. The set/costume design eerily materialize what I imagined when reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis or Sartre’s No Exit. Couple that with sequences straight out of video games! (and movies derived from video games): Mortal Kombat – Street Fighter – The Matrix – Kung Fu Panda – Zelda: Twilight Princess. This would totally work with teen audiences. Gee-whizz moments, even when borderline gimmicky, make me feel like a kid in a good way.

I’m deeply invested in dance making, so I have a very particular agenda as a viewer. From my seat, the narrative-driven sections worked as charismatic theatre, the light design and the relation of dancers to sets and costumes was wow-inducing, and I appreciated how the work stayed well shy of saccharine. I was impressed by the generous amount of peak spectacle Dark Matters managed to achieve through sheer craft and composition.

One oft-repeated technique places a phrase of slickly disassociated movement over an abstractly muscular soundscape so as to build the kind of humid counterpoint that a quick snap to punctuated syncopation can cut like a warm day in winter. Varying tastes will find the frequent use of such neat trickery awesome or excessive.

Personally, I’d see the show again just to watch Jermaine Maurice Spivey, whose majestically possessed lead on tempo was inspiring to behold. Sandra Marin Garcia also delivered a riveting finale hollowed of sentimentality but loaded with emotive abandon.

Dark Matter is starting on it’s third year of touring. It felt thoroughly dialed in, perhaps a bit more than I typically appreciate. This made the moments where the dancers achieved exceptional performativity all the more admirable and rewarding. It will be interesting to see how it contrasts to the final performance in this season’s Uncaged Series: Yasmeen Godder’s Love Fire (March 29-31). Love Fire will be making its North American premier here in Portland, and I look forward to seeing these two more or less back to back.


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