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    Peter Chu and his puppet in Kidd Pivot: Dark Matters
    Photo by Christopher Duggan
    Peter Chu and his puppet

    Shadows, Puppets, Connections, Mystery

    Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM bring Dark Matters to
    Jacob's Pillow


    Dark matter, according to Crystal Pite, composes most of our universe; it is unseeable and unknowable, but it exerts great force. Dark Matters uses shadow characters, the darkness and light in humans, and a poem by Voltaire to create a piece of dance theater that grabs hearts and minds and doesn't let go.

    Choreography by: Crystal Pite.
    Dancers: Eric Beauchesne, Peter Chu, Sandra Marin Garcia, Yannick Matthon, Jifi Pokorny, Cindy Salgado and Jermaine Maurice Spivey.
    Music by: Owen Belton.
    Set design by: Jay Gower Taylor, with Angela Carlson and Louise DeGagne.
    Costumes by: Linda Chow.
    Lighting design by: Robert Sondergaard.
    Puppets: Robert Lewis.
    Voice (poem): Christopher Gaze.

    Related links: Jacob's Pillow
    Jacobs Pillow
    July 6-10, 2011

    Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM, Pite's company, has enthralled a slice of New York without actually visiting New York, through an internet video trailer created for Dark Matters in 2009. The live performance at Jacob's Pillow takes movement and dancers reminiscent of William Forsythe's Ballett Frankfurt era (which Pite was part of) and adds a layer of theater to go even further than Forsythe.

    Things begin with a puppet, created onstage by our propmaker protagonist. Like Pinochio, or Frankenstein, this tiny creation takes on far more power than its creator foresaw. This puppet wins, or loses, by ultimately killing its maker and setting loose karmic chaos that destroys everything "real" onstage to end the first half of the show.

    What is real and who controls who, really, are central concepts. Four or five shadow figures, in complete ninja black, animate the puppet and then themselves with moves straight out of kung fu movies. Pite and her ninjas explore "shadow" with humor, whimsy and stage lights, giving the first half a dose of humor to offset the tragic.

    L-R: Jermaine Maurice Spivey, Peter Chu, Eric Beaushesne, Cindy Salgado in Kidd Pivot: Dark Matters
    Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima
    L-R: Jermaine Maurice Spivey, Peter Chu, Eric Beaushesne, Cindy Salgado

    After things blow up and come down, though, and the smoke clears, literally, one of the shadows extricates the lifeless protagonist and tries to animate him back to life. Nothing else seems to have survived.

    The second half is all about the dancers, who move like electricity on a wire. Often, this wire is like one that has fallen in a storm and is whipping about, alive and uncheckable. And there is a motif of thunder and lightning, especially in the first half but echoed occasionally in the second, implying the violent interactions when dark matter hits familiar or cold air hits warm.

    There is no remarkably expressive little wooden puppet now, but the dancers take turns manipulating each other or moving as a connected group in which any one member's actions ripple through the whole. Each also gets a chance to solo; even in the solos, there is a sense that something unseen is controlling their bodies, as if marionette strings are pulling them up off the ground or dropping and lifting them through space.

    Each dancer — Eric Beauchesne, Peter Chu, Sandra Marin Garcia, Yannick Matthon, Jifi Pokorny, Cindy Salgado and Jermaine Maurice Spivey — deserves the word superb. All are powerfully elastic, able to bounce off the ground as if it were a vertical wall and gravity scarcely matters. Yet each also has the nuanced precision to connect emotionally.

    A poem by Voltaire, "Poem on the Lisbon Disaster," perfectly expresses the overall sense of Dark Matters. It gradually makes itself more and more apparent, beginning as a tiny portion of a large mix of sound and ending as almost a mantra, repeated over and over with crystal clarity, alone. It touches on unknowability and impermanence, and the dance we as humans do to negotiate between the two.

    The final, stunning, duet between Peter Chu, the "dead" puppetmaker and Sandra Marin Garcia, the sole surviving shadow character (part of the puppet), wraps things beautifully. Garcia slowly sheds her black and becomes knowable as a beautiful woman, letting herself be cradled and loved by a nurturing partner and then, as Chu returns to his inert, wounded self, she calmly and carefully sews his heart together again, leaving us to wonder about the healing power of love, and whether the puppet can cure its creator.

    JULY 13, 2011

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