More than words — tackling death through dance

Veterans might have much more trouble reconciling memories of war with contemporary dance. But Crystal Pite insists the two are similar.

Veterans might have much more trouble reconciling memories of war with contemporary dance.

But Crystal Pite insists the two are similar.

There’s a commonality between “the loss of veterans and their stories and the loss of our dancing,” said the Vancouver-based dancer and choreographer.

Dance is ephemeral. It’s fleeting.

“I think a lot about our work as dance artists,” said Pite, taking a break from rehearsal at the Yukon Arts Centre on Wednesday.

“It’s intangible,” she said.

“Everything we do keeps disappearing — we have no artifacts — there’s nothing to take home.

“It’s a good metaphor for life and death.”

Although Pite is only 38, her dancing days are numbered.

It’s a discipline that’s hard on the body.

Slender, almost sinewy, Pite is fit.

She still dances, but now works within her own creations, rather than under other choreographers.

“I’m happy dancing in my own work,” said Pite, who’s performed for more than 30 choreographers all over the world.

“As a choreographer, I know the dancer in me so well — I know what I can do and what I can’t.”

Switching hats isn’t hard for Pite.

“Both dance and choreography feed off each other so much,” she said.

“And my choreography is affected by my experience as a dancer.”

Pite, the youngest artist to receive the esteemed Clifford E. Lee Choreographic Award, formed her own company, Kidd Pivot, six years ago.

The troupe is in Whitehorse performing Lost Action, a 70-minute piece that won the Alcan Performing Arts Award for dance in 2006.

The piece formed out of a chance encounter Pite had in Montreal.

It was November, and the dancer had a poppy on her backpack. An American approached Pite and asked about all the poppies.

“I began thinking about war,” she said.

“It’s hard to understand from our place of privilege and relative peace.

“So I wanted to get a better understanding of it through dance.”

The piece contains a reoccurring loop — the image of a man on the floor with dancers bending over him.

“Repetition is important because of the cycles of war, peace and violence,” said Pite.

And in life repetition is inevitable, she added.

Interested in what it looks like to fix dance in time and space, Pite has dancers grabbing onto each other, and holding images.

“Dance gets to you in ways that are beyond words,” she said.

“It’s very visceral.”

On the stage Pite’s troupe ran through a sequence over and over again, their bodies lifting and joining until it was hard to separate limbs and torsos.

“I have been performing since I was a child,” said Pite, who started dancing at the age of four.

Although she was classically trained in ballet, Pite’s company meshes all styles of dance, resulting in a contemporary montage.

“It’s a hybrid of many forms,” she said.

“The ballet aesthetic is pretty buried.”

Lost Action also draws on an original composition by Owen Belton, a composer Pite has been working with for the past 15 years.

The music is also a montage, beginning with scratchy old folk tunes and adding dialogue spoken over the recordings by the dancers.

Lost Action, taken from the phrase, “lost in action,” doesn’t tell a story, said Pite.

It’s more narrative fragments — like snippets of memory, she said.

Pite wants to affect people with her works. “It’s not complete until it’s shared,” she said.

“But I don’t want to manipulate people or force them to see it in a particular way,” she added.

It’s not a matter of intellectually understanding the piece, or interpreting it.

“I just want people to have an experience here they may not be able to articulate in words,” said Pite.

“I want to touch them in ways that are beyond words.”

Lost Action is at the Yukon Arts Centre tonight.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $25, students and seniors pay $15.

Just Posted

The Yukon’s current outbreak of COVID-19 is driven by close contact between people at gatherings, such as graduation parties. (Black Press file)
Yukon logs 21 active cases as COVID-19 spreads through graduation parties

Anyone who attended a graduation party is being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms.

Yukon RCMP and other emergency responders were on the scene of a collision at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway on June 12. (Black Press file)
June 12 collision sends several to hospital

The intersection at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway was closed… Continue reading

Artist Meshell Melvin examines her work mounted in the Yukon Arts Centre on June 7. The show includes over 1,000 individual portraits. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Double portrait show at the Yukon Arts Centre features art that looks back

“I hope they’ve been looked at fondly, and I’m hoping that fun looking comes back.”

Sarah Walz leads a softball training session in Dawson City. Photo submitted by Sport Yukon.
Girls and women are underserved in sport: Sport Yukon

Sport Yukon held a virtual event to celebrate and discuss girls and women in sport

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bagged meter fees could be discounted for patios

Council passes first reading at special meeting

Kluane Adamek, AFN Yukon’s regional chief, has signalled a postponement to a graduation ceremony scheduled for today due to COVID-19. She is seen here in her Whitehorse office on March 17. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
AFN Yukon’s post-secondary grad celebration postponed

The event scheduled for June 14 will be rescheduled when deemed safe

(Alexandra Newbould/Canadian Press)
In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on.
Terror charges laid against man accused in London attack against Muslim family

Liam Casey Canadian Press A vehicle attack against a Muslim family in… Continue reading

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, poses for a portrait in the boardroom outside his office in Iqaluit, Nunavut, on Sept. 30, 2020. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Two cases of COVID-19 at Iqaluit school, 9 active in Nunavut

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle… Continue reading

The Village of Carmacks has received federal funding for an updated asset management plan. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Federal funding coming to Carmacks

The program is aimed at helping municipalities improve planning and decision-making around infrastructure

Paddlers start their 715 kilometre paddling journey from Rotary Park in Whitehorse on June 26, 2019. The 2021 Yukon River Quest will have a different look. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
The 22nd annual Yukon River Quest moves closer to start date

Although the race will be modified in 2021, a field of 48 teams are prepared to take the 715 kilometre journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City on the Yukon River

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its June 7 meeting

Letters to the editor.
This week’s mailbox: the impact of residential schools, Whitehorse Connects, wildfires

Dear Editor; Anguish – extreme pain, distress or anxiety. Justice – the… Continue reading

PROOF CEO Ben Sanders is seen with the PROOF team in Whitehorse. (Submitted)
Proof and Yukon Soaps listed as semifinalists for national award

The two companies were shortlisted from more than 400 nominated

Most Read