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Kidd Pivot Founder Crystal Pite, 2011 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award Recipient, Turns Heads

Note: A version of this interview was posted on July 5, 2011. It has been slightly updated to run in advance of Kidd Pivot’s 2012 engagement at Jacob’s Pillow.

Rural Intelligence ArtsThe Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award is no mere honor. In addition to the prestige of being recognized by one of the world’s leading dance organizations and a custom-designed glass sculpture by the prominent Berkshire-based artist Tom Patti, the award includes a check for $25,000, one of the largest cash awards in the dance industry. It can be a lifeline for a struggling company.
Rural Intelligence ArtsEstablished in 2007 by an anonymous gift, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award has honored such established dance-world luminaries (and Pillow favorites) as Bill T. Jones, Alonzo King, Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar of Big Dance Theater, and the late Merce Cunningham. The 2011 recipient was Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite, who performs with her troupe, Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM, at the Pillow from Wednesday, June 27 through Sunday, July 1 in her 2009 piece, Dark Matters about which last year The New York Times advised its readers “…you should rush off to the Berkshires to see it.”

In addition to forming Kidd Pivot in 2001 and building the company’s repertoire, Pite has choreographed for top companies in Europe and America, including Cullberg Ballet, Ballett Frankfurt, and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. Kidd Pivot is currently based in Germany, where Pite danced with William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet for several years, after beginning her career with Ballet British Columbia, with whom she made her choreographic debut in 1990 and first appeared at the Pillow in 1993.
Rural Intelligence editor Bess J.M. Hochstein spoke with the Pillow’s Ella Baff to find out more about Crystal Pite and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award.
Bess Hochstein: Did you see Crystal Pite dance with Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet? If so, when, and did anything about her as a performer stand out?
Rural Intelligence ArtsElla Baff: I can’t recall when I saw her exactly, but she always stands out even among the greatest dancers. She has everything: intensity, focus, generosity, blazing technical ability, mystery, virtuosity, but with a modesty that is in service of the work, not the ego.
BH: What first drew you to Pite’s work as a choreographer?
EB: It always looks original, made of its own cloth, not “derived” from anything. She has a deep imagination that draws the viewer in, step by step. She builds a “world” on stage that we feel we can enter. She places the highest demands on the dancers, who are superior artists and live up to what she asks of them. You never know what will happen next when you see a performance of Kidd Pivot and that tells us something truly original is happening on stage.
Rural Intelligence ArtsBH: Do you see the impact of William Forsythe in her work – if so, in what ways? Would you consider him mentor to Pite?
EB: I think Crystal considers William to be a mentor. Anyone who has worked with him seems to feel this way. He is brilliant and he broke new ground in the evolution of ballet and contemporary dance. I would say that their work is completely different from one another, but might be compared in terms of intensity and intelligence, and that it requires the most disciplined accomplished dancers of great mental and physical stamina to dance their work.
Rural Intelligence ArtsBH: Pite was visibly moved when she received the award, and noted it came at a critical time for her personally and professionally. Do you happen to know what she was talking about?
EB: Crystal has been working very hard, steadily developing her unique way of moving, her creative projects, and keeping a company together. I think she feels that receiving a big honor from Jacob’s Pillow is an acknowledgement of what she has been working for, and it is an encouragement to continue.
BH: The four earlier Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award recipients have longer careers and a larger body of work. Why did this year’s award go to someone with such a relatively brief career and with such a concise repertoire?
EB: The donors who support the Award are exceptional people. They are primarily interested in a pure idea of the Award benefiting deserving artists. Sometimes that will mean someone established, and many times, artists who are less established, in hope that the Award will advance their creative development and career. There are no strings attached to the Award, so the artists can use the money however they wish. The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award is a true gift. [Note: young dancer/choreographer Kyle Abraham received the 2012 Award.]
BH: All of the previous recipients are U.S.-based. Does this year’s award signal a more global perspective going forward?
EB: I don’t know; we have no rules really. The Award is about exceptional choreographers. 
BH: How are the recipients chosen? Is it your decision or is there a committee or panel?
EB:  There is no official panel or committee. I confer with staff, colleagues, and the donors of the Award.
Rural Intelligence ArtsBH: When you invite a company to the Pillow, is it with a specific program or work in mind or do they choose what to present? Why is Kidd Pivot bringing Dark Matters, and not Pite’s most recent work, The You Show?
EB: It is with a specific program in mind. I saw Dark Matters and knew I wanted to bring it. I have not seen The You Show yet.
I like to present premieres at the Pillow, which means that what arrives on stage is not only a surprise for the audience but for me! I may see a rehearsal at a time that I need to make a decision for the next season, and I need to just take the risk or not. Jacob’s Pillow is a place where we feel it’s important to present not only the classics and companies that people know but new companies and new work so we can expand our ideas about what dance is from all over the world.
Rural Intelligence ArtsBH: [This week the Pillow has Morphoses in the Ted Shawn Theatre.] Kidd Pivot is in the much-smaller Doris Duke. Would it have been risky in some way to have Kidd Pivot in the Ted Shawn, despite Pite’s having received this prestigious award?
EB: [It] was an aesthetic decision. I think Kidd Pivot belongs in the more intimate Duke Theatre…

NOTE: Tickets for Kidd Pivot’s 2012 appearance are extremely limited; several performances are expected to sell out. 

Kidd Pivot at Jacob’s Pillow
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, June 27- Saturday, June 30, 8:15pm
Saturday, June 30 & Sunday, July 1, 2:15pm
All performances: $38

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Posted by Bess Hochstein on 06/25/12 at 07:39 AM • Permalink