FORUM: The Unknown in Dark Mattersposted on November 8th, 2010 by Ashley Urbano
Student Forum returns with another round of student critiques, in collaboration with Montclair State’s Creative Research Center. Ashley Urbano (below), Brie Baldwin, and Brittany Wirths offer their responses to different aspects of Kidd Pivot’s intricate and haunting Dark Matters. Read on!
In a world where the unknown plays a pivotal part in our actions, are we really the ones in control of our future? It seems that the shadows that follow us all around, the unknown darknesses around us, play a higher role in our lives than was originally expected. Crystal Pite’s Dark Matters does its best to highlight and ask audiences this very question with its use of contemporary dance.
Crystal Pite herself acknowledges that doubt is a better situation than conviction. She quotes playwright John Patrick Shanley: “conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinte.” It is that very doubt that motivated her to create this piece. This same piece moves with precision and expertise, but while watching you feel [that it might combust] at the roots at any given second. It’s a practice in self-awareness and awareness of the unknown.
With black felt body suits, the dancers of Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM are faceless, genderless. They are granted a freedom to move without doubt, without the worry of claiming a mistake as their own. We cannot see who they are in the first act, so they take advantage of that freedom and fluidity of their movements.
The first act starts off with the idea of “your creations can turn around and destroy you also.” It begins with dancer Peter Chu as the creator of a puppet. With a voice reading excerpts of Voltaire’s “Poem on the Lisbon Disaster,” we see the relationship evolve from a calm, placid one to an emotional and violent one. This puppet, which is controlled by the black-felt-body-suited marionette dancers, demands attention and irritates its creator. It does this so much that the creator tries to kill it with a wooden axe. Controlled by these marionettes, the puppet fights back and kills its creator with scissors.
These marionettes are representing dark matter, but can the creator in the storyline see them? They are supposed to be “invisible,” as dark matter in our lives actually is. The first act ends with the mischievous faceless dancers in a choreographed fight scene that is enjoyable to watch, although I didn’t really know what the point of it was. One single dancer remains and destroys the set.
The second act begins with a focus on contemporary dance. The same dancers who were covered in suits are now back, this time with no suits. They dance fluidly, with the feeling that each movement they make is controlled and manipulated by the other. It is sharp and precise, but they move with a feeling of doubt—as if they know they are being controlled by a higher power, as the dark matter dancer stands and watches them move around the stage.
Throughout the second act, some dancers leave the stage, allowing us to see solo work or a pair of dancers work together. Eventually, all return, but all fall down. In my interpretation, they all are dancing through their lives, which dark matter is controlling. When they all fall down at the end of their own lives, it means their lives are over.
For me, the most moving part of this performance was when the dark matter dancer took off her suit. We saw that she was a women and a beautiful dancer (Sandra Marin Garcia), and when Peter Chu comes back to pair with her, it is moving. I felt like I was watching the spirit of the puppet he has created come back to apologize for killing him. We see there is a love for each other when Peter kisses Sandra, and also destruction when Sandra accidentally kills Peter. There is remorse, as there was when the puppet killed its creator. This time, she sewed him up and brought him back to life, which was amazing to watch.
I thought the concept for this piece was spectacular. I can honestly say that I have never seen a piece of theater quite like Dark Matters before. I think the lighting was exceptional. The stage was always in some sort of semidarkness, and we could really envision these dancers as actual shadows, thanks to the lighting. It also made the dancers in suits a little scary when they skulked around the stage.
The dancers of Kidd Pivot were great to watch; most were Juilliard trained. They all moved with complete precision. I just wish Crystal Pite could have actually performed in this piece also. After all, she was the creator and originally played the role Garcia played.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Matters, and I hope one day I can get the chance to see it again. I’m sure over time it will continue to evolve and master its already beautiful forms. I feel that this subject has endless possibilities and room for exploration. Since we don’t exactly know what dark matter is yet scientifically, theatrically it can evolve into just about anything.
When it comes to theater, that really is something beautiful.
Ashley Urbano is a junior Theatre Studies major in MSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance, College of the Arts. This essay was written for Dr. Neil Baldwin’s class Dramaturgy: The Questioning Spirit.