25. Crystallized : Contemporary

I start my Archival internship with HB tomorrow. And while I’ve been waiting, I’ve exhausted all my usual ballet company webpages, searching for some archival inspiration from other companies around the world (surprise, there isn’t much on the archival side online).

I’ve become very intimate with this dozen or so of world-class ballet companies, and I’ve even started a fun game of predicting the eventual return of classics and choreographers to certain companies; it’s like clockwork, they seem to go around and around with very minimal changes in programs from season to season.

Contemporary ballet is a sham for most major companies, and they sadly remain in the classical realm, feeding a classical audience with no desire for the truly contemporary along with their usual serving of ballets.

So, this brought about another ordeal: I’ve been struggling with something hinted at while I was an undergrad, this “contemporary vs ballet” clique thing. (To be clear, this isn’t like the “hip-hop vs ballet” clique thing that the film industry vomits out every few years.)

And here we have it, a very personal musing about these two push-and-pull subjects in dance today, and how the continuous duet (duel?) between the two styles/genres of dance will always circulate in our dance students and majors/minors, as it continues to for me.

I want to make it clear that this is about the contemporary fleet I adore and don’t spend enough time talking about, with a small feature on Crystal Pite/Kidd Pivot.

My friend recently introduced me to someone as a “classical trained ballerina” which is SUCH A HUGE stretch; I was, at my teenage best, a mediocre suburban ballet student with only three years of pointe work and no partnering experience! But also I don’t want to only and always be associated with classical ballet… Is that the vibe I put out there? Cause it’s not what I intend…

I personally embrace nearly all forms of dance (although I have a strong, unearthly disgust for theatrical jazz…). And I try to be professional aware of my ultimate direction in life; I fight to preserve the historic integrity of DANCE, not just ballet or classical modern exclusively.

I want all dance to look back at its history in order to stay relevant and move onward. I want to watch different dance forms collaborate and go from start to finish in the creative process.

I would hate the dance world to become a mockery of cut-and-paste pieces by cut-and-paste choreographers, companies, and dancers for cut-and-paste audience members.

Diversity is a huge buzzword in the dance world right now, especially the ballet world, and it’s rightly so, even if it is overused by the media. We need not only diverse dancers, audience members, and choreographers but diverse works and festivals with diverse movement languages and diverse companies with diverse goals– which, yes, all go hand-in-hand.

Bringing this back to my undergrad years, we were trained in classic Hawkins with dips of RAD ballet and some jazz (I opted out on those jazz classes with Laban). But our little millennial hearts pounded for contemporary dance. The kind of movement we explored at ACDF that one year, saw horrendous represented on SYTYCD, and were influenced by from our wonderful guest artists visiting from Germany and Iceland and Mexico and beyond.

My undergrad years taking technique classes at TXST were fruitful years of finding out the contemporary in the dance world without being in a program/division which demanded only the contemporary. Or vice versa with classical ballet or jazz or etc.

Contemporary dance is something I’m pinning for right now, and I’ve come to find a truly beautiful and exciting choreographer/company in Crystal Pitte/Kidd Pivot. I’ve known about her for a few years since she’s worked with ballet companies, as classical ballet companies continue to label her as “the strange, new female choreographer.” But I feel stupid to admit I didn’t know about her aside from her balletic work.

She has an entire devotion to contemporary dance through her company and personal style. I want to highlight her quickly. Maybe I’ll do a longer post on her late, too.



She danced with Ballet British Columbia and Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt. She’s a beautiful blonde Canadian but not “that kind” of Canadian. You could almost mistake her for a German Bausch dancer; she has those fine, crisp Pina lines but a brazen delivery and postulating presence.

Since 1990 she’s been choreographing and collaborating, maintaining a direction for and about dance in many directions. Kidd Pivot is her current dance company. And they are an small international force of brains, muscles, and concepts. I love how smart this company is, how wide they spread themselves, and how open they’ve remained. The improv feast that goes on in their work is so welcoming.

My personal favorite collaboration of hers happened in 2009 with NBC, and later, when I was aware of it, in 2013 with PNB (and returning to PBN this 2015-2016 season), Emergance.

Now I realize where my divides rest: here’s a truly contemporary dance maker creating a work in pointe shoes for long limbed ladies, with a notoriously Mr. B. obsessed classical ballet company as PNB. How these two worlds meet is remarkable and necessary, but also confusing and frustrating at times.

I wish I could know Pite as Pite with Kidd Pivot, without the associations to classical ballet companies; but, alas, this is the way it’s been for a while now.

Contemporary dance hitches a ride on the fame and fortune of classical ballet, while classical ballet tugs at contemporary dance for an awakening.


Emergence, PNB 2009

I’m swayed between the two, and this image of pointe-wearing improv pieces haunt me. They don’t really work together in the very strict sense. I’ll continue to eat it up nonetheless and welcome contemporary dance choreographers to classical ballet companies, but I know we must try to not just crystallize or blur the lines of both dance forms for the sake blending.

We must keep dance at the forefront with separate education and awareness on all genres of dance which interact and collaborate together.

So, yes, have a  program note like this: “Pite the choreographer from Kidd Pivot, a contemporary dance company, collaborates with the classical ballet company, PNB, to produce a contemporary ballet piece.” But then also have her return, with her own company of contemporary dancers no less, in order to stress the importance of a dance inclusion, not division.

Maybe classical ballet companies should invite the company of the choreographer first and collaborate later, instead of the reverse? Maybe dance festivals, such as Fall for Dance, shouldn’t include so many classical ballet pieces or find a better way to represent everything without sending the message that everything is the same as one another?

Crystal Pite / Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM

Crystal Pite / Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM
“The You Show” (U.S. Premiere)
Jerome Robbins Theater
Baryshnikov Arts Center
New York, NY
February 23, 2012
Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

I’m guilty for yearning for a complete festival of contemporary delights that have been involved in classical ballet in some form or another: give me Rosas, Batsheva, Nederlans Dans, Akram Khan, Random Dance, L-E-V, et cetera.

I guess what I’m trying to figure out is, Why can’t I side with both for personal and professional reasons? I obviously want to keep dance FOR dance, and I want more contemporary festivals that expose me to the contemporary makers out there. (One Dance Salad a year isn’t cutting it…)

I admit I keep coming up short by mentioning choreographers and companies that have dabbled in the double-dipping of contemp-classical.

I have to make a definite decision for grad school which will be similar to this dilemma, and I’m dreading it because I want all of dance, not just some of it, not just a “Ballet Studies” degree, even though I want that kind of intense focus too. I entertain the idea of exposure to everything, but in reality that’s not happening as often as I need it to be.

So, I guess, I’ll just keep trying to undercover contemporary dance as I did in undergrad, while being passionately about what I know and see more frequently, this odd and alluring contemporary-esque ballet.


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