Betroffenheit, the collaboration between Kidd Pivot/Electric Company Theatre, presented by Whitebird Dance at the Newmark Theatre in Portland Saturday night, pushed at odd angles through territory that at times felt dank, or prickly, hot and then cold. The audience was at times arrested, cajoled, invigorated and perhaps browbeaten. This was not namby-pamby dance for its own sake, nor was it theater alone, but a hybridization that, though not consistently successful, whatever that means, was at least doing something new.
Created by Crystal Pite and Jonathan Young, the work plumbed the traumatic history and personal experience of Mr Young, who wrote the work, and who also served as the piece’s lead performer. Young has an affable, inviting style, a naturalism onstage, inviting the audience into his fettered, tortured world, a place ripe with imagination and the nuances of failures and failing.
As choreographer and director, Pite extracts the ironic, bullying gestalt from Classical forms, teasing out the sinister rhythms in a jazzy turnout or a seemingly innocuous tap dance routine. Her vision juxtaposes crusty sideshow entertainers with the salty walls of some institution (maybe it’s the protagonist’s mind? Ah, art…) and the language around recovery and “healing”.
The effort brought out plenty of food for thought, and was expertly performed. Kidd Pivot’s dancers are uniformly strong, infusing each moment with clarity and determination. Tiffany Tregarthen’s reptilian deep knee bends, and her disjointed, broken carriage, Golum-like, are haunting with or without the tiny clown hat. (The clown hat sends it over the top.) Jermaine Spivey is also electric as Young’s “co-host” counterpart.
Perhaps the closeness to the source material rendered the editing process a challenge, but too often, ideas pooled into eddies, or followed little rivulets until they lost momentum. This pacing seemed more a challenge from the theatrical side, as if the stage would repeatedly swell up with water, only to drain away. I wanted to see the heightened pressure of continual growth, deeper and more thorough exploration.