‘The Tempest Replica’ premieres at Spaulding
By Katie Sinclair, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, September 17, 2012
by Katie Sinclair The Dartmouth Staff
The familiar characters of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” were nearly unrecognizable in “The Tempest Replica,” in which contemporary dance company Kidd Pivot — dressed in all-white bodysuits, clothes, shoes and face masks — made their U.S. debut at the Hopkins Center this weekend.
The company, which consists of between seven and nine dancers at ay given time, decided to adapt the play through a strict reliance on movement, rather than words. The white, mannequin-like figures delivered a novel interpretation of the 400-year-old play.
“The piece was created in November 2011 in Frankfurt as part of a residency in Frankfurt,” Eric Beauchesne, one of the dance captains of Kidd Pivot and who was performing as Prospero in the show, said.
“The Tempest Replica,” envisioned and choreographed by Crystal Pite, interpreted the darker themes of the play through powerful, acrobatic choreography.
“Crystal’s vision makes [the performance] unique,” Beauchesne said. “She’s mainly what makes the work exciting to watch. For me, it’s a great mix of physicality, work and intelligence. It brings together awesome dance work, sometimes complex, sometimes simple and very original.”
The first half of the performance provided a basic summary of the play, and all of the characters — save the magician Prospero — were faceless. Pite explained that the white costumes and scenery aimed to evoke a storyboard with Prospero acting as an artist or director figure.
“In the first part, Crystal is interested in the narrative aspect of the work as an entrance door,” Beauchesne said. “She likes challenges, and she chose one of the weirdest and most complex Shakespeare plays to adapt.”
The first part of the performance, which provided the staging and plot points for the story, gave the audience hints about “what the story is about, in a physical way, in physical language, through pantomine,” he said.
While the facelessness of the characters was initially disconcerting, the dancers proved capable of fully embodying their roles. The dancer playing Ariel evoked the sprite’s fiery demeanor through fluttering hand movements. Caliban, crawling and contorting across the floor and accompanied by eerie sound effects, was equally impressive. Each scene was labeled with the corresponding act and scene number of the play using video projections that supplemented the dancers’ movements.
The second half of the performance broke away from the more structured first half and saw the characters dressed in more contemporary costumes.
“In the second half, we wear street costumes, pedestrian-looking things,” Beauchesne said.
The second half also incorporated key lines from Shakespeare’s text to more fully explore the themes of the work.
Confrontations between characters were choreographed gracefully with the dancers sinuously twisting in and out of each other’s grasps.
Kidd Pivot’s artistry was most apparent when the performance examined relationships between the characters. One of the most beautiful scenes in the piece was when Prospero, struggling to uphold his promise of freedom to Ariel, expresses his internal doubts through a complicated series of lifts. The scene ended with the newly-freed Ariel donning a pair of butterfly wings sculpted out of wire.
The tone of the performance was mostly serious, with a few moments of light humor. The scenery and the costumes were minimalist in style, with a flock of paper boats representing Prospero’s magical abilities. While the performance was not overly romantic, the pas-de-deux between Miranda and Ferdinand, performed to a light piano score set against the sound of rolling waves, beautifully expressed the characters’ love.
The piece’s haunting ending, which featured Prospero being surrounded by four white-suited “replicas” that applauded silently, was a nod to the epilogue of the source play, which is widely believed to represent Shakespeare’s own retirement from writing.
“The Tempest Replica” shined most when the dances aligned with the material featured in Shakespeare’s play. Other scenes, however, were more difficult to interpret. “The Tempest Replica,” given its ambitious subject material, did an impressive job of incorporating the themes and nuances of the play, bringing to life the essential emotions of “The Tempest” — love, loss, forgiveness and letting go.
Although the dance performance retained the narrative structure of “The Tempest,” it did not delve much into plot outside of basic summary. Multiple events this week complemented the dance performance, focusing more on the context and background of the play. On Sept. 11, the Howe library held an open reading of selected scenes of the play, and on Sept. 14, the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals performed “The Tempest Sides,” which also showcased excerpts from the play.
“It gives a broader understanding of the dance piece if we’re able at all to illuminate characters or plot,” Max Hunter ’13, a member of Rude Mechanicals, said. “It might create a more understood realization of what Kidd Pivot brings to the story.”
The event was one of the first collaborations between the Rude Mechanicals and the Hopkins Center, according to Hunter.
“We don’t get to do a lot of the smaller shows — we usually do one big show a term,” Stephanie Abbott-Grobicki ’15, the company manager of Rude Mechanicals, said. “It’s great to get a chance to give people a taste of what we do.”
Even though it was the first week of the term, the Rude Mechanicals were unfazed by the daunting task of putting together a performance so quickly.
“If nothing else, our group excels at rapid organization in the final hours,” Hunter said.
On Sept. 15, Kidd Pivot dancer Bryan Arias also led a workshop that explored the company’s ability to bring a story to life through the body.
To add further insight and understanding to Kidd Pivot’s performance, “The Tempest Replica” was preceded by “Tempestories,” a talk given by English professor Lynda Boose. The lecture established the historical background of the text and situated Kidd Pivot’s performance with other interpretations of Shakespeare’s work.
“This is a play that inspires more revisions than any other,” Boose said.
Boose also discussed the theme of father-daughter relationships present in Shakespeare, which is at the heart of many interpretations of “The Tempest.”
“Shakespeare’s fathers are notorious for refusing to let their daughters go,” Boose said.
Boose explained how “The Tempest” can be interpreted through many different points of views, from a neo-colonial to a feminist viewpoint.
“Crystal has a great way to connect with the audience because she brings many entrance doors to her work,” Beauchesne said. “For Crystal, it’s very important that her work connects with the public. She wants it to be smart, but she also wants that reaction.”
“The Tempest Replica,” an 80-minute performance, took five weeks to create, during the group’s two to three-year residency in Germany, according to Beauchesne. Kidd Pivot has been in great demand recently in the last four to five years, he said.
Staff writer Ashley Ulrich contributed reporting to this article.