It's hard to expect anything less than stunning dancing from Crystal Pite and Richard Siegal and they don't disappoint in their latest collaboration, Double Story. Pite and Siegal used to dance with Ballett Frankfurt under the direction of the venerable choreographer William Forsythe. However, Double Story pays only moderate tribute to ballet while drawing extensively from contact improvisation, wrestling technique, and other unusual forms that could only have come from Siegal and Pite's exquisitely creative bodies.
Choreographed by Siegal, The Bouncy Woman Piece is the first of two works on the program. Imagine crossing a rubber chicken with a tap dancer and you get a pretty good idea of the central movement theme in this hypnotic exploration of identity and memory. As Pite skims and shuffles across the stage, she erases lines of text that Siegal has written in chalk on the floor, in effect blurring someone's recorded past and sense of self.
The second work is Man Asunder by Pite, a duet on herself and Siegal. A curious story about a man and a woman is taken apart, reassembled, and retold. The audience is left to make sense of a piece that presents, in Pite's own words, "series of entry points of alternate possibilities. The effect is like viewing a Cubist painting" everything is there, but rarely from the same angle. Aided by an incandescent sound design by Diane Labrosse, Pite and Siegal reconstruct a sinister story through movement, text, and puppetry.
There are elements in the production that can leave viewers bewildered. For example, Pite and Siegal repeatedly shift in and out of 'performing' mode. Several times during the show the two run about arranging props and volleying stage setup instructions. Though it may be an attempt to make the world of contemporary performance more accessible, it can come across as somewhat gimmicky. But it's easy to gloss this over. Pite and Siegal's crystalline lines and their intensely malleable relationship to time and space can make you forget practically everything.
Crystal Pite can be next seen performing with Peter Bingham in Vanishing Point, March 9-12, 2005, at the EDAM Studio Theatre. Her company website is www.kiddpivot.org. Richard Siegal's upcoming work will be performed in New York. For information about his company, The Bakery, visit www.thebakery.org.