When dolls attack
  • Ruby Washington
  • When dolls attack

It’s been a few days, but I still can’t get that malevolent cardboard puppet out of my head. Last weekend White Bird brought an insanely talented company called Kidd Pivot (and their marionette) to the Newmark Theater. The dance troupe, originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, are currently based in Germany, where they are in their second year in a residency at a Frankfurt cultural center. The show they performed last week was "Dark Matters." Kidd Pivot comprises six dancers led by acclaimed choreographer Crystal Pite. Here's a promo clip:

“Dark Matters” begins primarily as theater, with four black-clad figures stalking around a stage that looks like a giant, flimsy reconstruction of an Edward Gorey illustration—complete with dramatic spotlights and thunder sounds. The eerie sounds make an insular world; “We were thinking about ‘what is the sound of making,’” said Pite, who often begins the construction of a performance with a philosophical query. We hear the sound of scissors splicing, papers rifling, and eventually a cardboard marionette emerges from the center stage table of a very nerdy, Peter Parker-looking protagonist (dancer Peter Chu). The first act unfolds as a battle between this puppet and its puppetmaker. The puppet is expertly manipulated by four dancers—those anonymous, black-clad figures—and the puppet eventually kills its master, ironically with the very scissors that were used to create it. The stage is torn from its supports, and the curtain falls.

After a kung fu-themed scene (which is kind of funny, maybe?—the only complaint about the show is a couple abrupt shifts in tone, as well as a few moments of heavyhandedness), the show changes pace; the dancers are in workout attire, and offer up some truly incredible dancing. The collective movement of the dancers, their fluidity married to control, is totally captivating. The puppet from the first act is gone, but the dancers flop and deflate across the stage, as if they as if themselves are attached to strings. All the more incredible is when you read the program, and you learn that some of this dancing is improvised.

Dark Matters was Kidd Pivot’s second appearance in Portland. Fingers crossed that they'll be back soon. In the meantime, White Bird brings Israeli group Yasmeen Godder to PSU’s Lincoln Hall next weekend, and they're sure to bring some saucy spectacles. Which may or may not involve cleaning the innards of a stuffed lion? Anyways, here’s a preview clip of their performance "Love Fire":