Because without it we wouldn’t have light. We wouldn’t have celestial, amber-hued bodies formulating new languages with one another’s limbs. In other words, we wouldn’t have the final section of Crystal Pite’s Dark Matters. (And thank goodness we have all the sections that came before.)
“What’s the verdict?” we are asked by a voice-over as the piece opens with a moving spotlight, guiding our eyes to the nooks and crannies of a decadent set while allowing us to catch glimpses of creepy black clad figures, or did we?
A man sits at a table. Work things are strewn about: pieces of wood, a ruler, scissors. A lamp hangs low and along with the sound score, helps define the intimacy of the scene: a loner working, creating, introducing body parts of what is to become a puppet.
A sweet dance ensues, a pas de deux between creator and plaything. The puppet, manipulated by the figures in black, climbs and manipulates. Our perception is suspended like the puppet itself. Our eyes move in and out of focus, at times forgetting that the puppet isn’t real. It is wonderful that this is how dance is introduced into the work.
As vignettes progress, the puppet becomes increasingly volatile and dangerous. It has a mind of its own, childish and with unselfconscious volatility and also regret.
This intimate and lonely world is torn apart; the set is itself a sort of puppet as it comes apart at the seams. The puppeteers walk the earth. They impose abuse on one another and manipulate our creator/loner into a sort of puppet half-life.
The second act begins with a solo, a figure in black against a white floor. The murky lighting feels a little dangerous, like driving at dusk, transitioning from day to night.
Five dancers in pedestrian clothes appear and begin a group dance, causally linking and detaching, affecting one another in close and far proximity. Movement is generated from unlikely body parts. Torsos are deeply investigated, contracted into doubled over-ness while legs and feet articulate into and out of the floor. The movement is both loose-limbed and specific. There is a repeated gesture of clasping the head. Hands grab limbs out of necessity, instigating subsequent movements. Duets and solos are laced with references, reminding us of that puppet duet and the specificity of articulating from strings attached to joints.
Near the end a male dancer performs a solo that has for the first time elements of audience awareness. He confronts us head-on as the voice-over returns, asking us about the verdict and telling us that The Book of Fate is closed to us. Earlier we saw the word Fake replace Fate and so the shadow of that layer is there too, like the negative of an image. The dark matters.
The final duet is sublime in its simplicity. It is the paring down of all that came before. It is two bodies, two souls really, communing. Our hero/puppet creator is back, guiding and allowing himself to be guided. Power gently shifts back and forth. It is mutual curiosity and discovery, this time without the childlike irresponsibility.
The final image is burned onto my retinal permanent collection of perfect moments.
Driving home the moon was exactly half. I’ll remember that the next time it’s full.