When acclaimed Vancouver choreographer Crystal Pite's Body and Soul was first brought to the stage by the Paris Opera Ballet in November 2019, Vancouver dance fans would have had to hop on a flight to the French capital in order to take in the performance, which, at the time, was reserved solely for in-person audiences at the famed Palais Garnier.
That's set to change this month. Canadians will soon be able to take in the captivating performance without having to leave their couches, let alone board a plane.
Body and Soul will be available for online viewing from Feb. 17 to 23 courtesy of the brand-new streaming platform Digidance, Vancouver non-profit DanceHouse announced this week. The online release marks the Canadian film premiere of Pite's latest work with the Paris Opera Ballet, while Canadians will become the first international audience to experience Body and Soul since its world premiere in Paris.
Digidance is a new initiative formed in response to COVID-19 by four of the country's most prominent dance presenters: Vancouver's DanceHouse, Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and Montreal's Danse Danse. It aims to deliver "exceptional, full-length Canadian and international dance content online" to audiences from coast-to-coast.
“Dance, perhaps more than other disciplines, faces an uphill battle with the challenges presented by COVID-19. Yet despite the hurdles, the pandemic has also acted as a powerful catalyst for change born out of necessity. Digidance was formed out of such a need — to contribute to the sustainability and longevity of dance in Canada,” said Jim Smith, Digidance partner and artistic and executive director of DanceHouse.
“We’re immensely grateful and proud to be officially launching Digidance with Crystal’s extraordinary work, Body and Soul. We look forward to sharing many more presentations with our audiences, while building a rich legacy of dance in Canada — and internationally — for future generations.”
'[E]pic protest, profound personal struggle, and collective survival'
Body and Soul is Pite’s second full-length creation for the renowned French company, following 2016’s highly-praised The Seasons’ Canon. Filmed live during Body and Soul's 2019 world premiere performance at Palais Garnier, the Canadian film premiere represents another major notch in Pite's belt within recent months. The choreographer behind Vancouver's Kidd Pivot company was appointed to the Order of Canada in November 2020. Pite is a former company member of Ballet British Columbia and William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt, who made her professional choreographic debut with Ballet BC in 1990.
In the release, Pite acknowledged that while COVID-19 "has brought deep challenges to artists, it has also encouraged all kinds of innovation and creativity in our industry."
She continued, “I’m heartened to know that Digidance is providing an opportunity for people to experience dance on screen. The creation of Body and Soul was a significant chapter in my creative life. It was an honour to work with the sublime dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, and a thrilling challenge to face the history and possibility of the institution itself. I’m so happy to be able to share Body and Soul with my fellow Canadians.”
Pite's Body and Soul features 36 dancers, and is presented in three distinct parts. It begins with voice-over text that describes, "in purely physical terms, a scene of conflict between two individuals," according to the release. "The work articulates Pite’s ongoing fascination with conflict, connectedness, and the embodiment of the human spirit."
Throughout the performance, the piece's meaning morphs and deepens, as the perceived conflict generates tension between individuals, between groups and even between species. "The Paris Opera Ballet’s mastery as an ensemble is evident in Pite’s complex choreographic swarms; individual dancers are virtuosic in breathtaking solos and duets," reads the release. "The dancers evoke scenes of epic protest, profound personal struggle, and collective survival.
"Body and Soul is a portrait of the human condition that is timeless, vast and heartbreakingly intimate."
The full-length, 85-minute film was produced by the Paris Opera Ballet, directed by Tommy Pascal, and is presented with both English and French subtitles. Prior to the streamed performance, viewers will be treated to a 15-minute pre-recorded interview with Pite and her Kidd Pivot creative team, all of whom are credited with artistic contributions to Body and Soul.
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Body and Soul: Choreographed by Crystal Pite, performed by Paris Opera Ballet
When: Wednesday, Feb. 17 to Tuesday, Feb. 23
Where: Streaming at dancehouse.ca (Link available for seven days, streaming in Canada only)
Cost: From $15, plus applicable taxes