St James Theatre 2, Wellington

03/03/2018 - 04/03/2018

New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2018

Production Details

“An overwhelming theatrical experience … raw, funny and profoundly, tenderly human” – THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

Theatre maker Jonathon Young and five-star choreographer Crystal Pite have united forces with astounding effect in this Olivier Award–winning dance work.

A work of staggering pain and beauty, this cutting-edge dance–theatre hybrid lays bare on stage the emotional state of shock and bewilderment that takes hold of you in the wake of a disaster. These two artists at the top of their game transform an almost unbearable personal tragedy into “a stunning testament to what can happen when life turns into art” (The Globe and Mail, Canada).

This piece has taken international stages by storm. See why, in this, its final world tour performance. Make it a must-see. You won’t regret it – or forget it.

★★★★★  The Guardian (UK)

★★★★★ The Stage (UK)

★★★★★ Evening Standard (UK)

“An exceptional dance–theatre hybrid tells the story of the aftermath of a profound personal tragedy” on Stuff.

St James Theatre
Saturday 03 & Sunday 04 March 2018
Contains strobe-like effects and coarse language.

Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

Brings audience face to face with shock, trauma and grief

Review by Ann Hunt 05th Mar 2018

Betroffenheit is an intense award-winning production from Canada which is giving its final performances on its last world tour, as part of the New Zealand Festival.  There is no English equivalent for the word “betroffenheit”, which describes the state of shock or grief after a traumatic event.

Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young are the creators of this dance-theatre work. Pite is the choreographer, co-creator and director.  Young is co-creator, writer and performer. But it was Young’s personal tragedy – the deaths of his 14-year-old only daughter, and niece and nephew in a fire – that became the engine for this production. [More


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A world of existential anguish and hallucinogenic physicality

Review by Chris Jannides 04th Mar 2018

Betroffenheit, the award-winning hybrid dance theatre show by Canadians Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young has hit our shores as part of Wellington’s NZ Festival. It is a collaboration between Young’s Electric Company Theatre and Pite’s own dance company, Kidd Pivot. Three years old, this is its final tour. We are fortunate to have seen it. This is a powerful work that looks at themes of tragic loss, mental breakdown, and addiction. For lovers of Pite’s work, Betroffenheit features all the choreographic skills, virtuosity and crafting for which she is deservedly famous. We last saw Pite’s choreography when NDT performed her piece, The Statement, in Auckland in 2016. Like that work, Betroffenheit uses all the physical, gesticulatory tropes with accompanying voiced-over text that made that work distinctive.

The partnering between Pite and Young is one that explores the merging and intermingling of acting and dance. The former with its emphasis on story and character, the latter with its propensity for physical abstraction. Divided into two halves, the first focusses on the talents and theatricality of the actor – there is a squalid, industrial room in which Young, trapped, takes centre stage, with a garish troupe of dancer-performers as transient occupants of his anguished, tortured state. In this world, everything moves – objects move, scenery moves, furniture moves, electrical cabling moves, puppets appear and are made animate, time is altered and shifts from frenetic to slurred, human bodies move in rubbery, contortions of disjointedness and eccentricity – the mobile distortions and warped hallucinations of a drugged mind is everywhere and in different ways realised. 

This is reversed in the second half: the space is bare, other than a single vertical pylon centerstage, and this time the dancers are the focus, and elaborate choreography the dominant language. Character, costume, makeup, set are all stripped back or removed, and the earlier theatricality and dominance of Young as the actor-protagonist replaced with the choreographic ensemble, natural everyday clothing and the un-made-up performers as simply themselves. The unadorned, moving body becomes the tool of expression and articulation.

Young is to be singled out for his range of contributions to this production, from initiator, to writer, co-deviser and performer. It is incredible how he blends his physicality and movement skills so seamlessly with the dancers. While we get what we would expect from an actor of his professional expertise and background, what he can do with his body in contemporary dance, and more extraordinarily, as a tap dancer, is amazing and a surprise. This hybridising by Young of acting and contemporary dance, when seen from the perspective of actors dancing, rather than from that of dancers acting, is inspiring. I want to see more cross-overs like this. It somehow offers a slightly different, more refreshing and accessible take on what we’ve got used to with conventional physical theatre.

Vignette-driven, and intermingling music, spoken dialogue and voice-over – credited to Owen Belton, Alessandro Juliani and Meg Roe – Pite’s directorial eye expertly creates dynamic atmospheres for dance, and explicit narratives for meaning. It is easy to follow what’s going on. The choreography avoids gratuitous swathes of time-filling movement, it always expresses something tangible in the world and situation depicted. Pite’s ability to stick clearly to theme, as well as push dancing bodies to the extremes of physical and technical ability and extension is what gives her the standing and reputation that she possesses in the world of dance. Repetition is expertly positioned in the flow of the piece to make sure key motifs are implanted in the minds and cognition of the viewer. Her choreographic landscape and structure in this way is masterfully shaped. And her signature way of working with the physical intensity and dynamism of bodies in conversational conflict makes the dramatic, acceptably over-dramatic.

While Pite is in a league of her own as an artist, outstanding also are the dancers in her company, Kidd Pivot. In particular, Jermaine Spivey and Tiffany Tregarthen. Tregarthan’s spidery clown in the first half and delicately extraordinary solo in the second are highlights. Spivey, as Young’s alter-ego in the piece, would be one of the most talented, versatile and expressively dynamic and nuanced performers one could ever hope to see. The fluidity in his body, the depth of interpretation in his numerous roles, the virtuosic mastery of his technical training makes him the unexpected star of the show and the right person to finish it. His solo at the end is gentle, poignant, choreographically exceptional and wraps together the threads of the performance beautifully. 

We are privileged to see this calibre of production, thanks to the NZ Festival for bringing it here. 



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