Seven-and-a-half weeks after having her first child, at a point when many new mothers are still trying to figure out how to get a shower every day, Crystal Pite hit the road. With baby Niko and partner Jay, she left Vancouver for Seattle, where her acclaimed dance company, Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM, was performing Dark Matters. They went on to Los Angeles, Ontario, Germany and France, baby in tow.
"When he was about three weeks old, I remember thinking there's no way I was ever even going to be able to pack a suitcase, let alone get out of the house and actually go somewhere. Forget going to the studio or going on tour. It was so overwhelming to me," Pite, 40, said this week.
"But at about the seven-week mark, I felt like I was ready," she continued. "I think I really needed to get back in there. I think it really did me a lot of good to be able to reconnect with that part of myself and with my company - my other baby."
Back home in Vancouver now as Kidd Pivot prepares for the North American premiere of The You Show, Pite may be exhausted - up every two to three hours all night feeding Niko - but she doesn't show it. In the studio, she's full of energy and enthusiasm - laughing and encouraging her dancers, but also directing them with a sharp eye.
The You Show is a study in conflict - inner, romantic etc. - and loss through four duets designed to put audience members in the dancers' shoes and prompt viewers to contemplate their own lives. Created in the second person to capitalize on the reflective experience, the work is guided by Pite's favourite proverb: Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours.
"Hopefully you feel your own knees hit the ground when [the dancer's]knees hit the ground. Hopefully you feel your own heart hit the floor when his does. That was my attempt at really trying to get the audience to inhabit the body of the performer."
A year ago, Kidd Pivot became resident company at Küstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt. The two-year deal (which will likely be extended for a third year) means stable funding for Kidd Pivot, in exchange for premiering work there and altering the name of the company. The proposal from Frankfurt, which came as the British Columbia government was pulling gambling grants for arts organizations, would have been irresponsible to turn down, Pite says.
"The thing that just amazes me … is that what Frankfurt gets out of the deal is the opportunity … to put the name Frankfurt at the end of Kidd Pivot. That has value to them."
Marking its 10th anniversary this year, Kidd Pivot is an attractive outfit with which to be associated - as is Pite, who creates smart, physically dynamic and edgy crowd-pleasers for Kidd Pivot, while enjoying a successful parallel career choreographing works for many companies, including the National Ballet of Canada.
After the run in Vancouver, she will go to New York to create a work for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet - her first since Niko's birth.
Gone, she knows, will be the 16-hour workdays. "I'm going to have to find a way to be a lot more efficient. I'm going to have to go with my first idea, not second-guess everything all the time, be so fussy. It's going to be challenging, but I'm up for it."
Ultimately, Pite figures her latest role - mother - will infuse her creations, but not in any obvious way.
"I don't see myself making mother-and-child interpretive dances or anything like that," she says, laughing. "But I think it's going to change my world view. It's going to change my sense of perspective and my sense of what's important. So that's exciting. Overwhelming too."
Dancing is another matter. At 3 1/2-months pregnant, she performed in Dark Matters at the Venice Biennale which was, she says, "pretty cool." But she's not sure about her future as a dancer. With her mess of blond hair pinned up haphazardly, Pite looks fantastic, but she's dealing with knee and neck issues and her stomach muscles separated while pregnant.
"My body's different. I can barely touch my toes," she says. "Right now I can't even imagine ever dancing again. I look at my dancers in the studio and on stage and I'm just like there is no way I'm going to get back out there. But it's early days, right?"
The You Show is at The Cultch in Vancouver, May 10-14, and at Festival TransAmériques in Montreal, June 9-11.