Last April, I traveled to Dallas to attend Kidd Pivot/Electric Company Theatre’s Betroffenheit at the beautiful and intimate Dallas City Performance Hall. This performance was later crowned as the most outstanding dance performance of 2016 by The Dallas Morning News. I wholeheartedly agree!
Choreographer Crystal Pite and writer/actor/dancer Jonathon Young co-created this piece based on Young’s experiences with tragedy, loss, grief, and coping. While I had been a German major in college, I hadn’t come across the concept of ‘betroffenheit,’ a complex term lacking a specific English translation, but that loosely refers to a state of shock and bewilderment, and of feeling unsure how to proceed in the face of a violent or distressing event.
There are two sections to the performance. The first half of Betroffenheit portrays the inner workings of the mind through repetition of speech and movement—how one replays scenes and thoughts over and over after a tragic event. The five dancers of Kidd Pivot eerily interacted and manipulated each other and Young, representing Young’s traumatized mind and the demons he constantly fights. They also acted as part of a gaudy cabaret act that portrayed his addiction as a coping mechanism and substitute for emotion. It is a thoroughly engaging mix of modern dance, tap, Fosse-influenced choreography, and salsa.
The second half of Betroffenheit is more focused on pure dance—brilliant, complex, and raw. A duet between dancers Tiffany Tregarthen and Cindy Salgado features perfectly synchronized sequences of unforgettable robotic/street dance moves. In addition, a solo by Jermaine Spivey was mind-blowing—superhuman, powerful, and elegant.
Betroffenheit is a truly unique mix of dance and theater unlike any I have ever seen. It is simultaneously nightmarish and spellbindingly beautiful. I was awestruck by how accurately Young and the Kidd Pivot dancers portrayed the post-trauma mind and one’s efforts to cope with loss and overpowering grief. Describing the piece in brief, I would say that it is filled with raw emotion and dramatic perfection. It grabbed my soul and drew me in from the first mind-boggling moment. I am not sure if I moved—or even breathed—during the entire performance.
I walked out of the theater awestruck by the strength and synchronized precision of the dancers, the visually engaging set, lighting, and effect, and the fascinating puppetry. I am extremely excited that our Northrop patrons will be able to witness the power of Betroffenheit, and I will be sure to see it both nights in Minneapolis!